Vodka drinkers often like to keep their favorite alcohol chilled in the freezer. It gets nice and frosty, yet it never freezes solid. So what gives? Will vodka ever freeze?
The short answer: Yes it freezes, but it’s not something you have to worry about in your home freezer.
It all has to do with the scientific phenomenon known as the freezing point, or the temperature at which a substance freezes. This temperature varies depending on the make up of the substance.
A bottle of vodka is made up of primarily water and grain alcohol, or ethanol. Water freezes at 32ºF or 0ºC, but pure ethanol has a freezing point much lower, –173ºF or -114ºC. Because vodka is a blend of these two substances, each which comes with its own freezing point, vodka doesn’t freeze at the same temperature as either water or ethanol, but rather somewhere in the middle.
The exact freezing point depends on how much alcohol is present in the bottle. Russian vodka is standardized by its 40% ethanol by volume. This lowers the freezing point of the liquid mixture to -16.51ºF or -26.95ºC, so you might have to worry about your vodka freezing if you leave a bottle on your front porch during a Siberian winter, but you’re definitely in the clear if you store your bottle in your home freezer. That’s because your basic home refrigerator/freezer model typically doesn’t have a setting or the capability to drop colder than 0 to -9ºF or -18º to -23ºC.
If you have an industrial freezer, or if you’re determined and use liquid nitrogen, yes, you can also get your vodka to freeze these ways.
These rules pretty much apply to most common alcohols. Put your rum, tequila, or gin in your home freezer, and you’ll be safe.
Beer and wine, however, are a different story. These drinks have a much lower level of alcohol in their make up (typically 4-6% for beer and 12-15% for wine), so their freezing point is much higher. If you leave these in your home freezer, you’re bound to end up with a frozen block, and probably some shattered glass bottles, as well. (Remember, anytime you freeze something it expands, so if you have some reason you want to freeze these beverages, be sure to leave plenty of empty space in the container.)
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