Why Doesn’t Vodka Freeze?

Beer and wine will freeze in the freezer within hours—so why doesn't vodka freeze, even after months?

When it comes to the purposes of kitchen appliances, it doesn’t get much more straightforward than the freezer. You put things in there, and they freeze. But this actually isn’t true when it comes to liquors like vodka. If you put a bottle of vodka in your freezer, you can take it out months later and it’ll still slosh around, as liquid-y as ever.

No, there’s nothing wrong with your freezer. In fact, pop a bottle of beer or wine in there, and it’ll probably freeze within a couple of hours. This could actually cause the freezing liquid to expand, potentially cracking the glass, so beer and wine are things you should never keep in your freezer (at least not for longer than just a brief chill).

So why doesn’t vodka freeze? Well, it has to do with the freezing point of alcohol, which is far lower than the traditional “freezing point” you’re most familiar with: that of water (32 degrees F). Pure ethanol alcohol needs to be -173 degrees F to freeze. Because all alcohols are a combination of alcohol and water, the freezing points of different alcohols vary based on the amounts of alcohol and water they contain.

Beer and wine freeze quickly because they have a low alcohol content compared with hard liquor. But vodka? At around 40 percent alcohol, its freezing point hovers at around -16 degrees F. And while putting it in the freezer will affect it somewhat, it won’t freeze solid in your traditional freezer. “When alcohol freezes, it becomes more viscous and thicker because the water in it freezes, but the actual alcohol has a lower freezing point and it does not freeze as quickly or easily,” explains Amy Leigh Mercree, holistic health expert and bestselling author of ten books including The Mood Book. “The freezing process is also hindered by the average household freezer; the typical freezer is about 0 degrees F.” Learn more food facts that might just change the way you eat.

So, no, no matter how long you leave vodka in your regular old freezer, it will never freeze solid—your freezer is about 16 degrees too warm for that. ThoughtCo. points out, though, that an industrial freezer, or liquid nitrogen, could certainly do the job.

But vodka isn’t the only type of liquor whose alcohol content gives it a freezing point colder than most freezers. While “this explains why some people like to enjoy a nice cold shot of vodka straight from the freezer,” Mercree explains, liquors like whiskey and rum have comparable amounts of alcohol. Why isn’t sticking these in the freezer as popular? “Freezing alcohol tends to diminish the flavor and scent,” Mercree explains. “With vodka that doesn’t really matter, but with other more flavorful alcohols that would be less desirable.” Want to get the most out of your freezer? In addition to vodka, here are 19 more surprising foods you didn’t know you could freeze.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest