Can Campari go bad?
A lot of people search for if spirits can go bad. Because most answers are wrong, let me be clear:
Yes, absolutely, spirits and liqueurs can go bad.
But spirits don't go bad in the way you think they go bad.
People that say spirits are static and don’t change after opening, not to put too fine a point on it, are fucking stupid. Or, they are oversimplifying a complicated concept, which is a type of stupidity I call “lazy ignorance.” Spirits massively change when opened and even change when unopened— the process may however take many years.
The one way that spirits and liqueurs don't change is their age statement. A 10-year-old whisk(e)y that you've had for an extra twenty years isn't a 30-year-old whisk(e)y. It's still a 10-year-old whisk(e)y, but now it's a vintage bottle of 10-year-old whiskey. The age statement refers only to how long a spirit or liqueur is aged before it goes into the bottle. Other than this exception, everything changes.
"Does a spirit or liqueur go bad?" Sorry to be a lawyer, but you need to define "bad."
- Does it turn to vinegar? No
- Does it get moldy? No
- Does it go off like how you think of wine or beer goes off?No
So how does a spirit like whisk(e)y or a liqueur like Campari go "bad?"
- Does alcohol evaporate in spirits? Yes, though it can take years, unless...
- Is it wrong to store spirits is sunlight? Yes, though less delicate than wine or beer, the higher alcohol content in spirits makes them more volatile and will expedite evaporation.
- Do spirits oxidize? Fuck yeah, the more of the booze that has left the bottle, the more susceptible the remaining spirit is to oxidation and evaporation.
- How long does it take for a spirit or liqueur to go off? Depends on how sharp your palate is. Maybe a couple of months, perhaps several years. My rule is: if the bottle is more than 2/3 empty, you need to finish it with friends or put it in a smaller container or flask.
- Why did my bottle of St Germain/ Chambord/ fruit liqueur turn brown? Products made with fresh fruit or flowers lose "freshness" and will oxidize after a year or so even when preserved by sugar and alcohol. They don't go "bad," they go "different," and the change will be more noticeable on the nose.
But wait, I was asking if Campari goes bad?
You are correct, here I was, mansplaining all over the place, but you needed background information. A mostly full bottle of Campari kept in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight, will not go "bad." It will however change, it may take years to notice a change, but it's happening. Furthermore, most spirits industry professionals agree that the longer spirits are rested in glass (bottles, jugs or inert steel tanks), the better they become. The practice of resting (aging happens in wood, resting happens in bottles) herbal liqueurs like Chartreuse or bitter liqueurs like Campari creates clear flavor differences. Why? Currently, it's because of magic, but when we understand the hows and whys, it will be because of science.
Should I drink the 40-year-old bottle of Campari that I found in my dead aunt's liquor cabinet? No. You should make a massive batch of Negronis and share them with friends and family.