Eggnog is a delicious holiday treat that many people look forward to enjoying each winter. With its rich blend of cream, eggs, sugar, and spices – plus a healthy dose of rum, brandy, or whiskey – this beverage evokes images of festive gatherings by the fireplace. However, this drink’s perishable ingredients can leave people wondering: just how long does that carton of spiked eggnog last in the fridge after opening?
Knowing the shelf life of eggnog is important to avoid serving spoiled, unpleasant-tasting beverages to family or guests. The lifespan of eggnog depends on several factors, including alcohol content, ingredients, and storage methods. By understanding these variables and how long eggnog lasts when refrigerated, you can sip this cocktail confidently through the season instead of dumping it down the drain prematurely. Let’s explore how long that carton of alcoholic eggnog stays fresh and delicious.
How Long Does Alcoholic Eggnog Last?
In general, an unopened carton of commercially produced eggnog will last between 7-10 days when properly stored in the refrigerator. Once opened, its shelf life decreases but an opened carton of eggnog will usually last about 7 days in the fridge before going bad.
For the best quality and to maximize freshness, be sure to store eggnog at a consistent temperature of 40°F or below. Temperature fluctuations, such as repeatedly opening the refrigerator door, can shorten how long eggnog stays safe to drink. Keep your eggnog away from the door where the temperature varies more widely.
Ingredients That Affect Shelf-Life
The ingredients that give eggnog its distinctive, decadent taste also influence how quickly it spoils. The main ingredients that reduce eggnog’s fridge life are:
- Dairy – Milk and cream are highly perishable.
- Raw eggs – Raw eggs can be prone to bacterial growth like salmonella.
- Alcohol – Wine, rum, bourbon etc will extend shelf life compared to low alcohol eggnog.
Commercial eggnogs contain preservatives to prolong freshness but homemade versions without preservatives have a shorter shelf life. With lower alcohol content, homemade eggnog should be consumed within 3 days for optimal safety and quality.
Following Expiry Dates on Store-Bought Eggnog
If you purchased a carton of eggnog from the grocery store, check the “sell-by” or “use-by” date on the package. This expiry date takes into account the commercial product’s specific ingredients and alcohol content to provide guidance on how long it retains peak quality.
Some eggnogs may last 10-14 days or longer from the production date. However, you should follow the manufacturer’s printed date for best flavor and safety, even if refrigerated continuously.
Maximizing Eggnog Shelf Life
A few tips for extending the lifespan of eggnog include:
- Refrigerate in the back of the fridge away from the door where temperatures fluctuate more.
- Keep eggnog tightly sealed when not serving to avoid contamination.
- Use clean utensils when scooping out portions to prevent bacteria introduction.
- Never let eggnog sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Identifying Spoiled Eggnog
If not consumed within the recommended 7 day timeframe after opening, eggnog can show signs of spoilage including:
- Appearance – Gray, yellow, or darkened yellow color instead of pale creamy yellow; separation into curdled chunks and watery liquid.
- Smell – Sour, unpleasant eggy odor.
- Taste – Sour, bitter flavor.
Always inspect eggnog closely and rely on your senses. If in doubt, when eggnog displays any odd textures, colors or smells, err on the side of caution and discard.
For longer term storage, eggnog can be frozen as well. Place your eggnog carton or storage container in the freezer, leaving a little room at the top for expansion as the liquid freezes. Frozen eggnog can maintain quality and taste for up to 6 months, although ideal flavor is found closer to 2-3 months.
Make sure to seal containers tightly before freezing. Shake or stir frozen eggnog well before serving to reincorporate any separation. The texture may be slightly different after thawing but it remains perfectly safe and enjoyable to consume.
The Bottom Line
In summary, the shelf life of eggnog varies based on ingredients, storage method, and alcohol content. For best safety and quality, consume refrigerated alcoholic eggnog within 1 week of opening. Homemade or low alcohol versions should be consumed even more promptly, within 3 days. Check expiry dates on purchased eggnog and store in the fridge as recommended. Discard eggnog if you notice odd smells, colors or textures. With some simple precautions, you can continue delighting in each sip of eggnog throughout the holiday season.
Hi, I’m Ben Holland. I love cooking, traveling, and spending time with my family! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes, travel tips, and stories about my adventures with my wife and kids.