Does tequila freeze? It’s possible but not likely

By: Michael Prentice

You may be a fan of chilled tequila and you may have even thought about keeping it in the freezer rather than serving it on the rocks. In most household freezers it’s unlikely to freeze, however the coldest home freezers do have settings that will freeze tequila. Flavors and the alcohol sensation will be dulled at lower temperatures, this may be a good thing if drinking it the taste is a bit overwhelming.

If it does freeze and then thaw it won’t be ruined, and should taste just fine.

Can tequila freeze in the freezer?

Tequila will not freeze if your freezer is set near the recommended temperature of 0°F (-18°C). Because of its alcohol content, most tequila needs temperatures less than -10°F (-23°C) to freeze. Some home freezers can reach below this temperature however, so if you have a higher end freezer and set it to the lowest setting it is possible to freeze tequila.

What temperature does tequila freeze?

Chart showing freezing temperatures for tequila and other alcoholic drinks
Chart shows the freezing point temperatures of tequila and other alcoholic drinks in Fahrenheit,

The freezing point temperature of tequila (and all alcoholic drinks) depends mainly on the alcohol content. A higher alcohol content means a lower freezing temperature. Other ingredients will also affect freezing temperature, for sugar lowers the freezing temperature further. Most tequila will freeze at temperatures less than -10°F (-23°C).

Most tequila is bottled at 40% alcohol by volume and contains less than 1% sugar if any at all. Some tequila sold in Mexico, and some flavored tequilas sold in the US go down to 35%, and higher proof tequila can be around 50%.

High proof tequila (50%) will freeze at temperatures less than -24°F (-32°C), well beyond the range of home freezers. Tequila at 35% will freeze at temperatures below -1°F (-19°C) which is in the range of home freezers.

What temperature does my freezer go?

The recommended temperature for a home freezer is 0°F (-18°C). The coldest most home freezers go is around -10°F (-23°C). Some models can go as low as -18°F (-28°C). A freezer capable of going this low will be able to freeze spirits with up to 42% alcohol by volume (84 proof).

What happens to the taste of chilled or frozen tequila?

Temperature affects the flavor, aroma and viscosity of fluids. These three elements contribute to how you experience tequila. Ever held your nose while you drink down something nasty tasting? Restricting the smell also reduces the flavor.

Tequila contains a number of volatile compounds which give it its aroma and flavor. Volatile compounds are components that tend to turn to gasses easily at room temperature. It is these gasses that enter your nose and give the aroma. Dropping the temperature reduces the amount of these gasses that leave the glass, so you end up smelling and tasting less.

The major volatile compounds in tequila are alcohols, esters and organic acids. Minor volatile compounds include aldehydes, furans, lactones, ketones and terpenes. Hundreds of volatiles have been identified in tequila. These volatiles come from the agave plant, the yeasts in the fermentation process and the oak if it is aged tequila

As tequila is chilled, these volatiles will be dulled and there will be less complexity. The “sweet” taste is one of the first to be lost at lower temperatures.

Will freezing tequila ruin it?

Bottle of Espolon tequila from the freezer
A bottle of tequila from my freezer at lowest setting. Cold but not frozen.

Putting tequila in the freezer, or even freezing it, will not ruin it. However drinking tequila at lower temperatures will affect the taste and result in subdued flavors and aromas. If the cold or frozen tequila is brought back to room temperature you shouldn’t be able to tell any difference between that and a bottle that was never frozen.

I tried to freeze this bottle of Espolon in my home freezer on the lowest setting. It got cold and a bit syrupy, but didn’t freeze. And it didn’t taste too bad either.

This is unlike beer, which will be partly ruined if you freeze, then thaw it. Beer loses most of its carbonation if frozen, resulting in a different product if thawed. This is not the case with tequila.

Is it ok to put tequila in the freezer?

Putting tequila in the freezer is ok. If you prefer a chilled tequila then go ahead and drink tequila from the freezer. The flavor and aroma profile will be muted however. If it’s for a frozen margarita you are unlikely to notice much difference and it will help keep the drink colder for longer.

If the tequila is low quality and you don’t like the taste then drinking it from the freezer may in fact be preferable, and can mellow out some of the harsher flavors.

If you are wanting to experience more of the finer flavors and nuances it is better to drink tequila at room temperature. For example, sweetness is one of the first flavors to be lost when chilling drinks so this may affect the balance.

Is it better to put ice in tequila or put it in the freezer?

If your objective is chilled tequila you can get there by a few ways. From the freezer, with ice, or from the fridge. Each of these methods will reduce the intensity of the taste compared to drinking at room temperature. Adding ice will of course also add water as the ice melts, resulting in a lower alcohol drink over time.

How you chill your tequila is a matter of personal preference. There’s nothing wrong with either approach. Tequila on the rocks is a very common way to drink it, particularly if you want to dull the overpowering alcohol effect. Alternatively, you may just feel like a longer drink, but don’t want to lose too much of the agave flavors, or add too many calories by mixing with a soda.

Tequila gets cold from ice more by mixing with the cold melted water, than by contact with the cold ice. This is why ice works better than whiskey stones for making a drink cold. This means that the coldest your tequila with ice will get is still above water’s freezing point (32°F (0°C)). However if you put it in the freezer for long enough, tequila can get to a much lower temperature and you risk really dampening the flavor.

You can experiment how you like. If you are short of time, you can chill tequila in the freezer for up to an hour to chill it faster than in the fridge. If you have longer, you could keep it in the fridge to make sure you don’t lose too much flavor. If you’ve gone overboard and chilled for too long, just give it a few minutes in the glass to get to a better drinking temperature.  

Why did my tequila freeze?

The most likely explanation for why your tequila froze is because someone added water to it which decreased the percentage alcohol to a level which can freeze. Do you have teenagers in the house? One of the oldest tricks in the book is to replace a couple pours of tequila with water, particularly with blanco tequilas.

If your tequila was purchased outside the US, it may be lower proof and hence more likely to freeze. In Mexico tequila can go as low as 35%, for instance Don Julio 70 sold in Mexico is bottled at 35%. At this level of alcohol it can freeze if kept below -1°F (-19°C).

Another explanation is that it’s not real tequila, but perhaps a tequila liqueur or lower alcoholic blend. For example, Agavero is a tequila liqueur that has 35% alcohol. This will freeze around -1°F (-19°C), just below the recommended level.

What happens to tequila if it freezes?

If tequila gets to low enough temperatures it can freeze (below -10°F (-23°C)). As it chills the liquid becomes thicker and syrupy. This is usually the extent of the transformation in home freezers.

If chilled further the liquid becomes slushy as some parts start to freeze. The next step is for all of the liquid to freeze and become solid. The liquid expands when frozen so it will take up more space in the bottle. If it is in a full glass bottle, the glass may crack. This may or may not be obvious until it has thawed and then it will leak. If it has a cork top then the top may pop out.

If brought back to higher temperatures the tequila will thaw out and return to liquid. It will still be fine to drink and the taste should be the same.

More sciency reading about alcohol

pH of alcohol – why it’s important and pH levels of different beverages

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