Selling alcohol can be a very profitable business — and today, sales are on the rise for alcohol retailers. Most restaurants that sell alcohol aim to get 30% of their revenue from alcohol sales, making it a core component of their profitability strategy. In 2021, convenience stores saw an increase in alcohol sales across all retail beverage categories, with an unexpected boom in wine sales, as adventurous consumers explore unique new wine trends. Alcohol delivery is also opening up new pathways to profitability for many different businesses around the world.
As you start to build out your alcohol inventory based on what consumers are drinking today, there’s an important question to keep in mind: are you storing your alcohol correctly? Although wine, beer, and spirits have a much longer shelf life than other perishable products, storing them properly can be instrumental in keeping them better for longer — preserving taste, freshness, and value. Keep reading to learn best practices for alcohol storage, and get answers to common questions about how best to store your business’s wine, beer, and spirits.
Best practices for beer, wine, and liquor storage
Curious about the best way to keep track of the alcohol that your business sells? Follow these two key steps to get set up with a system that’s reliable and organized.
1. Take inventory of your alcohol storage using digital tools
First up, make sure you have a reliable way of tracking inventory. Many merchants use digital inventory software that integrates with their other digital tools, like their POS software, to easily track sales and spend against their overall business budget.
You’ll also want to develop a regular cadence and process for taking inventory. BevSpot, a digital inventory system, has a great guide to tracking alcohol inventory, including tips like keeping your inventory periods consistent (whether that’s weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly), counting items the same way every time (for example left to right, or top to bottom), and making sure to take inventory while your business is closed so your count is consistent.
2. Store alcohol on a way that makes sense for your organizational systems
Next, it can be helpful to display your alcohol offerings on a shelf in the order that matches your other organizational systems — whether that’s in the order of how alcohol is listed on your menu, displayed on racks in your store, or itemized in your inventory tracking system. Having alcohol stored like this can save you time and a headache when searching for a specific item.
Ideas on where to store your alcohol
Generally, alcoholic beverages should be stored away from heat and light, which can degrade the quality of the product. Heat causes alcohol to expand and evaporate, which can affect flavor over time.
For restaurants, it’s important to find a cool closet or basement space far away from windows and machines that generate heat, like boilers, dishwashers, and ovens. Consider installing shelving or a refrigeration unit to keep bottles and cans at the proper temperature and easily accessible to your staff.
For other alcohol retailers like wine shops or convenience stores, consider using indoor lighting to protect products from the harmful effects of sunlight, and invest in multiple refrigeration units to keep different alcohols at different temperatures. Omar Korin, owner of Savemore Market & Liquors in Oakland, CA, recommends investing in a separate fridge unit for alcohol, which he did to support his alcohol delivery orders. Having a designated fridge increases the efficiency of Dasher pickup and helps ensure beverages are at the perfect temperature for Omar’s customers.
If you’re considering signing up for alcohol delivery with DoorDash, do it. DoorDash brings you new customers from outside your regulars, and it’s extra revenue for your business. It’s allowed us to invest in a new refrigeration unit to help keep our delivery orders cold
Ideal temperatures for alcohol storage
Experts disagree on the exact temperatures, but here are some general ranges that are recommended based on the beverage:
Distilled spirits like whiskey, vodka, gin, rum and tequila: Slightly cooler than room temperature, at 55-60°F / 13-16°C. Decant to a smaller bottle or use immediately once the bottle is down to ⅓ full to limit oxidation and preserve flavor.
Fortified wines like port, vermouth, sherry: Unopened at room temperature for up to a year. Refrigerate and use for up to six month after opening, depending on the type of wine.
Cream liqueurs like Baileys: Room temperature, then refrigerated and used for up to a year once the bottle is opened to preserve flavor.
Aperitifs like Lillet and Cocchi Americano: According to Bon Appétit, these should be refrigerated and kept only for a few weeks after opening.
Wines: According to Wine Spectator, the ideal temperature for wine storage is 45-65°F / 7-18°C. Use for up to 3-5 days after opening.
Beers: Beers of all types should be stored at a cool temperature according to Tipton Restaurant Equipment, in a range from 45-60°F / 7-16°C.
Frequently asked alcohol storage questions
Have more questions? You’re not alone— here are the top questions other alcohol retailers have about alcohol storage.
How cold is too cold for alcohol storage?
There’s no benefit to freezing alcohol for long periods of time. In fact, putting hard liquor in the freezer will actually dull its flavor. Beer cans and wine bottles can also shatter when stored in a freezer. Use a freezer to quickly chill a beverage before serving —not as a long term storage solution.
Does beer need to be refrigerated?
Beer doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but keeping beer cold can extend its shelf life and preserve its flavor. Brew-Ed reports that keeping beer at room temperature can drop a beer’s shelf life from nearly six months to only a few weeks.
Should beer be stored on its side?
According to Tipton Restaurant Equipment, beer should not be stored on its side. Storing cans or bottles on their side can contribute to the formation of yeast rings and increase oxidation, which affects its flavor.
Why does wine need to be stored on its side?
Storing wine on its side helps prevent the corks from drying out, shrinking, and letting air into the bottles, oxidizing the wine. Champagne and other sparkling wines can be stored upright if needed, due to the pressure in the bottle which helps keep the cork sealed. Vintage champagne should be stored horizontally to best preserve the cork.
Should liquor be stored on its side?
Liquor should be stored upright. Liquor.com notes that storing beverages whiskey on its side can “cause the cork to mix and seep into the liquid, altering the high-alcohol content and causing it to disintegrate over time.”
How do you know when alcohol has gone bad?
It’s often easiest to open a fresh bottle of something and compare it to the old one to determine if it’s gone bad. For wine, look for flavors like vinegar, wet socks, or caramelized applesauce that tell you a wine has gone bad. Hard liquors will likely taste sweeter, while cream liqueurs will smell like rotten dairy. Spoiled beer will taste like green apples, mowed grass, buttered popcorn, creamed corn, stomach bile, skunk, or cardboard. If it stinks — toss it!
Topping off your business’s alcohol sales
After organizing your alcohol storage, it’s time to grow your alcohol sales. Make sure to stock up on the latest trendy drinks that customers are curious about, including non-ABV options, and plan your marketing promotions around the year’s biggest drinking holidays.
Additionally, consider offering alcohol delivery. With DoorDash as an alcohol delivery partner, businesses can connect with thousands of new customers in their neighborhoods looking for beer, wine, and liquor delivery with an average delivery time of 35 minutes or less. It’s a way to grow incremental sales, while keeping your everyday operations the same. We’ll drink to that!