Why Alcohol Doesn’t (and Does) Freeze

Liquor’s No-Freeze Factor

By James Madeiros


The budding liquor connoisseur, keen to be the pioneer who turns liquor into ice, may be in for a bit of a shock the first time he tries to make “vodka pops” and discovers that his spirit of choice won’t freeze. Why is that, you may wonder?

Here comes the science. Ready?

The answer, of course, is that liquor will freeze … at a much lower temperature than water. The temperature required to freeze liquor depends on several things including what else is mixed into the liquor and its alcohol content.

Pure ethanol freezes at a chilly -174.6º Fahrenheit, whereas water freezes at 32º on the Fahrenheit scale. That’s obviously quite a difference, and a gap you won’t be able to bridge in your freezer at home. And, although you’re probably not trying to freeze pure alcohol, liquor has enough alcohol in it (typically 40 proof, or 80%) that it still won’t solidify in the icebox.

So, how do you freeze alcohol (or get Jell-O shots to stay solid, for that matter)?

You have to balance the alcohol with other ingredients that will freeze at higher temperatures, like water and gelatin. These substances have “stickier” molecules that will more readily bond to create what’s called a “crystal lattice” at higher temperatures, which laypeople like us then drop into glasses to cool our drinks.

Legal Stuff: Of course, we should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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