Why Not Alcohol

I hear some variation of this one often:  "I just add some (whiskey, vodka, rum, ...) to my (Gatorade, HEED, ...) and that works great."  Well, I guess it depends on how you define "works great".  That's a great way to add some booze to the outdoor experience (I think there is a problem there)!  Don't forget that alcohol is a big contributor to dehydration by the way.  But if you're trying to keep your water from freezing, you might want to check out this table from The Spruce Eats

  • The lower the alcohol content, the warmer the freezing point.
  • The higher the alcohol content, the colder the freezing point.
Type ABV Freezing Point Notes and Examples
The Freezing Temperatures of Alcohol
Beer 3-10% -2 C (28 F) Not recommended for the freezer beyond a quick chill.
Wine 8-14% -5 C (23 F) More than an hour or two in the freezer and your are putting the wine at risk.
40 Proof Liquor 20% -7 C (22 F) Includes many low-proof liqueurs like Irish cream. If left in a really cold freezer too long, these may get slushy, but this is rare.
64 Proof Liquor 32% -23 C (-10 F) A liqueur like amaretto and a flavored whiskey like Fireballwould fall in this range. These should be okay in the freezer.
80 Proof Liquor 40% -27 C (-17 F) Includes most standard base liquors like gin, vodka, whiskey, etc. You're clear for the freezer!

Note: These freezing points are not exact, particularly with the beer and wine. Use the temperatures as a general guideline. A small difference in the alcohol content will not make a big difference in whether or not your beverage will freeze. If it is close, the chances of freezing are high, so don't push the limits.

So, unless you're drinking some type of Proof Liquor straight, you're not preventing any freezing at all.  That shot of whiskey in your gatorade will taste great but it will freeze pretty much at the same rate as plain water.

If you'd like a little more scientific discussion

According to the chart at Engineering Toolbox To lower the freezing point of a solution of water and ethanol to 25f from 32f, you would need to have the alcohol percentage of the solution at 10%. That means you would need to add nearly an entire 750ml bottle of 80 proof vodka to a 100oz hydration pack to lower the freezing point. 

Here's a Table

Ethanol Concentration (% by volume) 0 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00%
Freezing Point (F) 32 25 15 5 -10 -25
Amount of 80 Proof to add per L 0.32 0.95 2.73 40.00 -5.56


From the table you can see to prevent freezing at 5F you'd have to mix 3 parts Jack Daniels with 1 part water.  That's not hydration, that's a cocktail!  So if you want to make a small difference to that liter bottle, fill it half and half with Gatorade.  If you drive to the trail head though, you might want to call a cab home!

If you're wondering, there's a similar table to this for saline and sugar solutions and it works about the same.  To make any difference the solution would be too salty to drink and if you could it would just make you more dehydrated.

Thanks, and don't bother with the booze.  Look up, look around, enjoy the winter...



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