# 25 on my 99 Life Tips–A List is: Never pay for top shelf liquor in a mixed drink. You’re only going to taste the mix, anyway. Use house (well) liquor for any mixed drink.
Every bar or restaurant that serves mixed drinks will advertise cocktails that feature high-end, top-shelf liquors. But those high-end, higher priced liquors are wasted in a mixed drink, along with the premium you pay for them, because most of us cannot taste anything but mix and perhaps some “bite” or “burn” from the alcohol. You cannot taste the quality of the liquor so never pay for top shelf liquor in a mixed drink. You’re just wasting money, showing off, or showing off by wasting money.
You should learn how to make your favorite drink at home. Make it with the cheapest liquor you can buy at your local package store. Learn the recipe, the ingredients, and the ratios. As you drink it, notice what you’re really tasting. It will be the mix.
Even in classics, the mix will overwhelm the finest liquor
Some classic cocktails, martinis, and high-balls comprise one liquor, usually 1 to 1.5 ounces in the pour, and one mixer. Think gin and tonic, classic vodka or gin martini, whiskey sour, etc. Even when ordering these drinks, resist the temptation to go top shelf. The ratios are not 1:1in a bar. The mixer will overwhelm and drown the alcohol.
Instead, show your sophistication by ordering “well” or “house” liquor in your mixed drinks. Never pay for top-shelf liquor in a mixed drink. If you want top shelf liquor, learn to drink it neat or with a rock or two. Some scotch whiskey aficionados will add a drop or two of water. Literally. They can taste the difference in flavor profile from that minuscule amount. I don’t have that kind of palate. You probably don’t either.
So, if these connoisseurs of high-end, top shelf single malts can tell if a drop or two of water is added, what do you think happens to that top shelf liquor when you add a couple of ounces of freshly squeezed lime juice or simple syrup to the glass? Do you think the character of the liquor changes? Its complexity, taste (including where on your tongue you notice the taste), and finish are all compromised. Be smart and keep that money in your pocket for slow sipping and savoring of the finer liquors—neat. Never pay for top-shelf liquor in a mixed drink.