The Top Bartender Tip For Saving Money On Sugary Cocktails

A few years ago, the bitter and herbaceous negroni was all mixologists and their followers were talking about. Lately, however, we can't help but notice a growing interest in what might be considered the Negroni's polar opposite: the sugary cocktail. 

By this, we mean any mixed alcoholic beverage in which the sweetness would tend to obscure the taste and burn of the alcohol. Obvious examples are classic Tiki drinks like the piña colada, whose coconut cream and pineapple juice have a way of making the rum seem almost beside the point, even if it's not. But the category also includes various martini-glass favorites such as the Cosmopolitan and the Appletini, in which fruit juice delivers the predominant flavor. Even drinks with "sour" in the name may count as sugary drinks if their tangy fruit juice and silky egg white components put the focus on something other than the base spirit(s) — as is the case with, say, the 80s-themed Midori sour cocktail.

If Negroni stalwarts are scoffing right about now, what they might not realize is that one of the advantages of a sugary cocktail is that you can go low-budge' with the booze — as in, indulging in the well rather than paying premium prices for top-shelf liquors. In fact, bartender, pub owner, and CEO of MyBartender, Paul Kushner suggests to Insider you'll never even be able to detect the difference.

Why a top bartender advises eschewing the top shelf

Kushner makes good sense when he says, "Upgrading to premium liquor in a sugary drink isn't worth the extra cost." Indeed, both the sugar — and the carbonation (where soda is involved) — have a way of dulling the effect of the complex notes that help make premium liquor worth the price. 

In other words, if you're going to bother shelling out for a fine sipping rum, you might as well sip it neat instead of diluting it with ice cubes and Coca-Cola, as you might in a Cuba Libre. Likewise, why bother breaking for Maker's Mark if you're planning on drowning your whiskey in the citrusy sour mix and frothy egg whites that define a whiskey sour?

Well, there is one reason some are willing to pay for premium liquor in a sugary cocktail, and that is that the cheaper the booze, the more likely it is to contain the impurities that worsen hangovers, as neuroscience professor David Nutt told Bloomberg. However, brown liquors, by their nature, correlate with worse hangovers than lighter-colored spirits because they are infused with the sugars and char imparted from the barrel wood. 

So for the same sweet flavor, the same smooth and foamy mouthfeel, and a heavier wallet, don't be shy about pointing below the top shelf.