Why You Might Want To Skip The Top Shelf Liquor At A Bar

Top shelf liquor might be the best quality that you'll find at a given bar. But that prized position far above other liquors doesn't mean that these drinks are always the best thing to order. According to Red Head Oak Barrels, top shelf liquor is determined by its quality of ingredients and, where appropriate, the length of time that a given drink was aged. In other words, those bottles contain spirits that should be savored and enjoyed in a thoughtful manner. So, it's perfectly fine and acceptable to order top shelf liquor over ice or neat. But that same unique and flavorful quality means that they aren't necessarily best used in other drinks.

Some mixed drinks, like those that are overly sugary, simply won't allow top shelf liquors to really shine. Instead, those kinds of cocktails will only mask the rich, smooth, and complex flavors of a really good alcohol. So, ordering top shelf liquors in things like fruity daiquiris, whiskey sours, and even mixed drinks with flavored sodas just isn't the best use of the spirit or your money.

Definitely don't order top shelf liquor for this kind of drink

The biggest mistake you can make with top shelf liquor is ordering it as a shot, according to bartenders (via Business Insider). One New York bartender with a decade of experience said, rather bluntly, that "you look stupid when you order expensive shots. The whole point is to get it down quickly — you're not enjoying the quality." Another bartender explained that ordering top shelf spirits for shots is simply a waste of money for the same reason. It's doing nothing but adding to the bar's bottom line rather than getting a great drink based on your order. And isn't it better to pay your respects to the craft and care that went into a fine bourbon or gin by enjoying it on its own terms, anyway?

So, when you're out at a bar, use discretion when it comes to which liquors you order. Take a moment to think about the kind of drink you plan to get and stick to middle shelf bottles for most drinks. Unless you plan to get something where a liquor truly needs to shine on its own, like scotch neat or a bourbon on the rocks, then it's more than okay to give your wallet a rest.