Everyone deserves to treat themselves to a top-shelf bottle every once in awhile. Maybe you just got a promotion, or you would like to relax in style after a long day at work. Or maybe your taste buds are tired of getting burned by bottom shelf swill. Whatever the reason, there is a right way and a wrong way to buy a pricey spirit. Here are the dos and don’ts of buying expensive liquor.
DON’T Buy Vodka
Once vodka gets to around $40 or more, you’re mostly paying for marketing or a bejeweled bottle. There’s definitely a difference between the cheapest of the cheap and something that’s a little more expensive, but generally you can find really quality bottles of vodka for a decent price.
DO Buy a Spirit Type You Know You’ll Like
You already know what you do and don’t like. Say you like mezcal but you’re not as big a fan of rum, for example. Get the mezcal, even if the rum has a bunch more good reviews and comes highly lauded. If you’re not a Cognac fan, even the most expensive bottle will never taste as good as an okay bottle of a spirit you do like.
DON’T Shop After You’ve Already Had a Few
A drink or two might give you the extra courage to hit the store and buy that bottle you’ve been eyeing, but it’s best to have a clear head before making a decision. No one wants to be that person who doesn’t like scotch but buys a $300 bottle after a night out because their tipsy self wanted to feel sophisticated.
DO Ask For Help
There’s a good chance that the person working at the liquor store knows a thing or two about the top-shelf bottle you’re pondering. They may not have tried it, but an employee at a superior retailer will know the key points about what makes the bottle expensive. If you’re in a really great store, they’ll let you know whether the price is all in the marketing or if it’s truly worth the extra cash.
DON’T Buy a Collector Bottle
Unless you’re looking for a specific bottle of Pappy Van Winkle or the last bottle of Yamazaki Mizunara 18 Year, you don’t need to get the most hyped item on the shelf. Stores can charge a higher price for these types of bottles because the people who really care about them think it’s worth it. But for the average Joe looking for something on the top shelf, it’ll never taste $1,000-a-bottle good.
DO Go To a Reliable Liquor Store
The rundown corner liquor store is not the place for buying expensive alcohol. A good store will keep its bottles in the proper environment (out of direct sunlight, temperature controlled, etc.), and has relationships with the right distributors who can lock down the best of the best. Unless you’re trying to live out your dreams of being on Antique Roadshow, leave the bottle hunting in sketchy locales to the pros.
DON’T Buy Something Expensive Just Because It’s Local
Supporting local businesses is the right thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s the smartest thing to do—fiscally or taste-wise—when buying expensive liquor. The high price on a local spirit might be due to scarcity or because the distillery can’t buy raw ingredients in bulk. This isn’t always the case, but the price of a local liquor might not relate to the taste at all. If you don’t know it, don’t buy it just because it was made using ingredients from within a 100-mile radius of your hometown.