This is an interesting topic and one that has only struck me relatively recently. Most cocktail recipes start with the spirits. Pretty much spirits first, then liqueurs, then mixers. Fine. However the wise advice is to do it the other way around. And that of course is to avoid waste. If you knock the shaker over part way through the preparation or realise you added Bacardi when you were supposed to add Cointreau or you put too much of an ingredient in and have to start again – you don’t want to be wasting the expensive ingredients do you? Stands to reason. So start with your ice and your spirits.
Is this always the case? Well no. It depends on what the mixer is. Anything carbonated for instance has to be added last. You want to keep the fizz as close as possible to the moment of serve. Also, often you add fizz to top up : Champagne, Prosecco, soda water and so it is easy to know how much you need if you’re adding it last.
The other thing I frequently find myself doing is adding syrups and then liqueurs before the spirit from the measure. And this is all to do with wastage. You see I figure that if you put the syrup in last you’ll leave much of it behind in the measure. So my thinking is wash the syrup out with the liqueur and wash the liqueur out with the spirit. Less waste. Simples!
So generally the rule of thumb when serving cocktails should then be Syrups or mixers first, then liqueurs next, or vermouths, then finally your spirits. Then top up with fizz when appropriate. So yes, ignore the way cocktail recipes are printed in your cocktail books or online.