With the explosion of cocktail bars, mixologists, and craft beer breweries, drinks are arriving in more variations of glassware than ever. While the choice may seem arbitrary, the varying styles developed to showcase certain types of drinks is undeniable. Much like red and white wine are best served in different glasses, cocktails and even beers are best in glasses developed especially for a certain purpose. College bars may serve all beers in the ubiquitous pint glass, which is great for a lager or ale, but a wider variety remains. Pilsner glasses, like the one we selected, are ideal for pilsner, as well as lagers. Wiezen glasses are similar to pilsners but developed for wheat beers while Belgian-style beers are often served in goblets.
Straight liquors are served in small glasses of various shapes, depending on the type of liquor, such as whiskey or cognac. The shapes are intended to hold the aroma for the enjoyment of the sipper. The original cocktail glass was the ‘coupe’ glass, which was also traditionally used for champagne as well. Today champagne is more commonly served in a narrow flute that helps preserve and showcase the bubbles, though the coupe is back in vogue.
As cocktails evolved, a wider set of barware also grew to accommodate different drinks. Most famous perhaps is the martini glass, developed for the gin and vermouth classic in the 1920s. (Legend has it the wide rim made it easy to toss- or toss back- a drink if the speakeasy was raided by law enforcement.) The cone shape prevents the ingredients from separating while the stem keeps the drink cool, much like the stem of a wine glass. The larger surface area also helps ‘open’ the drink, releasing the aroma of the gin. A ‘martini glass’ now signifies a certain shape of glass, leading bars to frequently add -tini to the end of cocktails they plan to serve in this style of glass. Appletini, anyone?
Avid collectors of vintage barware may understand why the three martini lunch of Mad Men days was feasible, if still not practical, for a workday. Average cocktail glasses in the 1950’s and 60’s held about 3 to 4oz of liquor in comparison to the behemoths on sale today. For a cocktail served ‘up’ this helps the drink stay chilled while you sip, one more reason to check out your local flea market for some distinctive glasses to add to your collection.
Another recognizable cocktail glass is the margarita glass. It is often a larger size to hold a frozen blended drink with a large edge ready for a salt rim. Now the most popular tequila cocktail in the United States, the origin of the margarita is disputed. One possible theory is that it was a variation on the popular brandy-based ‘Daisy,’ merely substituting tequila for the brandy during the Prohibition. (Daisy in Spanish is Margarita.)
Drinks served ‘on the rocks,’ meaning with ice, do not need stemware to stay cool. The style of glass used typically depends on the amount of alcohol to other liquid ratio. The old-fashioned glass, named after a drink consisting mostly of whiskey, is a smaller 8 oz tumbler style glass. A Collins glass, a taller narrow glass, was also named after a drink, the Tom Collins.
We’ve selected some of our favorite barware from Crate and Barrell to illustrate different styles. With such variety, for your home bar, invest in the styles that pair with your favorite drinks or that can do double-duty such a coupe or pint glass (perfect for mojitos!) Ultimately, while the proper glass can showcase a drink, choosing a style you like is most important. What style of glassware is your must-have?