Glassware: The Basics

This post goes out to Kathy Pioli Lubbers, one of my Facebook friends from 'Raise your Spirits', who had a keen interest in the significance of glassware and the reasoning behind using it. Take the Martini. You merely mention it and it conjures up a distinct image in eveyone's mind - its glass, a shape that is timeless, classic, elegant, and indicative of drink culture from the beginning of time. What would the Martini become without its iconic vessel? It's safe to say that the entire drinking experience would be changed if it was served in a can.

Glassware does make a huge difference. Treat it like a artist's canvas. Presentation is key and will improve the quality of the drink subconsciously. The touch and feel of the glass, size , balance, and appearance makes a great impression. A Martini just tastes better in the proper glass. I would boycott any establishment that serves it anything else. Believe it or not, the shape does influence the taste. I am going to put on my wine snob face now. The 'nose' experiences flavors tied to the shape of the glass. It's a psychological phenomenon, but true. Take drinking a glass of wine in a water glass. Not the same!

Here is a brief overview of glassware and it's intended purpose for certain types of drinks. I don't expect the home bartender or anyone entertaining to have all of these different kinds of glasses at theur disposal (heavens, I don't), but it is important if you are frequenting a restaurant or bar.  If you sign up for my mixology class, you will get more detail about this topic.

1. Martini Glass aka Cocktail Glass

It is a Martini glass if it contains a martini, simple- right! If anything else goes in it, then it is a cocktail glass, i.e. Manhattan and any cocktail served straight up and chilled, i.e. Flavored Martini, Margarita Straight Up. Straight up and not chilled goes in another glass. The proper term for these kinds of cocktails is a cocktail glass. With today's plethora of drink options, most cocktails will go in it. A six-ounce size glass is ideal.

2. Cocktail Coupe aka Marie Antoinette Coupe aka Champagne Saucer

This glass looks like a small fish bowl, but was originally intended for martinis and manhattans from the classic era. It's not the same as a Margarita glass which is much bigger. Any type of cocktail that would go in a Martini or cocktail glass (chilled and straight up) can go in here.

3. Margarita Glass

A large fish bowl intended for a margarita on the rocks or frozen. I am not a bog fan of  frozen drinks. I think they ruin the cocktail and dilute the drink to the point of lost flavor. I've had so many places serve me a margarita in a rocks glass. Big no-no. Get a margarita glass.

4. Highball Glass

Any standard 1-2 liquor cocktail on ice, i.e. Fuzzy Navel, Baybreeze, Rum and Coke. Looks like a water glass, but smaller. Usually 8-10 ounce glass. Sometimes called a Gibraltor glass. Always served on ice.

5. Rocks Glass aka Old-Fashioned Glass aka Low-Ball Glass

Any 1-2-3 liquor drinks without any mixer, i.e. juice, soda. Not shaken ever - just stirred. Also called an old-fashioned glass because traditionally old-fashioned drinks were served in them, but for all practical purposes, they are the same. They are generally short 6-8 ounce glasses. You can also serve straight up liquor - room temp, no ice. Low-ball meaning shorter than a highball glass, but the same.

6. Collins Glass

Any sour, fizz, or flip drink, i.e. Tom Collins (that's where the name came from). Whiskey Sour, Gin Fizz. Generally a tall thin glass holding 8-12 ounces. Shake the ingredients in a shaker and strain into the glass over ice. I am particularly fond of this glass - I think it's cute and sleek so I put a lot of drinks in a Collins Glass if I think the drink would look good.

7. Snifter aka Brandy Snifter

Anything top-end liquor or cordial/liqueur served 'straight up' with no ice (room temp or warmed in the winter time, i.e. brandy or cognac). It is rare to find this glass in low-end bars that don't serve premium spirits. It has a round bottom.

8. Champagne Flute

Cocktails that contain champagne, sparkling wine, prosecco on top. A six-ounce glass. If the establishment serves Champagne, then they should have one of these.

9. Wine Glass

Self-explanatory, but some cocktails called 'Spritzers" go in wine glasses. It is usually wine and soda water or liqueur. The bigger the wine glass, the better for oxidation, aroma, and bringing out the flavors. White Wine doesn't require this as much so use a smaller, more narrower glass. Red Wine should have a wide mouth and be more flat to allow this process above to take place. That's why you swirl the glass.

10. Shooter Glass aka Pony Glass aka Cordial

These small glasses house chilled shots (shooters) containing more than one liquor and usually a juice - chilled. Also, you can serve room temp layered shots in this glass.

11. Tulip Glass aka Hurricane Glass

This glass is used for frozen or exotic drinks like the Pina Colada or Daiquiris. It is shaped like a tulip and is big around 12-16 ounces. Some bars don't have them unless they serve a lot of frozen drinks so you can substitute a tall pint glass (beer glass) instead, which is usually where draft beer goes.

I hope this explanation of different glassware was helpful. There are no set rules persay, have fun with it, but certain classic cocktails should go in the proper glass for aesthetic and flavor reasons.


Thank you! Kathy




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