Cocktail Glass 101
Now that mixology has taken the bar scene by storm, craft cocktail bars are as ubiquitous as coffee shops. But you don’t have to pay a barkeep — or even leave your home — to enjoy a high-level drink. Instead, mix one at home. With a fully stocked bar, all you need is a solid cocktail glass collection. Then you’re on your way.
Types of cocktail glasses abound, and with good reason: Red wine needs space for its flavors to fully emerge. Martini glasses’ long stems keep you from warming the ice-cold drink with your palms. Narrow champagne flutes allow higher levels of CO2 to rise to the top of the glass, giving you that effervescent tingle. And fear not: There are plenty multipurpose glasses as well. To help you create the perfect collection, we built you an easy-to-decipher cocktail glass guide so you can toast with the most.
Lay the Foundation
Before you inject your personality and style, it’s important to lay a solid foundation — quantity, entertaining style, care and storage. Our rule of thumb: You should have the same number of red and white wine, beer and cocktail glasses as you do dinner plates (roughly six to eight of each). Accidents happen, so we suggest procuring a few extra of each style to have on hand as well.
Next, consider your entertaining style. Do you throw casual get-togethers or more formal affairs? Stemless barware generally reads as more relaxed (most is dishwasher-safe); formal settings call for stemmed glassware, most of which requires hand washing. A selection of acrylic drinkware is ideal if you entertain outdoors, while heavier styles are best reserved for the dining room.
Assess your storage capacity to determine how much surface area you’ve got. Stackable styles are more durable and work best in smaller spaces. If you have room to display cocktail glasses side by side in a sideboard or on a bar cart, you can look to stemmed designs such as martini glasses and champagne flutes. And though these days most drinks seem to have a designated glass, those short on space can get away with a more multipurpose design.
Last but not least, think about your aesthetic sensibility, color and personal taste. The possibilities are endless: Your collection can be mismatched or more streamlined and refined; you can choose all clear glass, or more colorful options. Perhaps you throw annual events that call for specific glasses (margarita and/or shot glasses for Cinco de Mayo). The most important lesson of all: Your collection should work for you.
Every beer drinker knows that glassware matters: Snifters’ downward curl intensifies aroma; wheat beer’s ubiquitous foam needs space to roam — hence the requisite wide top of its namesake glass. IPAs, Porters, and Pilsners each have their own classic shape, designed expressly to maintain body and taste.
If you’re short on space or enjoy serving a variety of beer when you entertain, try something multipurposes: A tulip-shaped glass’s pinched middle helps maintain aroma while its wide top stands up to foam. Designs that start wide and taper gradually toward the bottom work just as well. If you’ve got room or are a beer aficionado, stock a tasting set with multiple shapes to give guests options.
Wine snob or not, you want your wine glasses to show you know your stuff. For those with a bit of wiggle room, stock bar carts, cupboards, shelves and sideboards with an assortment of shapes and sizes — even a set or two. Go unconventional and try etched glasses on for size, or incorporate a square base or stemless shape into your collection. And rest assured that no one will turn her nose down at a classic, versatile style.
If you’re tight on space, stackable wine glasses are a fantastic choice — plus, they’re dishwasher-safe for quick clean-ups. Order a streamlined set, or mix styles and juxtapose contemporary with vintage, feeling free to play with details (think raised dots and cut glass).
The same rules apply for cocktail glasses as do for beer and wine: Whatever mixed drink you prefer — from martinis to negronis, Manhattans to margaritas — there is a glass for each. But if you’re short on space, you can stock a set of smart-looking multipurpose glasses and no one will know the wiser. Swill martinis from classic V-shape stemware, or go contemporary and sip from something sturdy and stemless. Margaritas belong in their namesake glass, as do pours of whiskey. But every cocktail looks good in a coupe glass or tumbler — especially if they have an extra bit of visual detail in terms of color and/or craftsmanship.
Now that you’ve got the tools to tackle your cocktail glass collection, you deserve to sit down with a glass yourself. Cheers!
For more information about different types of cocktail glasses, check out our glassware resource guide.
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