Art of the glass is my ode to glassware and the cocktail experience. It’s equal part art, science and mystery. What we like best appeals to all the senses and pretty things, pleasing aromas and textures all contribute to our perception and pleasure.
Something beautiful always tastes better. A crystal clear martini, sparkling in a cocktail glass or a stream of bubbles rising in a champagne tulip are perfect examples. A gorgeous cocktail is something both aspirational and transformative that stimulates our mind. The ensuing ideas, thoughts and fantasies are all part of the trip.
A beautiful cocktail is artwork that you drink and in the cocktail world, the glass is the frame within which your liquid artwork resides.
Enhance the Appearance, Aroma and Flavor
Real crystal is not required, but clean and crystal clear is. Glasses may be smooth and transparent, or cut and prismatic, but each plays a role in your perception of the contents. Choosing between the two is a personal aesthetic, but oh, what a difference a good glass makes.
Glassware’s first objective is utilitarian, the next level pleases the eye, but recent designs are also meant to tease the nose and palate. The shape of the bowl can concentrate and enhance the aroma.
Sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami comprise the five basic tastes and glass shape can affect how you perceive them. A properly designed vessel will deliver its contents to the palate area meant to enhance desired flavor characteristics.
There are many types of glassware specifically designed for certain cocktails and beverages. A few are essential, but which one(s) depend on your personal taste. If you love a martini as I do, you must have a cocktail glass, but for most others, one of these will do just fine.
The iconic cocktail glass, strictly speaking, is a stemmed glass with an inverted cone bowl. Capacity varies from four to eight ounces (half-pint cocktail anyone?) and is the perfect vessel for an Aviatrix, Manhattan or Martini.
These are short tumblers and the name intuitively guides you to their primary use – drinks served “on the rocks”. They are classified as a “single” holding 6-8 ounces and “doubles” that hold 12-14 ounces. The smaller is popular for whiskies served neat, or potent, boozy cocktails like a Sazerac. Doubles are perfect for that gin and tonic or a Margarita.
It’s all about the bubbles and that’s why a flute is the favorite for champagne. The tall, slender design highlights those expensive bubbles from bottom to top. Not only for champagne, use them for a French 75 or Lavender Prosecco.
You already have these in your kitchen cabinet and call them tumblers. They have an essential place in the drink world, because the larger diameter capacity leaves more room for ice, mixers and booze! Yes, think Maker’s and Coke.
How large is a pint glass? Well, like who’s buried in Grant’s tomb, it’s a trick question – 16 ounces of course. There’s nothing better than a cold beer served in a frosted pint glass, unless it’s a loaded Bloody Mary!
Whiskey, tequila, vodka, oh my! Those shots need their own glass and they come in several sizes from one to three ounces. I like the 3 ounce for my La Banderita.
There are many other glasses. A connoisseur of aged scotch or bourbon would certainly require a nosing glass. Likewise is the snifter for those into brandies and liqueurs. Several cocktail glasses like the coupe and the Nick and Nora are on my personal list, but you may need a Collins glass for the ubiquitous Tom Collins.
Nick and Nora
This is a stylized version of a cocktail glass named for a fictional couple in Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man. The small 3-5 ounce capacity makes an artful presentation for a libation like this.
Or a sumptuous after dinner cocktail like this.
This stemmed, shallow saucer was created in the 17th century, originally intended for champagne, but the bubbles quickly dissipate in the wide bowl. It has been re-purposed by the craft cocktail movement for drinks served “up” like my Grasshopper, Lavender Margarita or Naked and Famous.
The Collins is a narrower version of a highball glass. Yes, it’s named for a Tom Collins, but I prefer a Cucumber G&T or Electric Eye.
The Glencairn is the standard bearer for this indispensable glass used to critically taste and enjoy unadulterated spirits like that 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle or 40 year old Macallan.
Brandy, cognac and liqueurs are meant to be sipped from snifters. Cupping the bowl in your palm allows the warmth to help the aroma bloom and please both your nose and palate.