Glass vs Plastic
The most important thing about picking the right glassware for a cocktail is that is be made of glass. The only time a drink can be served in plastic is at a kegger or a swim up bar. Invest in one glass (made of glass) for every seat in your home. That is to say if you have a dining room table that seats six, you should own six wine glasses. And, if you are having a big crew over for a party I would remind you that you can rent glasses for $1 each and not have to clean them. That’s cheaper than buying them at Ikea and needing an extra storage closet. Plastic is for college, you may only use glass in your home.
Cocktail Glass vs Martini Glass
A Martini glass is a glass that has a Martini in it. The, “V,” shaped icon in your brain is not a martini glass, though most refer to it as such, this glass is indeed a, “cocktail glass.” Cocktails go in cocktail glasses and martinis are a type of cocktail. As a man, you can not fear the cocktail glass. The cocktail glass is the perfect balance of strength and grace. Men that fear the cocktail glass are responsible for making cocktails worse. I ordered a Manhattan today and was asked if I wanted it on the rocks.
What I heard was: “Sir, instead of mixing you a cocktail as per the craft of the bartender, shall I just dump sir’s drink in a bucket?”
What I said out loud was: “Stirred and up.”
What I should have said was: “See that Brooks Brothers mannequin next to me? He drinks Manhattans on the rocks because he doesn’t want to be viewed as a sissy in this corporate steakhouse. I don’t give a shit what you think of me because I am my own man. And when I order a cocktail, don’t inquire if I would like my drink made incorrectly or if I am concerned with those around me thinking I am a homosexual because of my choice in glassware.”
99% of cocktails are supposed to be served up and are definitely better that way. In my experience, guys that order cocktails on the rocks are homophobes that don’t like the taste of alcohol, but think that drinking is manly. I’d rather these guys join PFLAG, learn to be cool with their fellow man, and not come back to the bar until they can admit they just want a lemondrop.
Pro Tip: Learn how to manage a cocktail glass, hold them by the stem just under the bulb or by the rim of the glass with only your thumb and middle finger.
Highball vs Lowball
This one is easy: a highball glass is tall and skinny thus focusing the bubbles of long drinks up and a lowball is short and wide so you can smell the ingredients in the drink. Highball-soda. Lowball-flat. Both glasses are almost always identical in volume.
Real Pint vs Fake Pint
“A pint’s a pound the world ’round” is something you hopefully learned in college. If you didn’t it is quite simple, when the Brits went metric they didn’t give up the pint as the standard pour for a beer; 16 fluid ounces of greatness. I like different beers in different measures, 6 oz rocks glass to sip with whiskey, an 8 oz tulip for a Belgian, a 16 oz pint for ale, a 19 oz imperial pint for stout, a deuce deuce or a 22 oz for a party, a liter aka a 33 oz for sushi bars and beer hall, a 40 oz for college and even a 66 oz growler with friends. They are all beautiful in my eyes, all but the fake pint, the 14 oz thick bottom fake pint glass. When you see this glass you must understand that you are in an establishment that is stealing 2 extra ounces of beer with every “pint.” The place that would do this to you does not respect the way of beer. To quote Homer Simpson, “Did we lose a war? This is not America.”
Rocks Glass vs Snifter vs Glencairn Glass
The brandy snifter is for the most part simply wrong. Snifters don’t really have a set size but they normally show up for straight spirits, after dinner drinks or warmed drinks and they only work for very specific spirits. Snifters provide too much area for a lighter spirit, the nose will become over focused. Snifters do however work well for heavy spirits, those being liqueurs that have a dull nose due to a syrupy texture.
To test this try lining up 3 snifters, one with a shot of crème de cacao, the next with cognac and the final with gin. Now line up 3 rocks glasses with the same bill. You’ll find that in a rocks glass you can’t smell anything in the crème de cacao glass, but in the snifter aromas will develop. The cognac will provide a nice bouquet in the rocks glass but it will oxidize and start to taste stale but in the snifter the nose will smell phenol and boozy. Gin in a rocks glass smells like a hike in the Alps but if you inhale deeply from the snifter, the high proof and pure unsweetened alcohol will burn your nose and make you cough. So you need to consider these things when choosing glassware for spirits.
There is a newer glass on the scene that bridges the gap for all of these problems called a Glencairn glass. It is basically a tulip that allows aromas to develop without over focusing the nose and allows the user to adjust the temperature of the glass easily. These work well for spirits and liqueurs.
Tiki vs Other
Use specialty glassware whenever possible. Why? Duh, remember the twin guns of fun and function. Here are a few to keep an eye out for in thrift stores. Michelle has stocked our cabinet with a dozen tiki mugs found at the Goodwill for the price of just going to the Goodwill (plus $3 each). That is drinking that supports charity, HOORAY! Specialty glassware shown below are markers of quality bars.
The Julep cup is a must have on Derby day or for the true ice cold julep experience. Unless it is from a julep cup, you haven’t had a mint julep.
This one is for the bar managers:
Opportunity to charge extra for a vodka and ginger beer when you serve it from this traditional marketing gimic.
Tiki will be the salvation for the sins of the too serious cocktail culture. Look at these little devils, everything is right in the world about filling them up with crushed ice and throwing on some Stan Getz. But be careful, sometimes when I do that I’m threatened with, “Why don’t you just grow a ponytail and practice being single?”