At this point I think we’ve all come to understand that in order to make a really good cocktail we need great ingredients and impeccable technique. Throw in a decent garnish and we’re good to go, right? Almost. One of the most important factors that can get overlooked, especially at home, is the importance of the right glassware. We could make the most beautiful cocktail ever, but if we serve it in a Solo cup no one will ever know just how perfect it is. Not only is it a matter of how the drink looks, but the right glass also has an impact on things like temperature and aroma, 2 factors that directly contribute to how much or how little the drink will be enjoyed. Today I’m going to cover the 7 glasses that have become essential to the Thirsty Camel home bar.
First up on the list is the Old-Fashioned or single rocks glass which you see pictured above. It has straight sides and a heavy bottom (for crushing a sugar cube) and it should be able to accommodate 1 large ice cube. This glass is perfect for the many variations of stirred drinks like this Scrooge & Marley, as well as single spirits that are served neat or on the rocks. I purchased a set of these vintage glasses on eBay and they never fail to make an impact whenever I serve a drink in them.
The double rocks glass is larger than than the single, and I like to use them for smashes like Into Your Comfort Zone, where there’s juice, ice, and sometimes even pieces of fruit involved. It should also have a heavy bottom just the like single rocks glass. In addition to being great for muddling, that weighted bottom will help to keep the glass cold if you chill it in the freezer first. These were also an eBay find and I won them in a fight-to-the-death bidding war which I thoroughly enjoyed!
The classic V glass is used for cocktails that are meant to be served up, or without ice, like this Shot to the Heart, my variation of an Espresso Martini. Although you could certainly put something like a Manhatten in a glass like this, I find myself using mine almost exclusively for Martinis. The stem keeps your hand away from the body of the glass which helps to keep the drink from getting warm too quickly. Since Martinis are meant to be served very cold, this becomes extremely important. The V also shape provides a lot of surface area for the drink, so that you will catch its aroma the minute you take your first sip. Size matters a lot here. I prefer smaller Martini glasses rather than larger ones, because I think the big gulps force you to either drink too quickly or end up with a warm Martini, neither of which is a good thing.
The classic cocktail coupe is said to have been molded in the shape of Marie Antoinette’s left breast, but since it was invented in England in 1663, this is simply not possible. You can go on believing it if it makes you feel better. The coupe was originally a champagne glass, until someone determined that champagne loses it’s carbonation too quickly in this glass, again because of surface area. I use mine for any drink that is to be served up, like this Persephone cocktail pictured above. The stem serves the same purpose as it did in the Martini glass; it prevents your hands from making the drink warm up too quickly. Vintage cocktail coupes can be especially beautiful; at the moment I don’t have any, but I am definitely on the hunt for them.
My favorite glass of all is the Nick & Nora, named after a 1930s fictional cocktail-loving couple in the Dashiell Hammet novel, The Thin Man. It can be used for just about any drink that can go in a coupe glass, like this Bijou Blanc, and its tulip shape helps to direct the cocktail’s aroma right up to your nose. Death & Co. particularly recommends the Nick & Nora for cocktails that have a more elaborate garnish.
The Champagne flute is essential for serving sparkling wines, obviously, but it is also a must-have for all variations of the Champagne cocktail. The tall shape keeps the effervescence trapped, allowing the drink to keep its carbonation for longer periods. It’s also a very pretty sight to see the bubbles rising from the bottom of a Champagne cocktail, like the Champagne Elderfower Cocktail shown above.
Finally, the highball glass is used for most drinks that are served over ice with fruit juices and shrubs, with mixers often poured on top. The Tom Collins is the classic example, and for this reason the glass is often referred to as a Collins glass. For today’s cocktail, pictured above, I’ve created something that is a kind of a modern riff on a traditional Pina Colada served in a vintage Philadelphia Electric glass I found in a local thrift store.
The Pina Un-Colada
1½ oz white rum (I used Bacardi superior)
½ oz ginger liqueur (I used Domaine de Canton)
½ oz Velvet Falernum
2 oz Element Shrub Pineapple Turmeric
1 oz coconut water
1 dash DRAM Hair of the Dog bitters
3 pineapple chunks
Muddle the pineapple chunks in the bottom half of shaker tin. Add the remaining ingredients along with ice and shake vigorously for 20 seconds or until very cold. Double strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and a candied ginger cube on a cocktail pick. Enjoy!
A few last notes on glassware:
- When at all possible, try to chill your glassware ahead of time for 20-30 minutes in the freezer so that your drinks will remain cold for longer.
- Modern glassware is beautiful and functional, but vintage glassware is so much fun. eBay is a great resource, as are thrift and antique stores. Keep any vintage glassware out of the dishwasher.
- If you’re shopping for a large quantity of glasses, restaurant supply stores are often your best bet. They are durable and reasonable, especially if you catch a closeout sale.