Consider this a begginer's glossary of glassware.
Cocktails are swanky and sophisticated, and knowing how to make your own is a skill worth boasting. But the science behind a good drink isn’t just the alchemy of ingredients—the physical properties of glassware have a huge effect on both the drink and the drinking experience. That’s why you need the proper tools if you want to do it right.
First though, since it’s your bar, you’re free to drink out of whatever glass you like. That being said, if you’re aiming for an optimal drinking experience or just want to impress your friends, a professional’s advice always helps.
Laura Newman, bar manager and co-owner of Queen’s Park in Birmingham, Alabama—and the United States Bartenders’ Guild’s U.S. Bartender of the Year—recommends starting with four basic yet versatile pieces: a champagne flute, a double rocks glass, a coupe glass, and something tall and long like a Collins glass. She says it’s critical to make sure you have the right volume for your glassware; you don’t want to serve a 3-ounce stirred drink in a 7-ounce glass or it’ll look like you’re jipping someone. Alternatively, adjusting a drink to fit a glass that’s too big can be dangerous and promote irresponsible drinking.
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Champagne flutes are delicate and designed to slow you down. That means they’re best suited for concentrating aromas and savoring sips. “At the end of the day, it’s a wine glass. It’s a glass for a particular type of wine, which is sparkling,” Newman says. “Wine isn’t something that you take a shot of. It’s something that you smell and you savor.”
Newman likes to think of a champagne flute as a vessel for something special and delicate. There’s a reason they’re better for bubbly - the thin body exposes a lower surface area, keeping that carbonation from escaping as quickly. “The more surface area there is, the more CO2 can come out, so by reducing the surface area it’s going to stay fizzy and carbonated for longer.”
Double Rocks Glass
The double rocks glass, also known as an old fashioned glass, is made for spirits paired with ice cubes and smaller shaken cocktails. “You want to make sure that your rocks glass is big enough to accommodate whatever form of ice you’re gonna put in there,” Newman says. With a double rocks glass, Newman says, it’s important to think about what kind of ice you’re using. Single large ice cubes have become popular, and for good reason—one large ice cube has a smaller surface area than several smaller or normal-sized ice cubes, meaning that it’ll melt at a slower rate and the drink won’t dilute as quickly.
However, you can also use a double rocks glass for a drink that will dilute nicely, such as a margarita or a neat spirit paired with a small amount of ice. Since the glass is short, the diluted ice (now water) won’t drift to the top of the glass and settle.
Coupe glasses are ideal for stirred or shaken cocktails that lack effervescence (remember, surface area!) and don’t contain ice—the glass is too delicate for bulky cubes, which will stick out in a bad way. A coupe glass is wider than it is deep, so straws won’t work here either. Coupes come in two sizes: The egg coupe starts at around 7 ounces and is ideal for shaken cocktails, while Nick & Nora glasses cap at 6 ounces and work best with stirred drinks. Here, the volume of the drink in relation to the glass is crucial.
“It’s really important to think about serving the correct size drink in the correct size glass because part of that is from a bar perspective there’s a big perception of value issue. You want to make sure your guest doesn’t feel like they’re being ripped off.” Whether you’re a professional or amateur bartender, you don’t want to use a glass-drink combination that makes your guest feel cheated or encourage binge drinking.
For example, people may fill a 12-ounce martini glass with that much alcohol (the standard pour for a martini is 2-3 ounces, plus Vermouth) to make it seem fuller. So instead of one martini, that glass contains enough vodka for at least four drinks. “That’s not a responsible serve of alcohol in any scenario,” Newman says.
Taller glassware works best with shaken cocktails that include some kind of topper—usually soda, but it can be flat as long as it doesn’t overpower the spirit. It can be as intricate as a Paloma or a no-nonsense rum and Coke. Drinks that need to open up aren’t a good fit for Collins glasses; the same goes for drinks that involve smaller pours The Collins has a low surface area and slightly more volume than a rocks glass, so go for effervescent and shaken.
A Collins glass (it’s also known as a highball) should be high enough to accommodate four ice cubes and wide enough to accommodate various ingredients, Newman says. To avoid splashing liquid (and wasting booze!), put in the ice first and pour the drink in after.