Recently, I happened to be browsing the Tanqueray Gin website, which featured their international-contest-winning-drink, a cooler made with gin (naturally) and Italian Artichoke liqueur (Cynar). While I appreciate all the esoteric bottles out there — and they’re a must if you’re a professional bartender who’s trying to differentiate or design your own drinks — they’re hard to justify in a home bar. The same basic issue applies to glassware.
Ask any drink professional about which glasses a bar needs, and you’ll get a list of at least a dozen. While that’s a fine number for bottles, it’s simply obscene for the home bar. So, I propose a more tangible number — four. Sure, four glasses won’t be perfect for every single drink under the sun, but they’ll cover 95% of them. For the rest, just improvise. If you’re serving at home and the drinks a free and tasty, no one should rightfully criticize you.
The Coupe/Martini Glass
This is my go-to glass for most drinks. Coupes, which most people know as the “other” champagne glass (most often seen in its plastic form) has made a renaissance along with the classic cocktail movement. Legend has it that the shape was modeled after Marie Antoinette’s breast — the perfect size. Legend is wrong — the glass predates the queen — but the story is worth retelling to your guests. I use a 4.5oz coupe from Libbey. They are seamless (always go for glassware that doesn’t show molding seams) and sturdy enough to take abuse.
In many of my pictures, you’ll also see a 4.5oz “port” glass (also shown at left) . These were part of a family set that I inherited, and I use them mostly to break up the monotony in the pictures. What’s key here is the volume and the stem. Any martini-type glass will do, but avoid the hulking 6+ ouncers that have become the norm. You want a glass that is full but not overflowing, and almost all of the drinks presented here will have roughly the same volume.
The coupe/martini glass will be your go-to glass for pretty much anything that’s served without ice (with some exceptions, of course). The steam allows the drinker to handle the glass without heating up the drink itself, which is key, especially for martinis and the like.
The Rocks Glass
With a much larger volume (8 – 12 oz) and a heavy bottom, the rocks glass will be your choice for anything muddled (the glass can endure it) or Cocktail-like. Juleps, Cocktails, Sazeracs, Brandy Milk Punches — all these typically require some ice to join the other ingredients, so you’ll need a little more room.
Rocks glasses are also the way to go when serving a shot of liquor — on the rocks or neat. Go for a heavy glass, as the weight not only tricks the brain into thinking there’s more substance to the drink than there is, it also makes for a studier compounding glass.
The Collins Glass
The Tom Collins is a highball — namely, a drink to which a non-alcoholic ingredient makes up a significant portion of the volume. Classic highballs include the Gin and Tonic and the Cuba Libre (rum and coke). Because these drinks are typically thought of as summer libations, a tall glass that can hold a good deal of ice and fizzy stuff is in order. I use a tall, thin glass that holds about 10 oz and is very delicate in the hand — it should feel sexy, not clunky.
This is a catch-all glass that, while also holding about 10oz, has a short stem and just feels right for a variety of hot drinks (go with thicker glass for the heat) or pretty drinks like the Julep. The larger mouth also provides plenty of room for heavily-garnished drinks like Fixes.
Along with the Collins glass, goblets are great for tropical drinks as well.
I’ll try to keep to these basic glasses throughout the blog. Every now-and-then, however, I feel compelled to mix it up, just for the sake of visual variety. Any glass that you see that’s not included above (like the one used for the Mint Julep) is typically just a substitute, and as long as you respect the purpose and construction of the drink, use what you have on-hand.
After all, it’s the Mona Lisa that people flock to see — not the frame that she’s in.