Ever wonder why your cocktail comes in a specific glass? Us too! At home, you might serve up a margarita, Manhattan, or even a full-bodied red wine in the same cup (we totally get it, we do it too!), but at bars and restaurants, there are often rules implemented about how certain drinks are served. From coupes and flutes to tumblers and highballs, we’re here to demystify some of the reasons behind beverage glassware.
Let’s start with that easily spillable yet ubiquitous piece of glassware: the Martini glass. Also known as a “cocktail glass”, it resembles an upside down pyramid with a long stem and is used not only for Martinis, as the name would suggest, but also sometimes for Manhattans as well. The Martini cocktail (gin or vodka, vermouth, and a garnish of olive or lemon twist) predates the Martini glass, which arrived in the angular shape we know around the 1920s. There’s much speculation about why the glass has its unique shape—some say that the wide rim was for easily disposing of the glass during prohibition (which doesn’t seem to make much sense), but in reality it probably has something to do with the long stem providing a place for the hand, so that the beverage itself stays cool while the sloped sides not only offer a resting place for a toothpick but are also said to prevent the ingredients separating.
Before the Martini glass, there was the coupe, which was used more often than not to serve champagne. With a curved cup and a long stem, one popular myth claimed that the glass’s shape was inspired by the curves of Marie Antoinette, ahem, chest. These days, many drinks from margaritas to Manhattans to daiquiris are served in a coupe or its more spill-proof version, known as a Nick and Nora glass (named after the avid drinkers and main characters Nick and Nora Charles in the 1934 film The Thin Man).
Yet another receptacle for serving bubbly: the Flute is a thin-stemmed glass with an ample cup—extra ample to hold all the fizz that inevitably emerges from the bottle. The long stem is, of course, so that the hands don’t warm the Champagne which is, of course, best served cold, and the overall goal of the glass is to keep everything as effervescent as possible for the longest amount of time.
A tumbler is a flat-bottomed glass, what you might think of when you consider a water glass. There are many varieties of tumblers, including the all-important rocks glass—a shorter, stouter, wide-rimmed vessel good for large ice cubes and drinks served “on the rocks”, like whiskey and scotch. The Collins glass, also known as a high ball, is a tall, thin tumbler (like a stem-less version of a flute), which often holds drinks with soda or other effervescent beverages, and promotes retention of said bubbles.
This curvaceous glass features a wide open rim, round cup, and short stem, and is often used for heady boozes like cognac, brandy, whiskey, and scotch. The short stem and open rim promote the repeated swirling of the beverage to add more air in and open up the flavor, and since these beverages aren’t served cold, the cup is for the gripping of the hand.
You’ve probably noticed that red wine glasses and white wine glasses differ a bit in appearance—technically there are even more varieties within each category, but we’ll just focus on the basics. Red wine glasses are generally a bit taller and bigger, with a bowl that allows for more swirling (aeration), as red wines are typically bigger and bolder than whites, and give off more aroma when moved around in the glass.
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