Most people are more concerned with what’s in a glass rather than the glass itself. Few can fault this logic, particularly anyone with a healthy appetite for a good cocktail. But stemware is more integral to the drinking experience than many realize. It’s not difficult to note that glasses come in a wide range of shapes, weights and sizes. But what is often missed is that these seemingly aesthetic choices often fulfill a specific purpose. To help you get more out of your favourite wine or cocktail, we’ve compiled a list of popular glasses that are designed to enhance your beverage of choice. Welcome to stemware 101!
Selecting the perfect wine glass for your favourite Malbec or Merlot can be a complicated affair if you’re in deep with the wine scene. But if you’re more of a weekend wino, selecting a wine glass can be boiled down to two golden rules: white wine glasses should have a long stem to keep your hand away from the nicely chilled wine, and red wine glasses should have a wider bowl and opening to allow for spirited swirling and nosing.
Sparkling White Wine/ Champagne Flutes
When it comes to selecting a glass for champagne or sparkling white wine it’s all about the bubbles. A flute has a narrow bowl in order to reduce the surface area of the drink where bubbles like to escape. By keeping the bubbles somewhat contained, your bubbly will stay bubbly longer.
The champagne coup (or champagne saucer) has a broad, shallow bowl and a short stem. Although this glass dates back to the 17th century, the champagne coupe was highly fashionable from the post-prohibition era into the 1960s. Its popularity was due to its styling more than its functionality. Due to its broad bowl the bubbles dissipate much faster than they would in a flute, and its short stem encourages palming the glass, which heats up the beverage. Bottom line: reserve the champagne coupe glasses for a retro-themed event and treat flutes as your go-to.
If you’ve spent anytime with a martini glass in your hand you know they’re easy to spill. But surprisingly they’re iconic shape was not designed to make you appear drunker than you are. As with most stemware, martini glasses have a stem as a means of temperature control – the stem keeps your warm hands far away from the icy liquid. Martini glasses have a wide bowl, so the aromatics of the gin or that twist of lemon can be thoroughly enjoyed. The glass’ cone shape keeps the ingredients from separating and provides a pleasing showcase for the drink's garnish. Remember: you drink with your eyes first.
The cocktail glass is often mistaken for a martini glass and given their close resemblance it’s not hard to see why. Cocktail glasses have a smaller, narrower bowl than that of a martini glass, but other than that the two look essentially the same. Cocktail glasses often hold shaken cocktails such as Gimlets and the like. Since these cocktails aren’t served with ice it is crucial to serve them in a glass with a stem to keep them chilly longer.
While it may be difficult to offer a snifter to a guest without feeling pompous, preservere because snifters are simply the best way to serve brandy or cognac. Snifters have a wide bowl and a narrowed top. This unique shape traps the aromatics of the liquor. The snifter’s stem is often short and the bowl’s rounded base makes it ideal for cupping the glass. Unlike chilled wines and cocktails, the flavour of brandy and cognac benefits from a little body heat. Remember: a snifter is best paired with a leather wingback chair and an ill-tempered cat… we’re kidding - sort of.
Aperitif, Digestif or Liqueur Glasses
Looking like an itty-bitty wine glass, a liqueur glass makes it’s appearance at the end of a meal. Used to serve liqueurs typically consumed following a meal, liqueur glasses are petite to limit the amount of liqueur consumed per serving. Liqueurs and port are often rich, syrupy and dessert-like, so drinking a large amount of liqueur in one sitting is a lot like going to town on a birthday cake. The liqueur glass encourages minute sips and sensibly sized servings.