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Cocktail Glass Smash

June 29, 2009

Last month I railed against the impropriety of calling a cocktail glass a martini glass.  Lest there be any confusion, it’s called a cocktail glass.

The irony of this of course, is that while I enjoy the martini cocktail, I hate the cocktail glass.

What a horrendous design for a piece of barware.  Sure it’s iconic.  But it’s a mess.  It’s top heavy.  All too often the cocktail is filled to the rim.  And sometimes it is just huge.

I am not even going to go into the ridiculous permutations with zigzag stems or other uncalled-for architectural flourishes.

According to the good people at Anvil Bar & Refuge, the cocktail glass as we know it “didn’t debut until the 1922 Paris Exposition.  Slowly this glass gained popularity in bars and restaurants predominantly because of its ability to deceive the customer’s perception of volume and value.”

That must have been before bars are as crowded as they can be today.

Because trying to carry around a drink in a cocktail glass at a party is an exercise in inevitability.  That drink in your hand is going to spill.  It may not be on you.  It may not be your fault.  But some of that drink is headed to the floor.

The worst thing about it that there is no good reason for a cocktail to come in a glass like that.  Most other glassware serves a purpose.  A champagne flute is long and narrow for three good reasons.
1)    Longer trails of eye-pleasing bubbles.
2)    Smaller opening for gas to escape for longer-lasting bubbles.
3)    The size and shape of the glass allow the tip of your tongue to experience the wine first, thus capturing all of its limited sweetness.

There is only one reason for the cocktail glass, besides the dubious ones listed above.  And that is to provide a stem so your hot little hands don’t prematurely warm up your drink.

And you don’t need a V-shaped glass for that.  Anything with a stem would do.  A small wine glass or a large cordial glass could do nicely.

Me?  I prefer a bucket glass, sometimes called an old fashioned glass.

One problem is that if you go shopping for these in stores most of them are far too large for cocktails.  Your drink would look as if it were a puddle in the bottom of the glass.  Seven ounces is really the perfect size.  Good luck.

The other problem is that if you request one of these in a bar, they look at you like you are crazy.  Some kind of buffoon who is clearly not sophisticated enough to be drinking in their establishment.

Granted, it’s nontraditional.  It is also unlikely anyone had asked for anything like it before.  But it makes sense.

With a seven-ounce bucket glass, your glass is about half filled once a full size cocktail is poured into it.  If you hold the glass near the top, you will not appreciably warm your drink before it is completed.  Given that there is plenty of room in the glass, you are unlikely to spill it, or have it spilled.  And finally, it is much easier to gauge how much booze is left in your glass.

Now, it is my official duty to call out the cocktail glass as being needlessly fussy.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Barrie permalink
    June 29, 2009 1:15 pm

    Wally always says it’s like a plate on a stick. I think he would heartily agree with you on this one!

  2. brownie permalink
    June 29, 2009 3:23 pm

    But is it cricket to pinky-out with the old fashioned?

    The martini, ahem, cocktail glass was originally designed as a labret (lip plate) to bring mixed drinks to the tribes of Africa and South America who celebrate that custom. Fed up with tribesmen who used them mainly as hats and brassieres, the inventor added a stem and France surrendered.

    Don’t ask me to quote my sources.

  3. June 29, 2009 6:20 pm

    My favorite bars have generally been ones that serve cocktails in old fashioned glasses (and by golly, old fashioneds themselves are delectable). I wonder if they go hand in hand? One of my peeves is having a sticky-sweet cocktail spill on the glass/hands for the duration of the drink.

  4. Wally permalink
    June 29, 2009 8:22 pm

    I call them “plates on sticks”.

  5. cheftanner permalink
    June 29, 2009 10:56 pm

    I totally agree with you here Daniel. I hate cocktail glasses myself. I am a Manhattan and Red Hook drinker and have always liked mine in an old-fashioned/rocks glass. Having bar tended in the past I can attest to how awful it is for servers to carry those stupid glasses as well, not to mention certain bartenders love for filling the drink to the rim so that even if the server doesn’t spill the drink, the guest will likely end up with some of the drink on them. Having traveled a bit, many other countries don’t bother with the cocktail glasses, the rocks glass is more popular. At home I have Riedel rocks glasses, I drink wine out of them as well. I understand the concept of not wanting to warm up the glass, but really, who sits there with their hands wrapped around their glass long enough to warm up the liquid? For better wines and dinners with guests I pull out the high-end specialty wine stems, but never cocktail glasses.

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