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Classic Cocktail Glasses

July 8, 2011

Last night after dinner I found an ouzo candy in my pocket. It came from the Greek restaurant in Providence I visited with my mom on July 4. That day we learned that Young Master Fussy will devour gyro meat and the Little Miss Fussy can eat a whole plate of grilled pork with tzatziki sauce.

That candy, however, was not the only thing I brought back from Providence.

I also was given a box of fine crystal stemware that has been in the family for many years. It’s been in storage for a while, and now that I own a house with an attic, I can no longer tell my mother that I simply have no place to put it. So into the car it went for the three hour drive back to Albany.

There is a full set of lovely wine glasses, a few heavy shot glasses, and one cordial glass. I expect those are going to wind up in the attic. But there was also a set of cocktail glasses that very well may turn me into a proponent of the form.

However, like many good things, they just don’t make them like this anymore. Do you know what makes them so special?

They only hold three fluid ounces.

This is a far cry from the five to ten ounce monsters that sully bars across the country. The fact is that when you load your cocktails full of sour mix, sticky liqueurs, and host of juices, floaters, atrocious garnishes and fanciful rims—and then have the audacity to call it a “martini”—you need a large cocktail glass to hold it all.

The classic cocktails that were designated for this silly little glass were much simpler affairs. And for these, three ounces is the perfect size.

Three ounces fills my new favorite glasses right up to the brim. It makes a proper cocktail appear generous and not an apologetic little thing at the bottom of a much larger glass. Now, some people will say that if you walk around with a glass that full, you will spill your precious drink.


An old friend of mine got a sage bit of advice from her mother, that made a strong impact not only on her, but on me, “If you are going to smoke, don’t walk and smoke at the same time. You know who does that? Hookers.” And it worked. Whenever my friend had the desire for a cigarette, she would find a place to sit down and enjoy her indulgence like a lady.

Cocktails are similar. Sure, some attempt to drink while they walk, or while they are standing. I’ve done it, and I’ll probably do it again. But these glasses are not meant for cocktail parties. These are meant for quiet and thoughtful enjoyment sitting around a table and taking with friends and loved ones. If you must get up, finish your drink first, and then go do what needs to be done. Luckily the drink is small, so it won’t take you that long.

It makes me think about the folly of those who order an espresso to go and drink it from a paper cup.

But let me put this three-ounce drink into real world perspective, just so you can better understand where I’m coming from. Let’s talk about The Martini. There is only one Martini and it’s a deceptively complex concoction of simple ingredients: gin, dry vermouth, orange bitters and ice.

Everyone will have a different proportion of gin to vermouth they will prefer. Believe it or not, I’m not actually proselytizing this specific build. I enjoy it, but I’ve also enjoyed the fifty-fifty, and in my youth was known to go bone-dry.

That said, two ounces of Tanqueray, a quarter ounce of Dolin dry vermouth, a drop of Fee’s orange bitters, all stirred over a mountain of large fresh ice cubes, and strained into the chilled glass is simply perfect. If the drink doesn’t fill the glass, you haven’t stirred long enough. If you can’t fully empty the contents of your mixing tin in the glass, you’ve stirred too long.

The Manhattan is a similar build, although at three ounces it makes a slightly less potent cocktail, given the near universal acceptance of the 2:1 base spirit to vermouth proportion. That means one and a half ounces of whiskey, three quarters of an ounce of sweet vermouth, a dash of Angostura bitters, and a drop of Fee’s orange bitters, all stirred over a mountain of ice and strained into the glass.

Three to four tablespoons of a base spirit; that should be the building block of a cocktail. It is difficult to drink in moderation when every drink a bar makes is a double. I know smaller cocktails aren’t what most people want. But I’m telling you, when you have the opportunity to enjoy a well-made drink in a proper glass, it’s really something special.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Doug permalink
    July 8, 2011 10:01 am

    Ahh, a man after mine own heart — and you sound like old Charles Baker Jr.

  2. Doc permalink
    July 9, 2011 12:30 am

    Agreed. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t see a picture of Sean Connery enjoying a martini in a big rocks glass with a lemon twist and it wasn’t the coolest thing. Although, that may have been more due to Sean Connery than the glass.

  3. northcountryrambler permalink
    July 9, 2011 7:46 am

    And here I thought Nick and Nora Charles were the last characters to put bitters in a martini.

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