Glassware It Well
Appoint your home bar with a range of shapely vessels
The home that entertains remains incomplete without a well-appointed bar. It’s easy enough to stock bottles of your favorite libations. But don’t overlook the importance of glassware to best show off the particular charms of wine, beer and cocktails. Function aside, colorful vessels can brighten up drinks for festive occasions. However, clear glass lets imbibers evaluate a drink’s color and bubbles, which is particularly important for wine and beer aficionados. Peek into a glassware company’s catalog and the options can be overwhelming. Shape exerts a tremendous influence on the drinking experience.
“Each glass shape has purposes relating to the beer it is meant to serve,” says Derek Gallanosa, beer curator at Rancho Bernardo’s The Cork & Craft and head brewer at Abnormal Beer Co. He explains a few shape considerations for brews, but they apply to wine and mixed drinks as well. The mouth of a glass affects oxidation and the way aromas are released. “Narrow openings reduce the amount of surface area, resulting in less off-flavors in a delicate pilsner or other lighter beer,” Derek says. The same logic applies to many wines, but a bigger bowl can benefit those whose flavors improve with aeration. It’s important to maintain drinks as close to their serving temperature as possible, so that flavors and aromas don’t dissipate too quickly. Stemmed glassware protects beer and wine from the warmth of a drinker’s hands. At a minimum, a beer fan’s barware should include full-size pint glasses. Derek suggests a traditional German style called the Willi Becher, which features subtle curves. He also recommends brandy snifters, as the stem keeps the beer at the proper temperature while the bowl encapsulates the aromas longer. If space is no consideration, keep multiple taster-size glasses “to split a nice bottle among friends,” Derek proffers. Though there are nearly as many wine-glass shapes as there are grape varieties, you could get away with having two styles of glasses: one for white wines and one for red wines, says Rusti Gilbert, wine director at Tasting Room Del Mar. Glasses for red wine varieties usually are roomy, allowing some of the flavors to soften with more air exposure. “White-wine glasses are great for sparkling wine,” Rusti says. “They allow you to experience the aromas of a sparkling wine that flutes filled to the brim aren’t able to do, so there’s no need to spend extra money on a fancy flute. “My favorite elaborate glass in my cupboard is the Grand Cru Burgundy glass from Riedel,” Rusti continues. “There is something so elegant about it. I love the weight, height and feel of it. Consciously or subconsciously, I feel good consuming wines with it.”
Cocktails’ flavors tend to be sturdier than those in wine and beer, so the shape of the glass doesn’t affect the aromatic compounds as much. Rather, glass shape is a combination of function and tradition, says Juan Sanchez, bar manager at Hillcrest’s T rust Restaurant. “Different glassware allows the guest the ability to experience the cocktail and/or spirit as it was intended to be enjoyed.”
Small, stemmed sour glasses, coupes and Old Fashioned tumblers are among the most common styles of cocktail glasses. To round out your home bar, Juan advises, keep a few more on hand: a tall Collins glass, ideal for layered and stirred drinks, as well as cocktail glasses that look like martini versions, but feature smaller, deeper bowls. Here’s another tip from Juan: “Placing coupes and sour glasses in the freezer before serving allows the cocktail to remain colder longer.” If you have a favorite cocktail, consider buying barware designed specifically for that drink, such as stemmed margarita and martini glasses and copper mugs for Moscow Mules. Glasses should be stored upside-down on a clean surface, Derek says, preventing lint or dust from getting in. However, Rusti notes that fragile glasses should be stored bowl up, as
the rim is the thinnest, most-easily-damaged part of the glass. Fine department stores and specialty shops stock “serious” glassware, but don’t dismiss discount retailers, who often carry durable versions of basic shapes made by top manufacturers. At vintage or antiques stores, you may unearth quirky treasures, such as whimsically shaped cordial glasses or punch-bowl-and-cup sets for bulk-mixed drinks like sangria. Cut-glass and crystal decanters provide a beautiful way to store spirits. After you have procured the glassware essentials for your home bar, use them regularly with friends and family.
“Having proper glassware heightens the experience of drinking,” Derek says. “But nothing compares to the people with whom you drink.”