There’s so much to think about when hosting a drinks or dinner party – food, flowers, theme, tableware and seating plans, and not to mention the dress code. It’s easy with all this madness to overlook the number one essential for any social gathering: the glasses from which your guests will drink their beverages. Whatever you plan to offer – cocktails, aperitifs, wine, soft drinks, beer, and digestifs, ensure that you have a beautiful and appropriate glass for each. But not everyone is sure about which glass goes with which drink. And a lot of the time, we’re too embarrassed to ask. This article will clear the air so you can set your table appropriately next time, with style, elegance, and the correct glasses!
Crystal or glass?
Most types of glasses come in two materials, either glass or crystal. The latter has a greater lead content than the former, which softens the glass and makes it somewhat heavier and easier to cut. It also diffracts light better, so the glass seems to sparkle, especially when polished.
Crystal, on the other hand, is more expensive and fragile than glass so be sure to handle with care. Crystal glasses should be washed with gentle detergents so as to prevent ‘clouding’ of the material.
These tulip shaped glasses are used for champagne and other sparkling wines. Their tall, thin shape helps to retain bubbles by reducing the liquid’s exposure to air. Flutes can also be used for refreshing fizzy cocktails, such as peach-based Bellinis and cassis-infused Kir Royales.
Conjuring up all the glamour of the 1950s, these retro style glasses are sometimes seen at weddings, where they’re often used to construct champagne fountains. They can be a stylish addition to a themed part, but be aware that their wide-topped design means that the sparkling wine will need to be consumed quickly as the bubbles will quickly dissipate.
There are many, many variations within this category, however they all tend to share the following characteristics:
- A ‘foot’ to the glass which allows it to stand upright,
- The ‘stem’, which enables the glass to be held without warming the wine by contact with the hand or smudging the glass with fingerprints. This is especially important for white wine, which is usually served chilled,
- The ‘bowl’ of the glass will taper towards a narrower opening at the top. The idea is to capture and direct the wine’s all-important aroma towards the nose and mouth. Generally, red wine glasses have larger bowls – and thus a bigger surface area – to allow the wine to breathe before drinking,
- The ‘rim’ is the part of the glass that you sip from. High quality glassware will have a thin or ‘cut’ rim that is smooth to the touch. This allows the wine to flow easily and gracefully into the mouth.
Port and sherry glasses
Like smaller versions of wine glasses, these are used for ‘fortified’ wine to which a distilled spirit, often brandy, has been added. They can also be used for sweet, fruit dessert wines that are usually drunk in much smaller quantities than normal red or white.
A tumbler is just the name for a flat-bottomed glass, although they themselves can come in many different variations. Tumblers are usually quite squat and used for water, soft drinks, and even spirits on the rocks.
Steins or mug-type glasses, often seen in pubs, have a handle to reduce the warming of the beer whilst drinking. For more formal occasions, however, it’s usual to serve beer in a tall glass, similar to a Hi-ball.
Whisky and other drinks on the ‘rocks’
These are a similar squat shape to the tumbler. They should be able to easily accommodate plenty of clinking ice cubes. Traditionally, they’re made of elaborately cut crystal.
Hi-ball and Collins glasses
Both are longer than they are wide, but the Hi-ball is slightly wider than the Collins (named after the Tom Collins cocktail). These glasses are perfect for drinks made of an alcoholic base spirit plus non-alcoholic mixer and ice. This makes them ideal for your gin and tonic, rum and cokes, and whiskey and sodas, as well as a few cocktails like the classic Bloody Mary.
This long, outwardly curving glass is named after the lamp of the same shape. It’s often used, adorned with kitschy umbrellas, to serve tropical cocktails. It can, however, be used for any long drink.
Immediately recognised for its conical shape, the martini glass can be used for many other cocktails that need a glass with a stem to avoid warming the drink, like the Brandy Alexander.
The shape itself – apart from being achingly sophisticated – is designed for cocktails that are shaken or stirred over ice prior to being poured. The cone ensures that the drink maintains its temperature and that all mixed elements remain combined.
Similar to a martini glass, but with a slight bulge towards the bottom of the cone just before the stem, cocktail glasses are often used for serving Margaritas and Daiquiris.
Balloon shaped with a tiny stem, this glass is meant to be held in the hand. It allows the drinker to swirl and warm the aromatic brandy or cognac contained inside.
Grappa and shots
With a squat, thimble-like shape, these small glasses are used for powerful liquors like Italian grappa or Mexican tequila. The former should be sipped while the latter is knocked back in one go.
A classy and elegant collection of glasses will enhance your dining and entertaining experience. They’ll provide an excellent investment to last a lifetime – and maybe even be handed down to future generations!