Getting Started: Guide to Glassware March 05 2015

It’s easy to dismiss specialized glassware as an unnecessary extravagance. A cocktail is a cocktail, whether it’s sipped from a rocks glass or a wine glass or that #1 Grandpa mug you bought at Salvation Army. Why should you clutter up your cabinets with a bunch of fancily named cups?

The truth is, the right glass does more than make a cocktail look pretty. It keeps un-iced drinks cool and carbonated ones fizzy. It can even expose more of a cocktail to the air, releasing its aromas for a more complex, fragrant taste. Of course, when you’re just starting out with the Rejigger, it’s fine to sip cocktails from whatever glasses you have around. (You can even drink them straight from the pint glass you mixed them in!) But as you grow your home bar, it’s well worth investing in some more specialized ones, both for utility and for presentation.

Here are four basic glasses to start with:

Rocks glass

If you’re building your collection from scratch, start with this small and versatile tumbler, which is also known as a lowball or old fashioned glass. With a capacity of 6 to 8 ounces, it has enough room for the ice in cocktails served “on the rocks,” like old fashioneds, negronis, and white Russians. But you can use it to serve cocktails “up”—without ice—too. (The sazerac is one traditional example.)

These days, you may actually have trouble tracking down a standard-size rocks glass.Like everything else in America, cocktails have been supersized: it’s more common to see a double old-fashioned glass, with a capacity of 12 to 14 ounces, in stores. There’s no problem with buying one of these to use as your go-to rocks glass—plenty of pro bartenders do! Just bear in mind that you don’t always need to fill it to the brim.

Pro tip: Most cocktails served in rocks glasses are stirred, not shaken. So if you want to try one out, make sure to brush up on your Rejigger swirl.

Martini glass

Also known as a cocktail glass, the martini glass is the classic conical silhouette that appears on neon bar signs around the globe. With a long stem and a capacity of about 3 to 6 ounces, it’s designed for drinks served “up,” without ice. That means martinis, of course, but also Manhattans, sidecars, aviations, and daquiris. The stem lets drinkers grip the glass without warming the chilled cocktail, but it can also make it a little bit unsteady. Watch out that you don’t knock one over while you’re drinking!

Highball glass

This tall “chimney” glass usually holds something cold, fizzy, and good for sipping through a straw on a hot summer’s day. Often, that means a gin drink: this is the go-to glass for gin fizzes, gin rickeys, and gin and tonics. It’s also the best way to serve rail drinks with soda, like Jack and ginger or rum and Coke. A highball glass holds about 8 to 12 ounces, which is a little less than the taller, skinnier Collins glass, its nearest relative. For home bar purposes, however, the two are pretty much interchangeable—you should feel no shame about serving a Tom Collins in a highball glass, or a gin fizz in a Collins.

Coupe

Like the martini glass, the coupe is a stemmed glass designed to keep uniced cocktails cool. However, its wide, low brim makes it a little less top-heavy than its conical sibling, and thus less likely to tip over. (It also exudes a certain vintage glamour that the martini glass lacks—but that could be my personal taste.) If you have a coupe, try using it for any cocktail served “up” that isn’t a martini, like a Manhattan or margarita.

Pro tip: Originally designed as a champagne glass, the coupe still serves as a good container for bubbly. Just make sure to drink up fast: the bubbles won’t last as long as they would in a flute.