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How to pick the right wine, beer and cocktail glasses 

A glass menagerie for your next party

If you're building a home bar, your checklist already may include an ice bucket, corkscrew, cocktail shaker and maybe some other nifty gadgets. Stocking the bar with your favorite libations will be a cinch, but selecting the appropriate glassware can be more complicated — if you prefer to sip from a glass that enhances the aromas and flavors of your drink. Here, local bar industry experts explain why certain glasses are suited for specific drinks.

click to enlarge From left to right, a tulip snifter and two nonic pint glasses at Freret Beer Room. - PHOTO BY RANDY SCHMIDT
  • Photo by Randy Schmidt
  • From left to right, a tulip snifter and two nonic pint glasses at Freret Beer Room.

Beer

Eli Gay, owner of Freret Beer Room, says appearance — how the brew looks in the glass — should be considered. Bright pilsners, for example, often are served in tall, slender glasses with gentle outward slopes, allowing tiny bubbles to rise to the top.

 Beer enthusiasts should opt for glassware that contains a slight curve, which captures the aroma of the beverage.

 "Aroma is just as important in beer as it is in wine," Gay says, adding that the aromas of beer are easier to discern than those of wine. "You don't have to do the whole 'swirl' thing because of the carbonation in beer. Those bubbles at the surface of the beer are actually popping and bursting and sending aroma up to your nose."

 Gay says wine glasses are perfectly shaped vessels for beer, but most consumers don't use them that way. Beer drinkers may want a Teku beer glass, which is shaped like a wine glass, except the top part of the glass flares outward so the beer can "scoot on down when you drink it," he says.

 Durable 16-ounce shaker pint glasses have become ubiquitous on the beer scene even though, Gay explains, they are meant for mixing cocktails.

 "The problem with the shaker pint is that there is no curvature to the glass, and without that curvature you lose all of the aroma that the beer has to offer," he says.

 Freret Beer Room serves brews in nonic pint glasses, which are similar to the shaker pint but have a slight curve near the rim. An attractive tulip glass, with its round shape and short stem, is perfect for the person who wants an all-purpose beer glass.

 "You can drink all sorts of different styles of beer out of the same glass, but you're getting the best experience across the board [with the tulip glass]," Gay says.

click to enlarge The Swizzle Stick Bar serves cocktails in vintage-inspired coupe glasses. - PHOTO COURTESY CAFE ADELAIDE & THE SWIZZLE STICK BAR
  • Photo courtesy Cafe Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar
  • The Swizzle Stick Bar serves cocktails in vintage-inspired coupe glasses.

Spirits

Brittany Roberts, general manager of the Swizzle Stick Bar, says the choice of cocktail glass is "going to affect the substance of the drink – whether that's the temperature or the amount of bubbles," but it won't affect the flavor (as would your choice of ice) or your ability to smell the aroma.

 "When you have a Grand Marnier in a snifter glass, you hold the bowl, and that keeps it warm," Roberts says. Wide-bottomed snifters work well for aromatic brandies and bourbons served without ice.

 Fluted Champagne glasses are great for cold drinks with bubbly fizz, since many of these glasses contain a bulb at the bottom where bubbles can collect.

 Holding the stem of a martini glass keeps chilled, shaken or stirred drinks cool. The cone shape of the vessel also serves a purpose.

 "They say that this shape of glassware keeps the ingredients mixed together," Roberts says, recalling how the women of HBO's Sex and the City sipped pink Cosmopolitans from martini glasses. "That started this whole era of cocktails in martini glasses."

 Roberts says a tall Collins glass is perfect for icy drinks containing "a large amount of juices or nonalcoholic components," like a rum punch or a Hurricane. A sturdy rocks glass works for a simple rum and Coke or whiskey on the rocks.

 You always can buy new glasses, often in bulk from restaurant supply stores, but for funky, one-of-kind styles, try thrift stores, Roberts says.

 "We like to get signature pieces," she says. "A lot of times we're making drinks on the fly, based on what people like. We can put them in special glasses."

click to enlarge The shape of the wine glass can affect the aroma and flavor of wine. - PHOTO COURTESY PEARL WINE CO.
  • Photo courtesy Pearl Wine Co.
  • The shape of the wine glass can affect the aroma and flavor of wine.

Wine

It's common knowledge that there are standard glasses for red, white and sparkling wines, but some wine enthusiasts are meticulous about their glassware, opting for the vessel that's specifically designed for the wine they're drinking — whether it's Burgundy or Beaujolais.

 "You can drink pinot noir out of almost any glass and it would taste good," says Leora Madden, owner of Pearl Wine Co. "However, there is a certain design that has been proven to accentuate and capitalize on those characteristics of the wine better."

 She says if you sip red wine out of a red wine glass and then out of a white wine glass, you'd notice a difference. Red wine glasses typically contain a larger bowl to release the wine's smells and flavors. A wide chardonnay glass, which is designed for wine with an oaky flavor and high viscosity, is an exception.

 "If you're particular about the temperature at which your wine is served, then you're not going to be a fan of the stemless glasses," Madden says. Otherwise, holding the glass by the bowl, rather than the stem, is perfectly fine.

 Flute and coupe glasses commonly are used for sparkling wine, but Madden enjoys her bubbly in a wine glass because she can take in more aromas. She prefers crystal Riedel glasses and sells them at her Mid-City shop.

 Your beverage glass collection may be based on what you like, what you know, how much you want to spend and even storage space. Someone who likes to entertain will need more glasses than a person who simply enjoys a nightcap.

 "Make sure it's something you want to continue to invest in," Madden says. "It's all about trying different things before you commit to a whole set. At the end of the day, it's what you're comfortable with and the way that you enjoy your [drink]."

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