I had a horrible time getting over my last bout with writer’s block. Bourdain didn’t work, books didn’t work, and I hardly had time to sit down and actually seek out inspiration.
I found inspiration, however, while I was weeding through my email. Over the course of my career as a professional alcoholic*, I often get asked different drink-related questions, but one of the most common ones is this:
“What basic glassware (for alcohol) do I need to buy?”
Here are my recommendations for a basic mini-bar at home:
- Proper red wine glasses – They’re normally the larger sized wine glasses found in the store. Ordinarily, there are two options: one with a larger, circular bowl called either a Balloon or Burgundy glass; and one with a narrower bowl called a Bordeaux glass.
If I were to select just one (purchasing both at the same time is indeed a hefty investment), I would suggest getting the Bordeaux glasses first. Larger, more circular bowls collect more aromas and are ideal for delicate reds like Pinot Noir, but there will be a bigger chance of getting a predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, or any similar spicy, bold red wine. These would not require a larger, exposed wine surface to sniff out the little aromas a delicate wine would have. With that in mind, most users will get more mileage out of a Bordeaux glass.
Trivia: The reds of Burgundy are largely made using Pinot Noir, and the reds of Bordeaux are largely made using Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, hence the reason for the names of the glasses. 😉
- Proper white wine glasses – Usually, these are the smaller sized wine glasses. These can be used for both white wines and rosés.
- Sparkling wine glasses – These can also be called champagne glasses or champagne flutes. The elegantly narrow bowls are superb for preserving carbonation in sparkling wines (a must-have for any cocktail party). These are also awesome for Bellinis and Mimosas.
- Beer glasses – Unbeknownst to many, there are actually several kinds of beer glasses used for specific types of beer (with the intent of really enjoying the best characteristics from the beer). There are tulip pints for dry stouts, nonicks, and even snifters (more often used for brandy).
Personally, I’d start out with a pilsner for aesthetic purposes: The slender shape is great for showing off the color, transparency, and foam.
I admittedly bought weizen glasses for our home (which can be seen in the photo), because it not only does a pilsner’s job, it can also lock in aromas on the top of the glass (perfect for objective beer evaluations).
- Cocktail glasses – These are also called martini glasses. I’ve used these for martinis, cosmopolitans, margaritas, and any “chic” cocktail.
- High-ball – These can be used for just about everything: water (which we do at home), milk, juice, soda, iced tea, mojitos…
- Low-ball – Also known as rock glasses, I use these for smaller cocktails (I’ve made White Russian in these), and for brown spirits (whiskey/whisky, cognac, etc).
I recommend getting a proper snifter for brandy, but a low-ball will be ok to start off with.
- Shot glasses – Because, shots. 😉 People with nimble fingers and amazing dexterity can use this to experiment on layered drinks (I recommend starting off with traffic light, made by layering grenadine syrup, Galiano herbal liqueur, and Midori melon liqueur).
- Wildcard Nice To Have: A Decanter – I believe in getting one of these for nicer, older, old-world wines. These babies introduce oxygen, oxidize stinky aromas, and make wine taste smoother. It doesn’t matter what shape it is (there’s standard, cornett, swan, and duck in the market). What’s important is the ease in filling, pouring, and cleaning. I recommend decanting old reds and waiting about 15-30 minutes before consuming the wine.
To invest or not to invest in crystal?
I personally can’t find scientific studies that say crystal glassware is better for wine consumption. In my experience, however, they do enhance the wine drinking experience. I recommend getting Riedel (we get ours from Bacchus stores). They’re awesome, a little on the pricey side but not exorbitantly so.
There are fun-looking stemless wine glasses. Are they any good?
I prefer stemmed glassware. The purpose of stems is to have something to hold on to without altering the temperature of the wine in the glass with the heat of our hands, thus allowing us to enjoy the wine in its optimum state. In colder areas, it really doesn’t matter. In our tropical country, however, I like eliminating as much unnecessary potential source of temperature alteration (heat!) as I could.
I hope these help. At the end of the day, it’s your glassware, so buy whatever you think suits your lifestyle. Cheers!