I’ll Drink to That | A Guide to Glassware for the Holidays and Beyond
Does your glassware collection need an update? In the market for a thoughtful gift? If you want to refresh your stock for upcoming gatherings, need some holiday gift inspo, or just feel like splashing out on a little something fun for yourself, take a look at what’s available in the world of stylish sipping.
Types of glassware
There are so many drinkware options. When evaluating your collection, make sure you have something appropriate for basic beverage categories such as water, juice, soda, iced tea, beer, wine, spirits and cocktails. Here’s a quick rundown on the most popular glass styles.
LOWBALL: Also known as a rocks or old fashioned glass, these short, sturdy vessels typically hold 6 to 10 ounces and work for anything from non-alcoholic beverages to simple mixed drinks and spirits. The double rocks, or double old fashioned, glass adds another couple ounces of capacity, making it even more versatile.
HIGHBALL: Tall and slender, highballs are good for anything carbonated, over ice, or cocktails with more mixer ingredients. They usually hold 8 to 12 ounces. A Collins glass is a little taller and narrower than a highball.
WINE GLASS: Oenophiles might enjoy having varietalspecific stemware, but most of us can get by with red and white wine glasses, or even simplify to an all-purpose shape. White wine glasses are usually smaller and narrower than red. Capacity varies wildly, from a few ounces to mega goblets that can hold most of a wine bottle, but regardless of size, 5 ounces is considered a standard serving of wine.
SPARKLING: Flutes are a classic shape for sparkling wine, as they gather up all those delightful bubbles. However, a coupe, or champagne saucer, is an even older glass style, and one that offers more versatility. The broad, shallow bowl of a coupe glass works well for shaken or stirred cocktails.
COCKTAIL: Often referred to as a martini glass, these conical glasses are designed for chilled beverages without ice. Most are meant for 3- to 5-ounce drinks. Larger cocktail glasses can be up to 10 ounces, but the shape makes it tricky not to slosh. Coupe glasses can be substituted for cocktail glasses in almost any situation, if desired.
A Nick and Nora glass (named for the boozy couple in Dashiell Hammett’s novel, “The Thin Man”) is a smaller, bellshaped cousin to the coupe. It typically holds only about 3 to 4 ounces, supposedly to ensure that the drink is consumed before it gets warm.
BEER GLASS: Like wine glasses, there are different shapes depending on the type of beer. If you have a favorite beer, go with the appropriate vessel. Otherwise, an English pub glass (also called a Nonic pint) or Pilsner glass will work for most occasions.
What you need
With a dizzying array of glassware options, how do you figure out what you want and need? Your top two considerations are lifestyle and storage space.
Small children, enthusiastic pets, and lively parties all lend themselves to sturdy glassware, preferably replaceable. If breaking it will break your heart, save it for special occasions where some level of decorum is anticipated—a sit-down dinner instead of a Lindy Hop dance-off, for example. Thicker, tempered glass can survive repeated tumbles to the floor. Long, slender wine glass stems are lucky to survive a trip through the dishwasher, whereas a chunkier goblet-style stem will do just fine. Stemless wine glasses are less likely to tip. And of course, dishwasher-safe is important for daily use items.
Having generous storage space means you can indulge in plenty of specialty glassware. But when space is at a premium, focus on the essentials first. A set of lowball, highball and wine glasses will accommodate the majority of beverages. If possible, include coupe glasses for sparkling wine and cocktails. From there, add items you know you’ll use as space permits. These could be specialized shapes for cocktails—think mules, mint juleps, brandy and schnapps. Or they might be special-occasion glassware, something fun to bring out for a celebration or get-together.
Stackable glasses are a boon for smaller cabinets. Finally, make sure to measure cabinet height before bringing home that stately stemware and discovering it doesn’t fit.
What’s hot and where to find it
Colorful glassware is having a major moment. Or should we say, another moment, because any vintage glass enthusiast knows that colored glass has been a popular item since Depression glass entered the scene in the 1930s. It’s no surprise that interest in cheerful hues ramped up during the pandemic, so now is the time to have fun with vibrant colors. Don’t forget texture too—cut crystal, faceted glass, fluting and raised dots all add visual appeal.
You’ll find plenty of new colored glassware at your favorite shops, but if you’re looking for vintage, focus your online attention to sites such as Etsy and Poshmark (and do your research so you know that anything advertised as a famous design is the real deal). In person, scour antique and consignment shops, thrift stores and garage sales for goodies. Tell store managers what you’re looking for and to let you know if something comes in. And, in this era where many heirlooms go wanting for homes, you might find a relative willing to gift an item or two to an appreciative recipient.
There are so many gorgeous glasses available now that it’s just a matter of finding what looks both attractive and functional. Chunky tumblers, delicate Collins glasses or sleek stemware might be exactly what your pantry needs for the season ahead. And if you’re searching for a thoughtful holiday gift, a set of funky or artisan glasses might be just the thing. Cheers! ✦
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