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Luxe at Length

Raise a toast in style

Posted by: Liveinstyle on July 03, 2015

Have you ever wondered—over a glass of your beverage of choice, of course—why we drink wine from wine glasses or beer from beer glasses and so on? As it turns out, there’s a rationale to it, and it’s as fascinating as tasting notes and vintages. Nicholas Ord, Reserve Brand Ambassador, United Spirits, suggests, “Try drinking a glass of champagne from a teacup or a Tanqueray No.10 Dry Martini from a highball and watch the experience diminish before the liquid even nears the palate.” The mere thought of it might cause some agitation. He goes on to add, “A recent study in Japan has shown that the shape of a glass will actually affect the flavour of the liquid. So, glassware is as integral a part of a drink as the garnish or alcohol used. Beyond this, bartenders and connoisseurs alike have always appreciated the value of visible appeal; as the old culinary maxim goes, ‘the first bite is with the eye’.”

Just as you wouldn’t take a steel spoon to caviar, you should not drink champagne from a tumbler. For more information on how to match the right drink to the right glass, here’s a guide to glassware etiquette.

While oenophiles can spend hours dispersing knowledge on the distinctive characteristics of red and white wines, even the uninitiated can spot the apparent differences. Understandably, the two require differently designed glasses to appreciate the bouquet and flavours. Ord elaborates, “Robust red wines like burgundy should be enjoyed in long-stemmed glasses shaped like large bowls; these are perfect for swirling and aerating the liquid. In the case of light-bodied white wines, smaller Bordeaux glasses are ideal for maintaining temperature.” Unlike what is usually observed, a wine glass should be held by its stem. The glass is designed to keep the warmth of your hand as far away as possible from the liquid.

Since champagne is usually reserved for special occasions, it’s only appropriate that you splurge a little on the right set of glasses: long-stemmed flutes. The shape—a stem glass with a narrow, elongated bowl—enhances the flow of bubbles and doesn’t allow the carbonation to dissipate quickly. According to Ord, “Modern tastes favour the flute for preserving the bubbles, but in the decadent past, champagne coupes were used. They were designed to release the gas and prevent indigestion when consuming large quantities!”
Today, the flute is the preferred choice, even though the champagne coupe or saucer are sometimes seen at wedding receptions, stacked to resemble a champagne tower.

Brandy/ cognac
By now, you’ve realised that most glassware is designed with a specific function in mind. The same is true for a Cognac snifter which encourages the retention of a liquid’s bouquet and alcohol vapours. The snifter’s short stem forces you to hold the drink in the palm of your hand thereby equalising the spirit’s temperature with that of your body (a delicate science often confused by bartenders blundering with hot water or steam).

Over time, the popularity of malt whisky has resulted in the design of a suitable whisky glass, one that’s bereft of decoration to better enjoy the depth and varying shades of colour. The thick-based glasses will keep your classic malts like Talisker or Lagavulin tumbling at the perfect temperature.
Connoisseurs eschew decorative glasses as the crafted cuts and angles distort the colour and therefore, the experience.

It might come as a surprise to many that the taste of beer is influenced by the glass in which it is served. While there are a variety of designs available, we’ll stick to some of the basics. Pilsner beers are served in pilsner glasses that are tall and slender with little to no curve. Ord explains, “The overall design minimises the escape of CO2 and maximises carbonation, while also maintaining the temperature of the drink.”
Some of the other popular varieties of beer glasses include the stemmed beer glass and the sturdy beer mug. The former allows you to swirl around your beer to release the aromas and is therefore reserved for ales and stouts. The beer mug, on the other hand, is defined by its thick walls, wide cylindrical shape, and a handle on the side. The handle keeps your hands from warming the beer, while the thick walls keep it cool. Of course, the general robust quality of the glass makes it suitable for laidback evenings.   

The type of cocktail glass depends on the structure of a cocktail drink. The highball, tall and cylindrical in shape, is commonly used for mixed drinks, especially drinks that have a higher quantity of mixer than alcohol. Ord states, “Another cocktail favourite is the delicate martini glass which opens up and outward to allow quick release of fruit and botanical aromas.”
Since a great amount of time, energy and effort is expended in producing some of the finest spirits, it is only fitting that they are served in the best possible glassware. As Ord concludes, “The glass you use should be chosen with all the precision of a doctor in surgery if you are to gain the maximum benefit from your drinking experience.”

Invest in…

Highballs, tumblers, martinis, shots and wine glasses will give you a balanced set of the basics. You can then push the boat out into Hurricanes, Poco Grandes and Slings if you are looking to throw some serious cocktail parties. For the enthusiastic amateur or professional drink-slinger, look at Tiki glasses, copper mugs, Japanese glassware or vintage items. For the elite, Baccarat crystal will enhance even the most luxurious of brands..