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Get a Grip on Glassware

© Ryan, Andy- the food passionates- Corbis

A sunset-hued Mai Tai served in a coffee mug would probably still taste like a tropical vacation. And a single-malt Scotch sipped from a champagne flute would deliver its smoky peaty goodness. But even for less-experienced lovers of boozy libations, the idea of downing a drink in such a fashion is just plain wrong.

That’s because the glass matters when it comes to making and serving great cocktails.

“Consider the proper serving vessel as though it were an artist’s canvas,” advises Tony Abou-Ganim in the “The Modern Mixologist.” “Taking particular care with presentation will indeed improve the overall experience.”

The shape of a glass can affect how much of a drink’s fragrance reaches your nose, setting the stage for its flavor. A wide-mouthed glass will serve up more scent than a narrow one. If a glass has a stem – and you remember to use it – then your hands won’t heat your drink. It can make the difference between a cool, crisp martini and a sagging, tepid mess.

There are as many opinions about which glasses a home bartender needs to stock as there are flavored vodkas. But if your budget and shelf space are limited, once you know which glasses pair with which kinds of cocktails, you can whittle down your choices based on your drinking preferences.

Glassware, the short list:

Cocktail or Martini Glass: This is the classic cocktail glass that has a chic, triangle-shaped bowl when viewed in profile. With its long stem, it’s a match for a martini, cosmopolitan, Manhattan and other chilled and strained drinks that are served without ice.

Old Fashioned or Rocks Glass: This short, stocky glass is a workhorse for your potent potables. It’s right for a multitude of mixed drinks or straight alcohol that’s being served on the rocks (8-12 oz).

Highball Glass: This is a tall, skinnier glass, often with straight sides (10-12 oz). It’s well suited to drinks with carbonated ingredients such as soda water and ginger ale.

Collins or Chimney Glass: This glass stands a little taller and thinner than a highball with a slightly bigger volume (12-14 oz). It’s a perfect vessel for a summer-afternoon-on-the-porch cocktail fantasy. Think Collins drinks (which are essentially fizzy lemonade with gin or other spirits) or Mai Tais and Mojitos.

Coupe or Champagne Saucer: This glass has a shallow, wide bowl and a stem. The sides are slightly or very rounded. You won’t find it at your local dive bar, but it could bring a touch of class to your margaritas and daiquiris.

Champagne Glass: The narrow flute shape keeps your champagne cocktails bubbly. Cheers!

Shot Glass: When you can’t be bothered to taste your libation, the tiny shot glass offers a speedy delivery.

Of course while you want to use a glass whose size and shape is a good match for your cocktail, the rules aren’t absolute. Buy glassware that suits your personality.

“I personally love vintage glasses for home use,” says Alexander Day, an LA-based mixologist and co-owner of Proprietors LLC, a hospitality company. “There's a lot out there to be found at thrift stores and flea markets.”

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