A rose by any other name would smell as sweet – but if you ask any sommelier, mixologist, or beer aficionado whether a drink poured into just any glass would taste as good, they’d probably say “no”. It’s a standard practice in the libations industry to serve different types of drinks in different types of glasses: from beer steins to tumblers to stemware, there seems like there’s a rule for just about every drink in the world. But why?
As it turns out, there’s more to it than just snobbery; each drink that demands a certain type of glass does so for a range of unique reasons. Champagne, for one, is served in a flute (a tall, thin, gently sloping glass) because it helps your bubbly stay bubbly, and shows off the bubbles in the most attractive way. If you were to use a wide, bowl-shaped glass for champagne it would go flat in minutes and all those charming little bubbles would disappear. Brandy, on the other hand, calls for a snifter, shaped like an upside-down dome with a large bottom. This allows you to hold the glass by the bowl, subtly warming it with your palm. Furthermore, the narrower mouth at the top of the glass concentrates the unique smell of the brandy, allowing it to waft into your nose as you sip. Wine glasses, on the other hand, are meant to be held by the stem so that you don’t warm the wine with your hand, and have large bottoms that make it easy to properly swirl the wine, an important step in aeration. The thin rim furthers the experience, enhancing the taste. Lager beers are served in tall glasses that enhance the beer’s rich golden color and the foamy head.
If you’re looking at your glassware collection and think it looks pretty shabby, take some comfort knowing that even your large juice glasses can serve a purpose: cocktails like Long Island Iced Tea and Tom Collins are known as “tall” drinks because they require large glasses to accommodate the ice and mixers. Cheers!