Photo: Demián Camacho Santa Ana
You'd think standard bar glass sizes exist to keep our lives simple. The reality is that every vessel from the wine glass to the shot glass ranges in capacity. You'd think a shot glass is a shot glass, but you might find a standard squat shot glass holding one and a half ounces and a tall skinny one holding more than two ounces. Apparently all shots are not equal unless you use a jigger to fill the glass.
The marketing of wine glasses by Austrian crystal company Riedel (pronounced to rhyme with needle) taught us that rolled edges on the lip of a glass make the liquid fall into the mouth in a clunky way. Taste tests show over and over that many folks prefer the flavor of a beverage from a smooth, polished edge. For some reason, this makes drinking anything a more pleasant experience from the softer feel on the lips to the better taste on the tongue.
Even with a fine wine glass company like Riedel, a red wine glass is not a red wine glass. You can purchase a stemless glass holding 20 ounces all the way up to the Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru stem, the world's largest wine glass, at 37 ounces capacity. In 1960 this fish bowl of a glass was placed in the permanent design collection of New York City's Museum of Modern Art.
With the rise in using beautiful, big wine glasses, we also see a rise in huge pours. A restaurant may have a 4 to 6-ounce house pour but when you pour that into a 20- to 30-ounce wine glass, the customer sometimes feels cheated. Education all around can help this awkwardness and prevent inadvertently drowning people in wine.
We've also seen the "bigger is better" concept in cocktail glassware. The V-shaped glass ideal for martinis is now commonly called a martini glass, but the appropriate term is cocktail glass since you may also appropriately imbibe a Sidecar, a Manhattan, or various other cocktail concoctions from this vessel. Be aware that a mixed drink in a 10- to 12-ounce cocktail glass may look pretty, but it won't make you look pretty after two of them.
To check the capacity of your glassware, just fill it with water and pour the water into a measuring device. Keep in mind that no recipe is meant to fill your glass to the brim, unless it's a recipe for disaster involving spills and inebriation. I once had a 12-ounce martini filled to the brim in a fancy Manhattan restaurant, but after one, I had a hard time leaving the ladies room.
I prefer to use cocktail glasses in the 3- to 6-ounce range so your drink stays fresh and cold. Here at Casa Cóctel, our martinis are served in a 3-ounce cocktail glass so a guest can enjoy more than one crisp, cold drink. A warm, flabby martini is no fun no matter how big and pretty the glass is. Besides, on page nine of The Savoy Cocktail Book, the old master Harry Craddock writes of himself in third person as his last hint for the young mixer:
"Drink your Cocktail as soon as possible. Harry Craddock was once asked what was the best way to drink a Cocktail: "Quickly," replied that great man, "while it's laughing at you!"
Alabama-born LeNell Smothers defines herself first and foremost as a bartender, but she's been called many things -- most recently, the proprietress of Casa Cóctel with partner Demián Camacho Santa Ana. She's owned her own whiskey label, called Red Hook Rye, and has been recognized by her home state as an honorary Colonel. Other interests include gin, sin and men.