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Barware Basics

barware basics

Photo by Antonis Achilleos

Don't know the difference between a highball and a Bordeaux glass? Find out why you need em' and how to build a complete at-home bar.

1. Old-fashioned or "rocks" glasses can range from 8 to 12 ounces and are used for spirits served over ice, or "on the rocks." Generally they're short, round, or in some cases, rounded squares.

2. Highball glasses are tall and round and are used for drinks containing soda as well as liquor. Most highballs hold 10 to 16 ounces of liquid. Their extra height keeps the bubbles of the soda intact for a longer period than a shorter, wider glass would. Collins glasses are even taller and narrower and are often frosted. They're used for the classic Tom Collins and are also excellent for serving other tall drinks, such as the Singapore Sling.

3. Cocktail or martini glasses are used for cocktails served "up," or without ice. Holding the glass by its long stem prevents the heat of your hand from warming the drink. Cocktail glasses can be as small as three ounces and as large as 10 ounces. Serving "up" drinks in smaller-size glasses not only ensures that the drink will remain cold, but also keeps you and your guests from overindulging. Large martini glasses are great for show, but 6, 8, or 10 ounces of straight liquor is a lot to handle all at once.

4. All-purpose wineglasses are good for more than just wine. They're perfect for frappes, delicate-tasting drinks, and some frothy juice drinks. You can use an all-purpose wineglass for margaritas served "up." The stem keeps your hand off the bowl of the glass, and its roundness maintains the froth of a properly shaken drink elegantly floating on top.

5. Champagne glasses also come in a variety of styles and sizes. Check out the ones shaped like elongated wineglasses. This versatile style is great for serving sparkling wine as well as cocktails made with it. Choose a champagne glass that, like the all-purpose wineglass, holds six to eight ounces to accommodate either sparkling wine or a cocktail.

6. Beer glasses can be as varied as wineglasses. A tall, heavy-bottomed beer mug is the most practical choice. Choose one that's at least 12 ounces (the average size for a bottle of beer) and not more than 16 ounces. The mug keeps the beer cold, of course, and it can also double as a specialty glass for big summer coolers and frozen drinks. A pilsner glass' footed bottom and elegant stemmed shape are perfectly suited to lighter, crisper beers, as well as for serving sparkling cocktails.

7. Dessert wineglasses or port glasses are used for sweeter after-dinner wines and cordials. This glass, which resembles a small wineglass, is also great for whiskey sours and other elegant frothy drinks served "up."

8. Whiskey-tasting glasses are specialty items used to serve whiskeys neat or straight and unchilled. In some respects, they act like a brandy snifter: The bulbous bottom aerates the whiskey and allows the volatile vapors to dissipate.

9. Bordeaux or Cabernet glasses are used for full-bodied and tannic red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, the most common grape variety in Bordeaux. The rounded bottom and elongated top and shoulders allow the wine to aerate and "soften." This means that the harsh tannins and acids dissipate while the fruit and softer tannins remain.

10. Burgundy or Pinot Noir glasses are for the lighter, softer red wines. These wines need to develop their aromas, which dissipate too quickly. Therefore, the glass is very wide at the bottom, and then turns inward at the edge to trap and heighten the aroma of the wine, allowing the perfume of the lighter grapes to stay in the glass and not aerate too quickly.

11. Montrachet glasses are used for full-flavored and full-bodied white wines such as Montrachet, Chablis, and California Chardonnay. These wines benefit from the glass' wide, open shape, which allows air to enter and soften the acidity while enhancing the fruit.

12. Aromatic white wineglasses are used for slightly sweet or fruit-forward wines such as Riesling that don't need to aerate. These smaller glasses keep the focus on the freshness of the wine, and the outward angling of the edge lets the wine hit the tongue in just the right spot for taste buds to sense sweetness.

13. Brandy snifters are specialized glasses that enhance the flavor and aroma of fine cognacs, Armagnacs, and brandies. The wide, bulbous bottom allows a great deal of air to hit the brandy, softening the harsh alcoholic vapors and enhancing its caramel notes.

14. Sherry copitas are very similar to port glasses but are slightly taller and narrower. This shape enhances the delicate aromas of sherries, allowing their complex scents and flavors to gently scoot up the glass.

15. Grappa or eau-de-vie glasses enhance the pronounced and assertive flavors of grappa with their tall, narrow shape. These glasses are generally small in volume, typically around three ounces or so. Most eau-de-vie are very potent and drunk at the end of a meal when, presumably, wine or other alcohol has already been imbibed, so a little goes a long way.

16. Irish coffee mugs are perfect for all manner of coffee drinks, nogs, grogs, and other hot beverages.

[Nest Note] In addition to the glasses above, it's helpful to have a punch bowl or large pitcher, as well as large glasses for serving tall frozen drinks. Hurricane glasses, shaped like hurricane lamps, typically hold around 15 ounces and are perfect for tropical drinks. Tall cooler or iced-tea glasses hold 16 to 20 ounces.

Click here to see cocktail recipes in our recipe gallery

-- Dresden C. Joswig

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