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April 18, 2011

Tee Many Martooni (Glasses)

Filed under: Bar,Cocktails,Crystal,Gin,New Product,Spirits,Vodka — raincoaster @ 7:13 pm

As regular raincoaster readers know, we at the ol’ ManoloFood blog are of Catholic tastes, although quite happy to take a Protestant on a quiet night. We are well-pleased both with the offerings of one of the greatest chefs in the world and with the humble pierogies from a drag queen burger bar. We are on the record as 100% down with wine tumblers (red wines only). And so, this may come as something of a shock to you, but there are a few things on this Earth about which we are entirely, stone-cold orthodox.

And Martini (or, more properly, Cocktail) Glasses are one of those things.

It’s fun to have glassware of different shapes and sizes, or even different colours: in my house, you can have 63 consecutive beverages chez moi without ever having the same kind of glass. You cannot, however, drive home afterwards. I have at least one of everything, including a frosted plastic Martini glass that lights up in rotating primary colours like a 60’s Christmas tree, thanks to the miracles of fiberoptics and LEDs, but I generally save that for parties where even the dog wears a lampshade.

Now that is one deluxe cab service

Now that is one deluxe cab service, but which one do you tip?

Did you know it was legal to ride your horse when you’re drunk, as long as you do it in Montana? Sensible if you’re using a Western saddle, otherwise the risk of slippage is too great. You dressage artistes are out of luck. My grandfather used to have a draft horse that would take him and the wagon safely home from the pub without any input from him, but unfortunately it meant he could never sell that horse, as it would always end up taking whoever it was home to his farm. But I digress…

Anyhoodle, to steal an expression from Plumcake, I’m also going to steal Plumcake’s Yes/No/Maybe post style and apply it to glasses for the classic Martini. I don’t really care what you serve your FunTinis in, as long as you do it well away from me, but if you’re going to serve a proper Martini, even to yourself, you must, repeat MUST, do it in one of the following.


Reidel Vinum Martini Glass
Riedel Vinum Martini Glass. I don’t care what else you own; if you drink proper Martinis, you need the proper glass. This is it. You don’t have to do Riedel specifically: you can make do with any very, very plain version in good-quality glass or crystal, and yes, quality matters. Buying a heavy, clumsy Martini glass with a thick rim and a stem like a redwood is just throwing good money after bad design. There are solid practical reasons that beverageware evolved the way it has, and it pays to use the right container if you care enough to make the drink well. Don’t stick yourself with a bunch of Martini glasses that aren’t a positive pleasure to hold, because if it’s not a gratifying sensual experience, why bother in the first place? Just get yourself a paper bag and two straws and you’re good to go, right? It’s not as if “Plymouth 6:1 with a Twist” is on your diet anyway.

Now on to the No’s:

These are the Martini glasses you cannot buy for Martinis. You can buy them for your FunTinis and your blended drinks or whatever godforsaken Jagermeister concoctions your roommate (it IS your roommate’s Jagermeister, right?) whips up, but you are not allowed to spend your hard-earned money on these until you have one set of perfect Martini Glasses as described above.

Sagaform Martini stubby
The Sagaform Martini glass. It’s pretty. It’s hand-blown. It is very well-made. But it’s shallow, which will warm your drink up in no time even if you keep the glass in the freezer (they don’t get dusty in there, and the solid knob is supposed to hold the cold) and it’s anything but graceful or sexy. Grownups should never drink anything, even juice from glasses that could be described as “stubby” (Old Fashioned glasses aren’t stubby; they’re just impressively broad for their height, like so many of their aficionados)!

Also No, the classic “Frat Bar “Martini Glass” even if it’s by Riedel, which it is in this case.

Riedel Martini Tumblers

and the stemless version, which looks about as dignified as a man in a Hugo Boss suit who has forgotten his pants.

What is this? I don't even...

What is this? I don’t even...

Now, you may think I’m just being arbitrary and contrarian (moi?) but the fact is a Martini must be cold, very cold, to be very good. And the only Martinis you should drink are those which have been made very well, and served in glasses that will not interfere with your experience. Any glass that forces you to hold it by the bowl interferes, by turning you into a big, handsy gin warming device. And don’t try to kid me. “I’ll only hold it up near the rim” is the drinker’s version of “I didn’t inhale.”

Now the Maybes.

Once you’ve got a set of those perfect glasses mentioned first, just one for each friend you positively treasure enough to have over for the good stuff, you can add these and serve real Martinis in them. Yes, they’re slightly bizarre. And no, you can’t get these first. But they are ingenious, charming, attractive, and very practical. I’d bring them out with some adventurous friends, or possibly some people in the cocktail industry because although they never get tired of perfection, after your five hundredth perfect cocktail in a perfect cocktail glass, you might want to go just a little crazy.

Nachtmann Dancing Stars Bossa Nova Martini GlassThe Nachtmann Dancing Stars Bossa Nova Martini Glass from, yes, Riedel. And no, they don’t pay me for this fetish of mine. This one is a Maybe because that stem is just sooooo thick. With these proportions it teeters on the edge of clumsy, but the beautiful cuts (click through and look at the zoomed pic) and the great quality of the crystal bring it back to the right side. It’s also nearly ten inches tall, so this is quite an imposing glass; singles will barely wet the bottom, so store these in the freezer and serve larger drinks in these. For all the “Dancing Stars” marketing, these are very macho glasses.

Libbey Swerve Martini GlassesLibbey Swerve Martini Glasses. Because, just, why not? Libbey is decent utilitarian glass and these are cocktails we’re talking about, not holy water: some things just go better with a twist.

Stemless Martini Glass setThe actually useful stemless Martini glass. Unlike the above-mentioned atrocity, it will actually keep your drink cold; the downside is that you must be sitting down in order to use it (or freeze your left hand while turning the ice into water) and that it best suits drinks that are sipped slowly, as otherwise it’s completely unnecessary. If you’re a slow drinker, it might be just the thing for you, as it will keep your Martini good and cold for a very long time indeed, but coasters are going to be an essential accoutrement with the condensation. And word to the wise: shaved or crushed ice works: cubes, no matter how small, do not. Snow works really well, actually.

And now, my absolute favorite of the New Wave of glassware (“New” here meaning post-Prohibition):

Starfrit Double Wall Martini GlassThe Starfrit Double Wall Martini Glass. It’s got a seven ounce capacity, which is just too big, but otherwise I love this little thing. That little pigtail at the bottom is just the right amount of crazy, even if cleaning this thing will drive you in that general direction. The clever double-walled design is not only useful for insulatory purposes, it’s also quite attractive. Just be sure to buy the extra-large olives and you’ll be all good.


  1. I think that you need to address the great philosophical debate, here. One that tears families apart every day and has never been satisfactorily resolved although I think that I can see your religious bias here.

    Up or Over?

    Comment by erik nabler — April 19, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  2. I quite agree with you that a martini needs to be served ice cold and in the proper glass. Now you ought to address the proper size: I am sick to death of 8-oz martini glasses. No one should be drinking 8 ounces at once; for one thing, the martini will warm up long before it’s finished. A proper martini is less than 3 ounces total (I like two ounces gin, 1/2 ounce of vermouth and a dash or two of bitters, myself) and there should be a glass small enough to hold that.

    Comment by Deborah Esrick — April 19, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

  3. After watching Jeeves & Wooster over and over again, my boyfriend has fallen in love with the 1930s coupe glasses. He thinks they’re more elegant than martini glasses, and they can serve the same purpose. Also, they are more reasonably sized. (Kudos to Deborah for that point).

    Comment by Miriam — April 19, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

  4. I’m with Deborah, and I’ve had a terrible time finding appropriately small glasses. The big ones warm up your drink far too quickly and are just too much booze in one drink.

    Comment by Liz — April 19, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

  5. Oh, I am ALL OVER this question of size. It IS the size. It is also how you use it.

    But that’s another post. For the meantime, shop at flea markets and second hand stores. You can get proper sized Martini glasses there, thank GOD. I have a marvelous picture of Ronald Reagan and Bette Davis at a bar and they’re obviously not having much fun. The table is littered with glasses. But they are 3-ounce glasses. As Jay Jones says, “Campbell’s Souptinis are for amateurs. If you want more, order more.”

    Up or Over? UP of course, for a Martini. There are many drinks which are better Over, but that’s another post. It’s just morally wrong to serve or drink a Martini On The Rocks.

    Comment by raincoaster — April 19, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

  6. Miriam, I love the coupe glasses too, but not for Martinis. My buddy Jay recommends the Spiegelau Coupe which is indeed flawless

    Comment by raincoaster — April 19, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

  7. Oh, and while we’re on the topic of size, one is bound to recall the mortifying time Self magazine reported that a Martini had over 300 calories, to which one rightly asked “Is that a VENTI?”

    Presumably Conde Nast’s healthcare covered the writer’s new liver. I mean, seriously, people. It should never be so big that you have to drink it fast to consume it while it’s cold, and that means a double is as big as it should EVER get.

    Comment by raincoaster — April 19, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

  8. Okay, in general I will give you up. I do, however, live in an area where it gets extremely hot in the summer. Drinking outside, drinking over is almost a necessity. Unless you want to die of alcohol poisoning. So there is a time and a place.

    Comment by Erik Nabler — April 19, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

  9. I refer you to the works and lives of Southern writers. Dying of liver failure has a long and honorable tradition. Incidentally, so does alternating boozy drinks and non-boozy ones. That is what sweet tea is all about.

    Comment by Raincoaster — April 19, 2011 @ 8:29 pm

  10. Actually, that brings up another question: what can properly be consumed Al Fresco? Just going on aesthetic instinct, I’d say a Martini cannot be. This is what God invented Planter’s Punch and G&Ts for.

    Comment by raincoaster — April 19, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

  11. Gin and tonics, definitely. A nice Sangria. Bourbon, which I usually drink neat, calls for soda in hot, alfred esco situations. Or, my father’s favorite, a nice Tom Collins.

    Comment by Erik Nabler — April 19, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

  12. And the Americano, rather than the Negroni. Post on al fresco drinks coming soon.

    Comment by raincoaster — April 19, 2011 @ 11:58 pm

  13. I agree on the Tom Collins – you’ll feel cooler just _looking_ at it. Also, any decent rum drink works outside; a daiquiri, for example (a real one, none of this strawberry nonsense) is a lovely hot weather drink.

    Comment by Deborah Esrick — April 20, 2011 @ 5:21 am

  14. I agree Martinis are an indoor drink. I’d go further, and say you need to dress appropriately for them, too. And they also seem to require dim lighting–or at least an evening position for the sun. Choosing the right glass for one (a must!) is almost the least of your worries.

    Comment by aurumgirl — April 20, 2011 @ 6:53 am

  15. In re: al fresco drinks, the ones I go for tend to be margaritas, vodka lemonades, or even Cape Cods. You know, drinks that are pretty much made to be served on the rocks. My friend gave me a recipe for vodka slush, which is pretty declasse, but very very tasty. (You add vodka to frozen juice concentrates — orange, lime — then store it in the freezer. When it’s time to serve you put the slush in a glass and pour in 7-Up to a half-and-half ratio.)

    Comment by Chicklet — April 20, 2011 @ 8:27 am

  16. See, I picture the outdoor martini being consumed just after noon while wearing a straw hat, a linen suit, coat removed, and spats.

    Comment by Erik Nabler — April 20, 2011 @ 8:29 am

  17. Would somebody please tell me what “up or over” is supposed to mean? I’m so puzzled, I literally have question marks in my eyes. Bear with me – I drink wine or beer and am thus cocktail illiterate. But I’m willing to learn.

    Comment by dinazad — April 20, 2011 @ 8:33 am

  18. That’s easy: Up means stirred or shaken over ice, then strained into a glass. Over means on the rocks.

    I’ll try to get that Al Fresco Drink post up today. Sounds like there’s a healthy demand for it (and I second all these recommendations, even the slushie one).

    aurumgirl, we are as of one mind. Martinis and denim do not go together.

    Comment by raincoaster — April 21, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

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