Over the years, drinkware has been a largely predictable affair.
Expectations were usually met when you ordered a Martini – it came served in a Martini glass, while Moscow mules and old-fashions came in their own glasses too.
However, it seems though that our expectations are now being challenged, as a cocktail renaissance has also revived interest in what vessels are used for which drinks. The simple engraved cocktail glasses of old are being used as part of a marketing drive that can be just as important as the drink itself.
The right glass for the job
It was out of practical considerations that the different engraved cocktail glasses first made their appearance. A long, cold cocktail needed a tall glass that would hold a lot of ice, while a drink that needed to be served cold but without ice required a long stem to keep hands from warming the bowl. A pure spirit concentrate would look like a short measure in anything other than the appropriate sized glass, so proportions were just as important and each glass was also chosen for its size.
Early origins of novelty drinkware
With cocktails nowadays being served in everything from a light bulb to a bowling ball, it must be said that novelty drinkware has been around for many decades. The extremely popular, once visited, never forgotten ‘tiki’ bars of the last century used a range of unusual vessels to serve cocktails. Coconuts, plastic pineapples and novelty heads made appearances, adorned with fruit skewers, twisted straws, umbrellas, monkey stirrers and a whole range of other accessories, which were an attraction as much as the actual cocktail.
Still, even these strange and bizarre vessels had a purpose, as Smuggler’s Cove owner Martin Cate explains:
“A lot of authentic tiki drinks with good ingredients are often brown and muddy looking; the mug hides that well and enhances the escapism and novelty of the experience.”
Vintage glasses and a historical connection
Ordering a drink simply because it is served in a quirky vessel can run the risk of having the negative affect of diverting attention from the cocktail itself though. Washington DC cocktail bar 2 Birds 1 Stone prides itself on sourcing vintage engraved cocktail glasses, and believes this is as important as sourcing long-forgotten and obscure ingredients. Owner Adam Bernbach suggests that a first reaction to a drink is visual, and a beautiful vintage engraved cocktail glass should reach our expectations.
Cocktail innovator Juan Coronada from Barmini also gravitates towards the vintage glass. He loves to collect glasses with a family history, often regaling interested drinkers in the stories behind the engraved cocktail glasses he uses. In this way, a connection is made between the drinker, the cocktail and the past – all with the intention of enhancing the drinking experience.
It’s clear that drinking vessels have become an important a part in the quest to attract customers to a venue. Finding the correct combination to enhance a customer’s experience can sometimes be as much about smoke and mirrors as it is about quality ingredients. The debate is sure to continue.