Last updated on February 9th, 2015
One of the goals Dan and I set when we bought the house almost (gulp) five years ago was to finally have a fully stocked bar—and to do it like adults, not college kids keeping a stash of Goldschlager and Bacardi 151 under the bed and shot glasses from every spring break destination stacked high on IKEA shelves.
It’s been a work in progress, both aided and impeded by my impulse purchases of esoteric liqueurs (Root, in particular, is one of my favorite splurge buys) and more glassware than I can fit into our cabinets, not to mention a few too many cocktail-based cookbooks. But after almost two full decades of acquisition and experimentation, I’ve got a slew of experience and feel it would be selfish to keep it all to myself.
Today marks the first in a series on building your home bar. I won’t be sharing construction blueprints (and if you’ve ever tried to work with me on a home improvement project, you’ll know why—I’ve accidentally drilled holes into the adjacent room before), but I’ll cover almost everything else, from liquors and house wines to bar hardware and accessories while continuing our database of cocktail recipes. Some of these are tried-and-true classics, and some are my personal and slightly off-kilter favorites. For those of you building your registry (congratulations Irene, Christine, and Garrett!), feel free to play along at home.
Herewith, a brief breakdown of the glasses I keep in my cabinets, and why each is crucial to a well-stocked bar.
Tall and slightly flared, the highball is the glass of choice for most mixed bar drinks served over ice. For pure aesthetics, I prefer the highball’s more slender sibling, the Collins glass: so named for its role holding Tom Collins and other drinks from the family. Whichever glass you choose, the glassware’s slim shape works well for cocktails that aren’t shaken, but stirred with a swizzle stick, like vodka- or gin-and-tonics, Greyhounds, Bloody Marys, and Pimm’s Cups.
Old Fashioned or Lowball Glass
This short, squat glassware is equal to or just behind the highball as the bartender’s cocktail glass of choice for its sheer versatility. Also known as a rocks glass, it holds the same drinks you’d either want “up” (in a martini glass, see below) or “on the rocks”—i.e., over ice. Everything from the eponymous Old Fashioned to Manhattans to Negronis to gimlets to your local mixologist’s artisanal seasonal specialty can find a home in this glass.
Despite the rash of -tini-suffixed cocktails that just. won’t. stop. proliferating on cocktail menus across the country, the glass was designed for the simple gin martinis that flourished in the early 20th century. Though it’s a pain to carry across a crowded bar, the wide triangular shape has two distinct purposes: to keep the icy cold gin, shaken with ice and strained into the glass, from warming up in your hand, and to keep the contents of the drink from separating.
The classic rounded bowl of the coupe brings to mind sequined flappers cutting a rug in a speakeasy, or Gatsby and Daisy elegantly carousing in Art Deco splendor. Though it doesn’t maintain carbonation in sparkling wine as well as its modern cousin, the flute (see below), the coupe reigns supreme for sheer retro chic. Use it for your bubbly or in place of a martini glass for shaken cocktails served “up.”
Like a tulip rising toward the sun, the sleek Champagne flute is designed to showcase and gently but constantly coax the carbonation in sparkling wine toward the mouth of the bowl. Absolutely necessary for a Champagne cocktail, as the sugar cube nestles oh so perfectly in its base, but you’ll probably down a mimosa or two—or even ciders and lambics.
Your basic beer delivery vehicle of choice, bringing 16 (American) ounces of pure malted yeasty goodness to your mouth with every sip. Likely you’ve already got some of these in your cabinet from your collegiate klepto days—or is that just me? I admit nothing! These glasses work fine for every kind of beer, from I.C. Light to Guinness.
Slightly fluted with an elongated tulip or cone shape, this fancier beer glass is designed for lighter beers like (duh) Pilsners, pale ales and IPAs, or unfiltered wheat/white beers like hefeweizens and wittes.
Red and White Wine Glasses
Yes, it does matter whether or not you use different shapes and sizes of wine glasses for your reds and your whites—see my “Ask Casey” post on the subject for more elaboration. Whether you love the stemmed or (dishwasher-safe) stemless versions is your call!
Other fun (but not absolutely necessary barware):
With a wide, sombrero-like brim that’s perfectly shaped for rimming with a layer of salt, ‘rita fiends find these indispensable. If you’re not ready to add another oddly-shaped glass to your collection, substitute a basic highball or coupe. But don’t tell the Parrotheads I suggested that.
Unlike the martini glass and stemmed wine glasses, the brandy snifter is shaped to use the heat of your hand to the alcohol’s advantage. The deep goblet is meant to be held in your palm, warming the brandy and helping its natural aromas rise to the mouth of the glass.
Whether stemmed or shot glass-style, these miniature glasses holding 4 oz. or less are what you’ll want for sipping your after-dinner liqueurs like samba, grappa, ouzo, or limoncello. Yeah, blame it on the Europeans and their crazy strong liquor.
Sherry or Port Glasses
SImilar in shape to a basic wine glass but more petite, this glassware is designed for the smaller servings of sweet and fortified wines. Don’t worry, you can refill it if you want more.
Only if you’re running a tiki or Mardi Gras-themed bar out of your basement.