Martini fans, this will ring a bell. You order your cocktail of choice (up, naturally). The bartender chills an angular, fishbowl-sized cocktail glass, then pours, stirs and strains your drink into it—right up to the rim. And you’re screwed. No matter how carefully you pick this monstrosity up and bring it to your lips, it wobbles. You over-correct. Booze ends up all over your shirt, your shoes and the attractive stranger next to you.
This is not your fault. It is not the bartender’s fault. And it definitely isn’t the attractive stranger’s fault. The culprit in this situation is obvious: the cocktail glass.
Cocktail glasses (also known as Martini glasses) weren’t originally designed for self-sabotage—nor for their aesthetics. The long stem keeps ice-free drinks from being warmed by the drinker’s hands. The wide mouth is intended to showcase a cocktail’s aromatic bouquet, as well as, legend has it, to help Prohibition-era drinkers quickly dump their drinks if a speakeasy was being raided. But while two of these three reasons still address the needs of today’s drinkers, that third one is where we run into problems.
When they were originally invented in the early 1900s, v-shaped cocktail glasses were much smaller, typically holding about four ounces of liquid. They remained thus until ’50s and ’60s. After that, Martinis went out of fashion during the laid back squalor of the ’70s. But when they came roaring back in the mid ’80s, they had practically doubled in size. We imagine two glassware designers in the ’80s, blown to the moon on Peruvian go-dust, shouting back and forth at each other, “Yeah, but what if we made it EVEN BIGGER?” before jumping into their Deloreans and zooming off to a Frankie Goes To Hollywood show. Thanks, guys.
Because what those two louts forgot was that these glasses were originally designed to be easy to spill when the buttons raided the juice joint and you needed to eighty-six your giggle juice pronto. It’s a lot easier to keep it in the glass when you’re only talking about four ounces of liquid. Today’s cocktail glasses are unwieldy, top-heavy monstrosities. A quick search of home goods retailers showed cocktail glasses as big as twelve ounces. Pardon us while we shudder for a week. That thing may have been an outlier, but most of the glasses we saw came in around ten-ounces.
We are living through a golden age of cocktails, yet too often we are essentially drinking out of dribble glasses. Not to mention the fact that ten ounce Martinis have turned the three-Martini lunch into the three-Martini faceplant.
This is why, when a drink is intended to be served up, we recommend a coupe. Refined and serviceable for any stirred cocktail, the sensibly sized, appropriately proportioned coupe cradles drinks, rather than acting like some sort of demented cocktail catapult. It gives the drink a chance to breathe and show off its subtle aromatics, but sipping from it doesn’t require circus-worthy balancing skills.
Death to the cocktail glass. Long live the coupe.