Glassware that raises the bar

Glassware styles are as fickle as runway fashions. In one season, out the next. A decade ago, the industry clamoured for refined, ultra-thin glass that minimized waves and showed refinement, says glassmaker Martin Kastner of Crucial Detail. Now, he says unconventional and heavier materials are hot. Delving beyond colors, patterns and densities, we compile glassware tips and tricks from top sommeliers and bartenders.

Glass from Around the World

At Kumiko in Chicago, Julia Momose buys glassware from Japan to enhance the experience of enjoying sake and cocktails. She says the vessels we choose can dictate the way we drink. Tiny sake glasses and slightly fluted mini beer glasses highlight the Japanese culture’s admiration for shared drinking and pouring sake for each other. But the best glasses actually alter flavors. Pouring wine or sake in a Kimura “Bambi” glasses – thin and crocus-like – allows diners to take in aromas from the roundest part of the glass. “With these glasses, you smell aromas as you taste the liquid,” says Momose.

Interactive Showpieces

Martin Kastner designed his Porthole infusers – a transparent Q-shaped steeping device – to explore the idea of “time as an active ingredient.” Chefs and bartenders pack the device with flavors and spices, infusing spirits, syrups, vinegars and various treats so that guests can watch them mature before their very eyes. Mixologists can also pour the drink at various intervals to experience different degrees of infusion. Just placing a Porthole on the bar can draw attention and allow you to ramp up the price of your cocktails.

Sipping and Sauntering

Laura Maniec’s Corkbuzz wine bar in Chelsea Market offers visitors govino glasses made from shatterproof and recycled polymers. Reusable, inexpensive and virtually indestructible (perfect for outdoor dining, food halls and catering), her 16-ounce glass selections are branded with Corkbuzz’s name. Maniec charges diners an extra $1.50 per glass, so they can stroll the food court, then take them home as souvenirs. Returning the glass earns diners a discount on a return trip. Not only do they reduce waste, the little ridges on the side allow amateurs to swirl wine with the grace of a sommelier.

Shape Shifters

At The Wolves in Los Angeles, bartender Kevin Lee has access to 300 vintage glasses sourced from around the globe – which allows him to upend the formality of pairing cocktails to specific glasses. Instead, he designs drinks with particular shapes in mind. Rather than rim glasses with salt and sugar, he’ll grab any long-stemmed glass, perhaps a champagne flute, and coat it with dehydrated fruit powders for a pointillistic look and enhanced aromatics. Dollops of fruit gels can also be added to the rims of any glass with a hefty flat edge. In addition to his seasonal vermouths and flavors, this lack of uniformity in his glassware has made the Wolves an Instagram all-star. “For me, there’s no need to over-spiritualize glassware,” says Lee, “Glassware is more of a tool; it’s the functionality of the glasses that matter most of all.”