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Crystal Clear

Crystal Clear

Premium cocktails are looking better than ever in glassware that rises to the occasion

The finest spirits. Artisanal mixers. Fresh, organic fruits. House-made bitters. In the hands of a talented bartender, these are all the ingredients for an unforgettable cocktail. In the wrong glass, however, it’ll look no different than a bottom-of-the-well happy hour special at the corner dive. So, as consumers grow thirstier for elegant, upscale cocktails, bar and restaurant operators are giving more thought than ever to their glassware to differentiate the experience—and justify the prices.

“From a restaurant perspective, it’s merchandising for the drink,” says Jerry Moore, senior category manager for Libbey Inc., which manufactures and distributes glassware under its brand names and also distributes Spiegelau glassware to the U.S. market.

“People might not think about it consciously, but glassware is part of a pretty intimate experience—it’s in your hand, it’s touching your mouth,” he says. “The right cocktail glass gets the message across that you’re dealing with a premium product.”

According to Moore, upscale glassware improves the appearance of the drink not only with its engaging design, but by the clarity of the glass itself, which provides a better window to the product. Yet, beyond its superficial charms, the proper glass can elevate the drink itself by concentrating its aromas, providing the right space for different types of ice and keeping it at the desired temperature for longer. (For some of the more experimental bartenders, such as Poca Madre’s Amin Seddiq, glasses are even chosen for their ability to hold such unique ingredients as smoke and liquid nitrogen.

In the realm of Mexican cocktails, moving upscale means bidding adios to one of the category’s most iconic glasses.

“The standard ‘upside-down sombrero’ stemmed margarita glass is trending downward,” Moore continues. In its place, operators are choosing modern-yet-sophisticated options like the company’s renaissance coupe and its newly released stemless cocktail glass. These glasses not only improve on both looks and function, they’re also smaller, helping to improve margins while underscoring the value of the drink.

“If I get a margarita in an enormous glass, what does that say to me about the quality?” Moore asks. “The trend right now is toward smaller glassware, and in almost every case the profit per serving goes up the smaller the glass.”

These days, upscale glasses aren’t just for the fanciest spots in town, either. “The bar is lowering for restaurants using premium glassware,” Moore says. “Now you’re even seeing brewpubs with really nice glasses.”

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