Holding Your Liquor

Every one of us is an artist, and as an artist, you really can stroll into any venue that you want, as long as you take your time to learn the etiquette of that venue.
Terrence Howard
Some time ago, I explained how many of our social behavior, including chivalry, has an origin in practicality. In reality, I think that ALL our social behavior had an origin in practicality; it was just lost along the way. The problem arises when we continue doing things without understanding why we do them. At that point, we continue to repeat these social elements out of a need to demonstrate superiority, which can literally be translated into snobbery. For that reason I think it necessary to explain some of the reasons why these guides exist (I refuse to call them rules, as they are more recommendations than anything else.)

Today we will talk about liquor glasses.

Let me start by stating the following. The only wrong way to hold a glass is if you drop it. Anything else is a valid manner. That said, there are practical reasons why glasses have such distinct shapes, all originating from rather simple reasons based on how you should enjoy the drink.

I am not going to get into a detailed history as to why each glass is which nor what liquor goes with what. This is more of a simple base lesson. Should you be interested in learning more, you can google for specialized sites based on your spirit of choice. With that in mind, let’s start with the basics.

Any stemware (glass with a stem, such as Wine or Martini) should be held at the Stem. The reason is simple; it keeps you from transferring heat from your hand to your drink. Most of these drinks are served cold/cool and since these are sipping drinks, holding the body of the glass will warm them up before you finish.

Speaking about the body, there is a direct relationship between the temperature of the liquor served, the amount of aroma it produces, and the ration between bowl to the rim of the glass. Your taste buds are actually defined by smell, so being able to sniff the drink is critical to enjoying it. The cooler the spirit, the less aroma it releases while the warmer it’s served, the larger amount of aroma. This is because of science. Aroma is nothing more than evaporation, so the more aroma you expect the spirit to release, the bigger the ratio between bowl and rim as a way to capture it. The amount of aroma captured also determines the amount you serve in the glass. This is why flutes are used for colder drinks where aroma isn’t as important, such as sparkling wine, where you serve almost a full glass. This is also why Snifters (Brandy glass) tend to have almost a fishbowl shape and you only serve a small amount of liquor in them.

The old fashion rock glass should be wide enough to hold, well, rocks (ice), and shouldn’t be served past half glass. The ice is there mostly to slowly release water (activating the aroma in scotch) than to keep it cold. Just as shot glasses, the rock glass has a thick base is to keep it from shattering when costumers would slam them on the counter.

Speaking of shot glasses, these are for shots. Any glass that doesn’t leave space for aroma to charge up isn’t meant for sipping.

Beer glasses come as different as beer itself. Pint glasses and mugs work well for almost any beer, but pilsner glasses are specifically made for pilsners and lagers. Their shape allows for a proper head to form, while the longer body allows for a more controlled pour and drink.

There are hundreds of other specialized glassware, each with a reason for their unique shape. With all of this said, there is only real rule with spiritware. That rule is to use it responsibly. Any time you drink to the point where you risk making an ass of yourself, you probably already have. Drinking should be about enjoying your drink and complementing a situation. It should never be about getting drunk, where you probably won’t even remember what happened the night before.