How to Buy Glassware for Your Home Bar

Stocking your living room isn’t just about having name-brand jugs. You’ve got to check out that glass.

Ready to upgrade from your grandfather’s Tervis cups? Congratulations on turning plastic in for some taste, but please stay calm: It’s not time to go overboard. If your grandfather was underprepared, your mother was overprepared. While those different vessels in the cabinet were lovely when she was completing her Waterford collection, they’re not for drinking – not really. Drinkers know that they only need a handful of glass types within arm’s reach.

Take bar owner Jamie Boudreau’s word for it. The bartender behind Seattle’s Canon makes some of the more elaborate (and excellent) cocktails in the country, and says that he really only uses three glasses.

“You need a cocktail glass; you need a Collins glass; you need a rocks glass,” says Boudreau. “If we’re talking about cocktails those are the three must-haves.” If you’re planning on diversifying your liquid assets, you should also stock a stein, wine glasses, and champagne glasses.

That’s it. The question is which ones to get – and that’s the fun bit.

The limited inventory means you can spend more money and time on some great glassware. Before you head to Ikea, Boudreau says look at used stuff. “The best places to go are antique shops,” he says. Older glasses are often better made and there is something to be said for a vessel eroded by decades of drinks. Also, people took this stuff pretty seriously in the fifties, which is why Rocks and Collins glasses are pretty easy to find. Though you may be inclined to be prissy about beer glasses and wine, a single, middle-of-the-road size and shape will handle just about everything you can throw at it.

That cocktail glass is the big issue. Boudreau says the first step to finding one is avoiding martini glasses. “The V-shaped cocktail glass is not very conducive to drinking or to serving,” he points out. “Coupes are slightly more elegant and I always find that they look better.” Boudreau adds that the sweet spot for capacity is between four and seven ounces. Anything smaller is a shot glass. Anything bigger is a lights out.

And stick to clear glass. Your favorite color (International Klein Blue) might be available, but it will inevitably disguise the color of your favorite drink. That’s a problem if you want to learn how to make it just right. Instead look for cool shapes. Boudreau says he loves a coupe “with an interesting stem.” And don’t worry that it’s going to break if you chill or wash it.

“We use liquid nitrogen to cool our glasses,”You can put liquid nitrogen in antique crystal and it won’t be a problem” says Boudreau. “All glassware is dishwasher safe provided that you do not use your dishwasher to heat or dry your dishes.” Skip the drying cycle and you’re good to go.

If you’re doing it right, you’ll want to store your glasses someplace you can see them. If you’re doing it perfectly, you’ll want to be holding a full one while you admire the others.