Princess Margaret preferred a vase – but here’s how to choose the right glass for any beverage
The Queen’s sister was so miffed at the tiny glasses on Concorde that she used a vase for her G&T, according to a recent report. But what is the best receptacle for specific spirits, wine and beer?
Up north, it is said of particularly indiscriminate drinkers that they would happily “sup out of a sweaty clog”. Occasionally (say, at 2am at a house party), most of us would, but not Princess Margaret. At the recent GQ food and drink awards, the chef Richard Corrigan recalled the notoriously high-maintenance royal being so appalled by the tiny glasses on Concorde that she once grabbed a vase and used that for her G&T instead. But how important is matching the right glass to your favourite drink?
Most pint drinkers are prosaic: they just don’t want a glass that makes their beer froth like a volcano. Photograph: Alamy
With its bespoke Belgian chalices, 200ml kölsch stange and vase-like weizen glasses (designed variously to trap sediment, promote head retention, release volatile aroma compounds and so on), beer can get very technical. But for most pint drinkers (conical “shaker”, please!) errors are more prosaic. Don’t serve ales in daft nucleated lager glasses that make beer froth like a volcano, nor pricey beers in scratched old nonics. It is aesthetic. It is psychological. But when you are paying £4 a half for a rare US double IPA, a stemmed tulip glass makes the transaction feel less like daylight robbery.
The scarcity of bulbous brandy snifters in modern bars is a sign of brandy’s declining popularity and a neglect of standards. That curvy crucible sits snugly in the hand for a reason (so you can easily warm the brandy), as its narrower neck concentrates its heady aroma. Serving brandy in a tumbler is as disgraceful as putting ice in it.
Many experts now reject the traditional flute. Who knew? It may be an elegant visual showcase for champagne’s bubbles, but its narrowness (while it produces a fizzy tingle on the nose) inhibits the champagne’s character. Try a wider, airier white wine glass instead.
Princess Margaret’s thoughts on the Spanish copa de balon (the huge, stemmed fishbowls ubiquitous in serious gin bars) are not recorded, but in everything from how dramatic they look garnished with rosemary or peppercorn-studded ice to the science (stuffed with ice, they supposedly keep your drink colder, less diluted and fizzier for longer), the copa feels like a keeper. Goodbye limp, watery G&Ts.
Undoubtedly, if you want to experience good wine at its best, you need specialist glassware. The volume of air in your glass is key to how wine expresses itself. The expense and boning-up necessary to achieve such marginal gains, however, compounds wine’s elitist image. In its emphasis on relaxed enjoyment over uptight appreciation, the recent push in wine to popularise multifunctional tumblers is a welcome revolution.