Build a Better Bar Part 2: Through the Drinking Glass

Supersonic Parachute

3/4 oz Bourbon <Woodford Reserve>
3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz Benedictine
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon twist


There are really only two things you need to know about glassware.  1) With just some cocktail glasses, rocks glasses, and Collins glasses, you can serve a wide variety of drinks in their preferred natural state.    2) You rarely need to pay full price for glassware.  Let me explain.

The three essential types of glasses: cocktail, rocks, and Collins

The daycare where we sent our kids was right next to a Savers thrift store.  Every time I was on pickup duty, I’d stop in to Savers and see if there were any interesting books or cheap kitchen gadgets.  On my stroll through the aisles, I noticed they had a large collection of glassware.  Looking to upgrade from the terribly designed standard martini glass (long stem; wide, angular bowl), I was on a mission to find the classic coupe cocktail glasses I had seen at various bars around town.  Lucky for me, I found a set of two simple, unadorned glasses.  The best part, it was a grand total of $1 for two of them.  That night I made a drink (probably a Manhattan) and realized how superior the coupe shape was to the martini glass.  The shorter stem and more gently sloped, rounded bowl means more of the drink gets into your mouth instead of on the floor.

Soon, no daycare pickup was complete without a perusal of the glassware section at Savers (nor could I walk by any thrift store with out popping in for a quick peak).  Subsequent trips revealed a wider design variety than I had first realized.  My next purchase was a set of 4 glasses for $3.  These had etchings on the bowl to give them a little more character.  Another trip I scored my first glasses with a design element on the stem.  As my collection grew, I became more picky in my criteria (this also served as a self-policing mechanism so I didn’t come home with glasses after every trip).  I started looking only for glasses with etchings on the bowl AND design elements on the stem.   Or I tried to find ones with more angular bowls (still nowhere near martini glass territory) instead of roundish ones.

DSC_0725Etched angular bowl + design on the stem + etched base = holy grail of cocktail glasses

I was able to amass a sizable collection of interesting glasses, and probably never paid more than $2 per glass.  This makes things a little less painful when you break one (or a few more than one).

Various stem embellishments

Eventually I turned my attention to my rocks glasses, which were just down the same aisle.  A nautical themed glass with tall ships and seagulls etched on the sides here; a set of two glasses with a wonderful crystal diamond pattern there.  Soon enough the number of glasses in my bar approached the number of bottles.

Poor man’s Waterford crystal rocks glass

Then summer rolled around and the long drinks came out.  These cocktails (often topped with something fizzy) could be served in a rocks glass if necessary, but the slender cylinder of the Collins glass helps them stay colder longer.  Sure enough, Savers came through again as I picked up a set of 4 plain ones for a measly $1.

So there you have it.  Go find your local thrift store and see what gems they house.  Use the cocktail glasses for straight up drinks, rocks glasses for down drinks or drinks with ice, and the Collins glasses for anything fizzy that is ideally sipped on a porch or while playing croquet.  And by all means, don’t be afraid to pay more for a glass here or there if the spirit moves you.  Just know that with some effort and a keen eye, you can comprise a well rounded collection of glassware for less than the cost of one drink at a bar.

And don’t forget to show off your bar on facebook and instagram.  Be sure to tag @mrmuddle and use #buildyourbar.  We’ll wrap up the Build a Better Bar series next week with basic tools and resources.



2 thoughts on “Build a Better Bar Part 2: Through the Drinking Glass

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