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A glassware guide to drinking etiquette


You might well ask why there should be a glassware guide to drinking etiquette. After all, how much does it matter what you drink from provided it does the job of conveying the liquid to your mouth and thence down your throat?

Strangely enough the right glass for particular drinks can make a real difference not only to how you perceive them but also to how they taste. After all, you probably wouldn’t be drinking whisky or brandy shots from a pint glass!

So, is drinking really shrouded in etiquette? And if it is, should it be?

In fact, drinking etiquette, whether its spirits and cocktails, wines or beers has some very useful applications, especially at more formal occasions. You’ve probably heard of the guest who went to a very posh dinner market and was confronted with several rows of silver cutlery. On whispering to another guest that he had no idea which cutlery to use when, he was told that you start at the outside and work your way in. A little knowledge can be very useful.

Let’s take a look at some of the etiquette tips for the glassware to use when having a variety of different drinks (though remember, mixing your drinks won’t get you more intoxicated but could give you a queasy stomach.)

The cocktail hour

Cocktails are the seriously fun part to the start of an evening, whether you are going out for a few drinks or heading off to a dinner party or a show. Here you should be looking for the classic martini glass for smaller drinks such as its namesake, with added gin, lemon slices and an olive.

For larger cocktails you need a taller glass so that if the drink is layered you can see the attractive colours sitting one on top of the other. Stemmed with an inverted cone it shows you know what your Martini should be in.

A Margarita glass can come as a welled glass or in a saucer formation to hold this classic, refreshing cocktail. There’s plenty of room for the salt around the rim and. like the Martini glass, it’s stemmed so your hand doesn’t warm up the liquid.

A glass of wine?

If you’re a wine fan, or indeed a wine buff, you’ll know how many different types of glasses there are for this most delicious of drinks. Wine glasses have been around for centuries and prior to that goblets made of porcelain and clay were often the receptacles of choice.

Wine etiquette has a long history – and a long history of people disagreeing about it – but it’s more straightforward than you might think.

If you’re stocking up your own bar, then there are some who will argue that a set of red wine glasses and champagne flutes will suffice. That’s fine at a basic level, but it can be good to include specific glasses for whites and rosés. It’s a nice touch and shows your guests you’ve thought about the appropriate glassware.

If you’re at a business dinner, a formal gathering, a classy dinner date or (gulp) meeting the parents, knowing the etiquette for drinking wine can be very handy. Glasses should be held by the base or stem and it’s a good plan to sniff and taste it as you think about its colour and its bouquet. Your nose needs be trained and it’s fun to have the opportunity to do this. If you’re clinking glasses reduce potential breakages by clinking bell to bell.

Red wine is generally served in wider rimmed glasses to allow the aromas to come out and for the wine to breathe. Always aim for room temperature for red wine. White wine and champagne flutes are generally thinner, though champagne will often be served at parties in a wider rimmed coupe.

After dinner

Classic brandy glasses with a short stem, a wide cup tapering slightly to the top, are the ideal glassware for this post-prandial delight, and don’t forget you can put in Calvados and Armagnac as well. These drinks taste best when warmed up and the shape of the glass means you can cup it in your hands and transfer your body’s warmth to the spirit.

Add some etiquette to your drinking

First impressions mean a lot and if you take the time to look at what glassware is available you’re soon in a position to make some sound choices. You can have an elegant selection of glasses for a whole range of drinks without breaking the bank.