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My coming-of-age moment was when I started sincerely caring about glassware. During college, I was used to budget glasses from Target, a plastic stemless glass monogrammed with my college logo, and (dare I say!) red solo cups.
Around the end of junior year, I found myself captivated by these luxe golden rims on some coupe glasses in a boutique. I admired the way the glitter flecks caught the light. Each time I drank from them, a small thrill zinged through me.
In the few years since then, glassware has become a defining attribute of my taste (both visually and beverage-wise). Psychologically, it makes sense; much of our reaction to what we drink depends on our expectation of taste. If we’re told our drink will taste better out of a swanky burgundy goblet, it will.
In my foray into the glassware sphere, multiple brands have popped up again and again as being the golden standard -- delighting our taste buds, our wallets, and our shelves. As we enter the holiday season (or simply relish a cocktail after a long day), these brands are here to improve your experience.
Building a Glassware Collection from Scratch
For new grads, or simply new aficionados, begin your collection with the array of styles from the Italic line. Italic is a member-only retail concept that removes the middle man. Instead of paying markups, you pay a yearly membership fee and enjoy access to hundreds of luxury items at cost, from the manufacturers of all your most coveted brands.
When I moved overseas, I couldn’t take my beloved glassware collection with me. Instead, I purchased two sets from Italic: White Wine Glasses ($25) and Champagne Glasses ($25), each in a set of four. Italic offers price comparisons to Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma, and Villeroy & Boch; you’re purchasing from the same manufacturer as those brands.
Once you’ve got the basics, it’s time to branch out.
In the Vineyard
In general, slimmer glasses generally belong to white wines, so they can stay cooler and have less aeration; wider, rounder bowls increase evaporation and aromatic intensity. While I used to toss this guidance out the window and simply pick the prettiest glass, incorporating what we know about taste into my glassware curation has made my drinking experience much more pleasurable.
These drool-worthy wine glasses have swept Instagram (and curated boutiques) over the past few years. Conceptualized in South Carolina, and hand-blown in Poland, Estelle Colored Glass offers gorgeous, delicate glasses in stunning colors inspired by vintage finds. Jewel tones and pastel shades balance the timeless with the visually interesting. Estelle offers several shapes: a white wine stemmed glass, champagne coupe, and stemless. I’m lusting over the mixed set of six stemware glasses, priced at $175, which includes my choice of any six colors.
Elegant enough for company but practical enough for daily use, NUDE Glass aims to distill glassware down to the essentials. These handmade lead-free glasses in the Fantasy Set of 2 Red Wine Glasses ($45) embody the best of the NUDE Glass collection: subtly different and stunning. The rest of the brand’s offerings are just as striking.
With champagne and sparkling wines, the differences between flavors and textures is even more amplified. For example, a pointy bowl will create a single stream of bubbles up to the surface of the glass. Experts note that if you tend to drink cheaper prosecco or champagne (post-grad speaking here), opt for a smaller flute because the narrower bowl will allow it to taste less expressive, blurring the boundary between your choice and more expensive quality.
The Diamond Wine Glasses ($24.99) from Dragon Glassware are classy but intriguing. The geometric shape is visually powerful and designed to impress. The glass is both dishwasher, refrigerator, and freezer friendly (supposedly).
If you opt for a coupe shape, you might recognize the handblown ferm LIVING Ripple Champagne Saucers (2 for $55). Available in clear or smoked grey, subtle ripples inform a classic design for a dynamic champagne option that’s all the rage on Instagram.
For a stemless option, opt for the sculpted Cactus Crystal Stemless Wine Glasses offered by Viski. The design is accomodating, beautiful, and easy to hold; the price tag (2 for $29.99) is even friendlier.
Meanwhile At The Bar
Whiskey and cocktail glasses tend to be short and squat. A wide base allows for best “muddling,” allowing each ingredient to operate well within the glass. It’s versatile and timeless. Better yet, bust out this barware for everyday use as well. A good tumbler can heighten even a simple glass of orange juice.
This Neutrall Upcycled Glass Cup Set (4 for $48) from MadeTrade is made from Topo Chico glass bottles. Natural warps in the recycled glass add a warm and handmade touch to a graceful set, while a local supply chain and carbon neutral offsets ensure the set is “the most eco-friendly glassware money can buy.”
The martini glass (shocker!) isn’t only made for martinis. Nowadays, you’ll find a variety of frothy concoctions swishing around in this glass. The long stem helps to maintain icy temperatures for shaken cocktails that do not contain ice, while preserving aroma and pushing ingredients together.
Better yet, the martini glass visual aligns with the cosmopolitan vision of the cocktail, making it an excellent choice for the sober curious. If you’d like to delve into the vast array of nonalcoholic spirits and cocktails on the market, but still crave the ceremony of a traditional drink at the bar, serve up your Seedlip in a sharp, demanding martini glass.
NUDE Glass stuns with its take on the Vintage Martini Glass (2 for $37).
After a crash course in wine and cocktail-related glassware, it’s tempting to just opt for the beer bottle. Easy. Done. But beer often deserves the same care and intention as wine. When you drink either out of the bottle, you neglect the aroma and flavor profiles, because 70% of our taste comes from our sense of smell. Additionally, a good pour activates the carbonation within the beer, giving you a more robust sip.
Beer glasses can vary based on taste and type just as wine can, but you can find many options at Pretentious Glass Co.
Pretentious Glass Co. is a glassblowing studio based in Knoxville, Tennessee that turns beer glasses into works of art. I’m a big fan of the brand’s popular JuicyY style ($55), which operates as a “pedestal” for beer. It’s exaggerated, curvy, and vivacious. All glasses are handmade and made to order, and each order directly supports craftspeople. They operate under the principle that “nothing can replace the soul of an item made by hand” and looking at their glasses, I have to agree.
So Grab A Drink (Alcoholic Or Not) And Pull Up A Chair
With the conscious array of shapes, styles, and aesthetics out there, we can be more confident than ever that we’re in for a treat with our next sip. Whatever your drink choice, building a collection of contemporary glassware has never been easier.