BY DANIELLE GAINES
With the gentlest swirl, the tulip-shaped walls of a Glencairn glass force upward the lush scent of gin and fruity spice of cognac.
“This is my absolute favorite glass,” said Braeden Bumpers, co-founder of McClintock Distilling in downtown Frederick, holding a Glencairn to his nose.
“But really any tulip-shaped glass is what you want,” he said. “Because with spirits tasting, a lot of what you’re looking for is in the nosing before you taste it.”
Bumpers’ favorite thing to drink from a Glencairn—traditionally a Scottish whisky glass—is a soon-to-be-released gin that’s been finished in a wooden cognac cask.
“In terms of nosing, this one is my absolute favorite to play around with,” he said.
The shape of a glass—with, of course, the help of what’s inside it—can define a drinking experience.
The coupe, or champagne saucer, helps bubbles dissipate with its wide surface area and is less prone to spills than your classic V-shaped cocktail, or martini, glass.
The lowball is great for unmixed spirits served with a chunk of ice. A highball might be the best option for a mixed drink served with cubes.
But establishing a home bar doesn’t mean going broke on glassware.
“If you’re going to need eight of something, go poke around antique stores,” said Dan McNeill, who co-owns MISCellaneous Distillery in Mount Airy with his wife, Meg MacWhirter.
For their home bar, McNeill and MacWhirter found a nice vintage set of teal and gold glassware.
And while McNeill will also espouse the benefits of a good Glencairn, he doesn’t dwell too much on glass choices.
“We don’t say you must use a Glencairn to sample spirits. Use whatever you’d like. It’s ‘Live and drink by your own rules,’” he said, gesturing to the motto on the distillery’s wall. “…They’re all going to do the same thing; it’s just conveying the drink from your hand to your mouth.”
At Hootch & Banter, where bartender Jeff Naylor is mixing cocktails with local spirits, he’s got a range of glasses to choose from: rocks, Collins, pint, wine (white, red and port), Glencairn, brandy, copper mules, tiki, and the list goes on.
A handful should be staples for a home bar, he suggested: rocks, Collins, wine, pint, and, of course, the coupe.
He prefers to serve mixed drinks in the coupe instead of martini glasses because, “They don’t spill as easily. You really have a lot more room to move around, to play around.”
A glass that remained en vogue in America for decades after Prohibition, the coupe is experiencing a bit of a resurgence thanks to the craft cocktail and speakeasy-throwback trends. Crate and Barrel offers more than a half-dozen different coupe glasses, describing them as a “go-to” option for cocktail glass.
The coupe has caught the eyes of McNeill and MacWhirter as well. They hope to bring a couple of hundred vintage coupe glasses into the distillery in the future.
And don’t worry about stocking margarita glasses, our experts said.
McNeill and MacWhirter would sub in a pint glass, if necessary. Naylor said a Collins glass would also work well.
Everyone agreed that a home bar needs some basic accessories: shakers, strainers, stirrers, jiggers, an ice bucket and pitchers.
And while Naylor has all the bells and whistles behind the bar—at times employing several of them for a single drink—sometimes you just need to throw out all the rules, he said.
“Above all, it’s about having fun. Have fun with your choices. You’re having friends over to have a drink and have a good time,” he said.
One last universal addition: the shot glass. Get plain glasses for far less than a dollar apiece, or pick charming and kitschy pieces as conversation starters.
“Everybody should have a couple shot glasses,” McNeill said. “…And a shotski as well.”
“Every home bar needs a shotski,” MacWhirter agreed.