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Some people have their go-to drink of choice, always ordering a glass of cabernet or a pint of Guinness no matter where they go. Others prefer to see the happy hour specials, just in case they can get a particular red wine for a bargain. At a large, catered party, it may not be your decision if the festivities are meant to include a cocktail hour or a champagne toast. Whether you find the notion daunting or exciting, encountering new and unfamiliar drinks and drink ware is something just about everyone experiences from time to time. If you want to make sure you don't commit any social blunders and follow good bar etiquette, it's important to understand how to properly hold every type of drink. This guide will help you get your hands on everything from beer and wine to fancy cocktails and spirits.
Enjoying wine at the proper temperature can make all the difference, especially in nicer varieties of wine. The temperature of a glass of Boone's Farm won't make much of a difference, but if you spent more than $10 on a bottle of wine, you should also put in the effort to enjoy it properly. Most red wine is best enjoyed just below room temperature. Unless you have a dedicated wine cellar or similar storage unit, stick your bottle of red wine in the fridge fifteen or so minutes before you want to enjoy it to ensure it reaches the optimum 60-65°F.
White wine is best enjoyed slightly cooler than that, at around 50-55°F. With white wine, it's more efficient to store it in the fridge and take it out about twenty minutes before serving so the wine can warm up to the appropriate temperature from there. When you're holding a wine glass, regardless of the type of wine you're enjoying, make sure you're holding it by the stem of the glass and not the bowl. This ensures that the warmth of your hand doesn't prematurely bring the wine out of its ideal temperature range.
It's important to know how to properly hold every type of drink so you can be prepared for any situation. Champagne in particular, however, may be the most important drink to know how to hold, as the French sparkling wine is the traditionally reserved for the most special of occasions. Improperly handling your champagne can be an embarrassing faux pas at a black tie event. Luckily, it's relatively easy to learn how to properly hold your champagne flute.
Similarly as with wine, champagne is traditionally served in a stemmed glass in order to preserve the celebratory beverage's ideal serving temperature. Holding champagne by the stem of the glass is even more important than with wine, as champagne's ideal serving temperature, between 45-50°F, is colder than white or red wine. You may find champagne served in a thin glass called a flute or in a wider-mouthed stemmed glass known as a coupe. The etiquette for is the same in either case.
Whiskey and Brandy
Understanding how to properly hold every type of drink isn't just a matter of avoiding etiquette faux pas. It can also have a direct effect of your enjoyment of the beverage. This is particularly true with the snifter glass, which is the drink ware of choice for just about any dark alcohol, from bourbon and scotch to fine brandy or cognac. These complex spirits require patience and concentration in order to experience the full range of flavors and aromas they have to offer. Unlike with wine and champagne, these spirits are best enjoyed at room temperature, as colder temperatures dull their flavor. In fact, even though the traditional snifter glass has a stem, it is actually more proper to hold it by bowl rather than the stem of the glass. The warming properties of your hand will awaken the aromas of your fine-aged spirit as you sip and savor.
If you're like me, your happy hour choice is often to keep things simple with a nice beer. Whether you prefer basic, adjunct lagers (e.g. Budweiser) or more complex craft beers like IPAs, there's still an optimum way to imbibe your brew. Now, most of the time it's preferable to get a beer on tap, as the beer will typically be fresher and the flavor will simply be better. Some bars and restaurants will only have canned or bottled beers, however, and unless you're extremely lucky, you probably don't have a beer tap in your house.
Technically, the proper way to hold a beer bottle is by the neck as opposed to the base. With a can, it doesn't really make much of a difference how you hold it. My best advice, however, is to get your beer out of that bottle or can as soon as you open it. Pour it into a pint glass to better enjoy its aroma, and to activate its carbonation for a nice foamy head.
While there are not many hard guidelines on how to properly hold every type of drink at a cocktail bar, there is one storied cocktail that has its own set of rules. The martini, perhaps the most iconic mixed drink of all time, is served in a stemmed glass similar to a wine glass or champagne flute. Featuring steeply sloping edges and an extremely wide brim, the martini glass is designed to allow the beverage to release its aroma uninhibited. Martinis are designed to be enjoyed quite briskly, so as to not let the cocktail warm up much, if at all. Therefore, much like holding a wine glass, it is important to hold a martini by the stem of the glass and not by the bowl.
There is an extra level of difficulty when enjoying a martini, however, as shape of the glass is more precariously designed than that of a large wine glass or a tall, narrow champagne flute. Instead of accommodating a large amount of liquid, the shallow bowl and wide brim of the martini glass make it highly susceptible to spilling. On top of this, it is not uncommon for a martini glass to be filled right up to the brim when you first receive your cocktail. With all these ingredients adding up to a recipe for disaster, it has become customary to use your second hand to palm the base of the glass, providing much-needed additional balance and support.
The world of signature cocktails contains an incredible variety of creative and confusing glass ware. It would be practically impossible to catalog every type of glass you might encounter during happy hour at a high-class bar. Thankfully, there are a few conventions that you can follow to make sure you are enjoying your drink in the best manner possible.
First, observe whether the glass is stemmed or not. If the cocktail comes in a short stemless glass like an Old Fashioned glass, then you don't exactly have a lot of options how to hold it. If the drink comes in something with a handle like a copper Moscow Mule cup, then you should generally hold it by the handle. Common sense helps a lot here. If the cocktail comes in a stemmed glass like a martini glass, a coupe, or any other example of the endless variety of stemmed glass ware out there, it can be tricky to determine whether or not you should hold your cocktail by the stem of the glass.
If your cocktail comes in a stemmed glass, the second thing to consider is the type of alcohol in your drink and what type of ingredients it has in it. Clear alcohols like gin and vodka are generally enjoyed at low temperatures, so gin drinks (like a martini) and vodka drinks (like the Kangaroo) are typically served in stemmed glasses to keep them cold. Hold these cocktails by the stem of the glass, using your second hand to balance the glass if needed.
Aged alcohols like whiskey and brandy are typically enjoyable at any temperature, which is why they are more frequently served in unstemmed glass ware. If you find yourself faced with an aged drink in a stemmed glass, there's no right or wrong way to enjoy it. The Manhattan cocktail, a mixture of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters, is a perfect example of this. The Manhattan is often served in a martini glass or a coupe, so feel free to hold it by the stem of the glass to preserve its cool temperature. It is just as acceptable, however, to hold a Manhattan by the bowl of the glass, enjoying the aromas of rye whiskey as they emanate from the warmed glass.
If you still aren't sure how to hold your cocktail after following these guidelines, the most basic rule to follow is that if there is a stem on your glass, then you should be holding your drink by the stem and not by the bowl. Following this basic rule will ensure you are using proper drink etiquette 99 times out of 100.