Martini glass shape: elegant or outdated? | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Martini glass shape: elegant or outdated?

“There’s a bit of a backlash brewing against the triangle-shaped drinking vessel.”

The martini glass is everywhere. Its iconic silhouette has been part of the public consciousness for decades and is not only emblematic of the martini itself (the drink most often served in it), but of adult beverages as a whole. There’s a reason it appears in such diverse spots as airport signage, bar windows, and the four-fingered hands of cartoon characters — it’s immediately recognizable as a beacon of leisure.

But not everyone is a fan. It turns out the classic symbol of all things alcohol isn’t as universally loved as one may assume. There’s a bit of a backlash brewing against the triangle-shaped drinking vessel that’s been ubiquitous since the Art Deco era. Among its most vocal critics are bar and restaurant staff, who frequently hold up the martini glass as a prime case of style over substance.

“As a server, I hated them because they’re almost impossible to carry without spilling, especially if you have three on a tray,” says Jesse Maystein, a bartender at Kaya. “As a bartender, I have a mild disdain for similar reasons.” 

Jade Wilson, who regularly appears behind the bar at Butterjoint, agrees. “I think, aesthetically, that martini glasses look appealing. However, they’re not very functional,” Wilson says. “They’re hard to pick up and carry, and they’re also not easy to drink out of without spilling.” 

In an effort to avoid such awkwardness, many bartenders opt for either a “coupe” or a “Nick & Nora” glass, both traditional styles of stemware with bell-shaped cups that predate the more modern martini glass. The consensus is that these types of glasses are much easier to handle, both for servers as well as customers. They also have an endearing, old-timey look that dovetails perfectly with the vintage cocktails that have been appearing more frequently on drink menus over the past several years.

However, the classic martini glass still has its devotees. Heather Kubas of Smallman Galley and Kelly’s Bar & Lounge stands firm. “I do prefer them. I think they have such an elegant look,” Kubas says. “Something about the lines just really appeal to me. Plus, they’re sturdier in my opinion. And I think they feel better in your hand when drinking.”

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