Novelty glassware is impractical and embarrassing. I can’t get enough of it.
In one of my favorite photos of myself, I’m drinking a cocktail out of a glass pipe at Canon in Seattle. I’ve put on an overly serious and glamorous face, though you can tell I am about to crack a smile, because, well, I’m drinking a cocktail from a pipe. There was no real reason that my cocktail needed to be served in something that looked like Sherlock Holmes’ signature accessory, or that my friends’ drinks should arrive in glasses shaped like a bathtub, a grocery shopping cart, a byzantine goblet and a Lego block. I do not think they made our drinks taste any better. But that was absolutely not the point.
Ever since my first Hand Grenade during my college years in New Orleans, I have been a sucker for ornate, unwieldy novelty glasses. Give me a tiki drink served in a whole pineapple, a smoked cocktail presented under a cloche or anything sipped out of a swan’s butt. Some people want to look elegant while they drink their Martinis or glasses of wine. I, apparently, am happy to look like a clown.
Of course, there are many cocktails that have historically been served in a signature, eye-catching glass. What is a Moscow Mule without its trademark copper cup, or a Hurricane without its hourglass curves? We drink with our eyes first, and a standout glass—no matter how delightfully stupid—brings just a little extra joy to the night.
But the same runaway visual instincts that have resulted in Instagram-first trends like outlandish rims and popcorn garnishes have also brought cocktails served in every imaginable vessel. You can drink out of a conch shell at ROKC, or unearth your cocktail from beneath a lavender smoke bubble at the Velveteen Rabbit or out of a milk bottle at Keefer Bar. These are about more than just making a guest cackle; it’s obvious that they exist to be photographed. But to me, they also convey a sense of attention to detail. It’s not your average bar that decides to stock a dozen flamingo-shaped glasses or Santa teapots.
Sure, it’s probably deeply annoying for a bartender to try to strain a cocktail into a flamingo on repeat, and often it is annoying to contort one’s mouth around… whatever this is. But I’m a fan of whimsy and ridiculousness when it’s clear the creators aren’t taking themselves too seriously. So much of what appears as whimsy in the bar and restaurant world is actually bartenders and chefs too impressed by their own cleverness, all but demanding you give them a gold star for their imagination. But a miniature bathtub full of liquor is not clever. It’s just fun, and that’s reason enough.
Besides, at home, I have coupes and rocks glasses, a nice shaker set and some solid recipe books that have allowed me to expand the repertoire of what I’m willing to mix for myself. In these austere days, if I’m going to be spending money out of the house, I want it to be something I can’t experience anywhere else. And one thing I don’t have at home is a set of hollow glass mushrooms.