The Fascinating History of the Martini Glass

July 3, 2017

A martini glass can be spotted a mile off. Its long-stemmed and distinctive, inverted conical shape and flat base is hard to miss. Infact, the quintessential martini glass has become an iconic symbol of the popular beverage called ‘cocktail’. The history of the unique martini glass is as fascinating as the history of the martini itself.

The martini does not call for ice and the deep V-shape is precisely meant for such cocktails that need to be served chilled but without the presence of ice in the glass. So, it is the glass that has to be frosted or chilled to perfection. And the long stem ensures that the warmth of the hand does not play spoilsport with the contents of the glass.

Martini glasses were called by the more generic ‘cocktail glasses’ till the martini was created. And after that there were two distinctive categories of glasses: the cocktail glass and the martini glass.

How was the martini created? One story goes that in 1862 in San Francisco, Jerry Thomas, a bartender at the city’s well-known Occidental hotel, was asked to whip up an original drink. The person who made that request was on his way to Martinez, where the gold rush had begun. Thus challenged, Jerry Thomas came up with an impromptu new recipe there itself and thus was born the ‘Martinez Special’ which later gave way to the now iconic martini’.

The modern martini glass has come a long way from its original plain glass form. Today’s martini glasses are colourful, sport funky designs and are more than just a cocktail receptacle. They are style statements, to be flaunted at parties and dos and proudly displayed in the glass cabinet.

The US brand Designs by Lolita has created an entire range devoted only to the martini. Each glass is individually hand-painted in Lolita’s trademark, quirky manner, with some wacky words thrown in for greater impact. But, the icing on the cake has to be the fantastic cocktail recipe at the bottom of each cocktail glass. What’s even more appealing is that each martini glass addresses a typical female mood or dilemma, making it that much more personal.

But, just why did this particular cocktail glass have a wide mouth unlike its counterparts? Again, controversies surround this. According to one story, the particular shape was an invention during the Prohibition era. The wide brim served to quickly dispel any illegal alcohol there was in the event of a surprise raid. Yet another theory suggests that the wide brim produced surface tension that would effectively release the gin’s bouquet.

Whatever may be the reason, the martini managed to create its own place among the many cocktails even as its distinctive glass shape achieved a stardom and iconic status of its own.

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