Sometimes it might seem a little silly that the shape of a glass could affect the way the liquid inside tastes. You might wonder, does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? Take cognac, for example. Do those special glasses really enhance the experience, or is it just some kind of ploy or manipulation to get us out to the stores and buy some?
Cognac is one of the most popular types of brandy, named after the region in France in which the grapes are grown. While it is often portrayed as a drink sipped while smoking cigars in some drafty library, it actually has health benefits not found in other wines. It’s naturally low in sugar, additive free and doesn’t need sugary mixers to be enjoyed. With its strong taste, cognac isn’t a drink to be gulped. Instead we sip it from one of those special glasses.
The benefits of drinking cognac range from aiding digestion to lowering the risk of heart disease. It’s a great source of antioxidants as well. Many people find it enhances the flavors of dessert or coffee after meals, but does it matter if it’s drunk from a brandy glass, or can you just use what’s on hand?
Which Glass is Best?
Cognac is usually served in either a tulip or balloon glass, so what’s the difference? A tulip glass looks a lot like a wine glass. It has a long stem and a wide bowl, but the bowl is curved inward then flares slightly at the rim. The bowl’s width serves to maximize the surface area of the brandy while the rim helps to concentrate the flavor and bouquet.
The balloon glass, with its shorter stem and wide bowl, is referred to as a brandy snifter. Its bowl also maximizes the surface area of the cognac, and its narrow mouth concentrates the bouquet. However, the effects are to a lesser degree than those experienced with the tulip glass. As the glass is often swirled around to help enhance the bouquet, some snifters come without the stem. The result is a rolling glass that releases even more than the normal aromas. This design can bring a little whimsy to your after dinner drink.
So which is the best glass? Experts prefer the tulip since they believe it is the best way to catch the aroma while letting it breathe sufficiently. The snifter is most popular in the regular drinking crowd though, with its elegant design that speaks of old-fashioned style. What’s important, however, is the double action of taste and smell that gives the unique enjoyment of the cognac.
It’s true that in more recent years cognac has entered the realm of mixed drinks. When using a mixer with cognac, anything goes. You can use tall or short glasses. Some people enjoy cognac mixers in martini glasses, while others prefer on-the-rocks glasses. Using a regular wine glass with a wide bowl is accepted in many crowds, as the bouquet can still be enjoyed. For purists though, anything other than tulip glasses or snifters just isn’t the way to enjoy a brandy.
What Have We Learned?
Because of its unique nature kept pure by strict French laws, cognac cannot simply be drunk like a beer or wine cooler. It doesn’t have the rugged quality of a bloody Mary or a dirty martini. Instead, it represents elegance and must be experienced in like manner. So we do have an answer to our question. The glass does make a difference in the experience of drinking cognac. If you’re serious about wine and spirits and how they’re consumed, then having some tulip glasses or snifters on hand is a definite plus. That’s not a bad thing either. Cognac glasses have an elegant beauty to match the drink while complementing your home as well.