THE CRYSTAL MAZE
Thanks for the feedback on our last article on the LSA International collections, we are so glad you enjoyed the ‘shiny things’. The article also raised some questions as to our favourite glassware for serving HRAFN GIN. A tall order to shortlist my favourites as I tend to collect crystal with the unscratched itch of a psychopathic magpie with obsessive compulsive disorder. But I will try, though by the time you read this I will have already changed my mind.
So, belt up your ‘drinking’ trousers as this is going to be intense, as we enter the crystal cabinet of the Cocktail Nest.
Let’s start by identifying the three types of glass we use for serving the Hrafn & Tonic: they are the classic Highball; the squatter Lowball/Rocks glass; and the new kid on the block, the Copa de Balon. These three glass designs will see you through most long drinks, but if you need to drink short then we would also add in the must-have Martini.
Now, those of you who have met us, or read about us, will know that we are also enormous fans of a Scottish single malt or five! This has shaped our perception, as we tend to take our time over a drink and to sip and savour, and so we have our druthers for a substantial glass that is heavy in the hand. We want to take the experience of spirit appreciation to the next level. In short, I favour crystal to glass.
As mentioned above, there are now three glasses that are considered ideal for the classic G&T. They are the HighBall, the LowBall and the Copa de Balon. Which one you choose will be really a matter of taste and also how you like to dress your Gin and Tonic. So, let’s have a look at the contenders.
This is the classic British glass for serving a G&T. Tall to take the ice and tonic and a slice of garnish, this is the glass used predominantly to build the ideal drink. The glass size needs to be over 300ml to take all the ingredients, cooling cubes and artistic flourish and be wide enough to allow entry to your nose, too slim and you’ll look like the Dowager Countess of Grantham taking a swig of acid from a test tube! Keep the Edwardian theme by going for a classic cut crystal confection and enjoy your gin and tonic as light is refracted by the facets or go for a modern silhouette. Just bear in mind the centre of gravity and choose one with a heavy bottom.
THE GRASMERE LARGE HIGHBALL CUMBRIA CRYSTAL
This pattern should be familiar as it is the crystal collection used in Downton Abbey and, as an Old-Fashioned, in James Bond’s Casino Royale. Originally designed in 1976 by Lady Grania Cavendish, no less, it is a complex crystal glass with the full Monty of flute, mitre, diamond and thumbprint cuts. It is 15cm high and has a volume of 380ml. Available direct from www.cumbriacrystal.com at £85 each.
THE ISLAY HIGHBALL
From the LSA International Whisky Collection. It is handblown and has a heavy base and comes with a handy walnut coaster. Designed originally for the Whisky Highball it is also perfect for any long drinks. It is 16cms tall and has a capacity of 325ml. The taper helps keep in the fizz of the tonic. Available direct from www.lsa-international.com at £50 for 2 (comes gift boxed).
The LowBall is also known as the Rocks glass or as an Old Fashioned after the whisky cocktail of the same name. Best of all is the Double Old Fashioned – a huge version that really allows your ice to ‘tinkle’ within. This glass is big enough to take a G&T and can also be used for drinking short. Short means that you are building up a drink that does not have a large volume of mixer, such as a Negroni. Things to look out for are, again, a suitable volume of around 250ml and a diameter of 8cm. The large diameter coupled with a heavy base will let you use it with a muddler for making Mojitos and Brambles.
THE BOSSA NOVA WHISKY
A new addition to the Cocktail Nest cabinet is the crystalware from the Bavarian firm Nachtmann, which is a division of Reidel – the preferred glassware manufacturer of many 5-Star hotels. The Bossa Nova pattern has a cool textural basket-weave design that is both tactile and substantial. It is 10cms tall and has a capacity of 330ml. Available direct from www.reidel.com at £30 for 4. The HighBall version is also in my top 5 HighBalls.
THE RENFREW TUMBLER
Another brilliant modern glass from the LSA International Whisky Collection. It boasts a very heavy base, making it an ideal muddler glass, and the sides have no taper. This glass is perfect for short drinks with coloured ingredients or for oversized ice blocks and spheres. It is 10cms tall and has a capacity of 270ml. Available direct from www.lsa-international.com at £50 for 2 (comes gift boxed, including walnut coasters, as before).
THE COPA DE BALON:
The Spanish ravens insist that this is THE glass for the perfect gin and tonic. Dating back to the 1700s and from the Basque region of Northern Spain it is a bulbous glass on a stem, like a greedy wine glass on steroids. It has the advantage of trapping the aromas of the gin and giving plenty space for ice and a fruit basket of garnish. The large volume filled with ice means a slower melt rate and so a slower dilution. Make sure that your garnish complements the flavour profile of the gin, then enjoy the aromas as well as the taste.
THE RADIAL COPA DE BALON
BY ROYAL DOULTON
Royal Doulton is far better known for its ceramics than crystalware, but their new Radial range is very welcome. It is graceful and beautifully balanced. The cuts are both retro and modern at the same time, inspired by the Art Deco era. It is 20cms tall and has a capacity of 470ml. Available from www.royaldoulton.co.uk at £130 for 4 gift boxed glasses. Also consider their Radial HighBall.
THE GRASMERE COPA DE BALON
BY CUMBRIA CRYSTAL
To end our selection, I return to Cumbria Crystal and a new edition to their Grasmere range. This Copa de Balon has the same flute, mitre, diamond and thumbprint cuts, which requires their whole team of specialist cutters to produce. This is a huge and weighty glass that is top of its class. It is 20cm high and has a volume of 550ml. Available direct from www.cumbriacrystal.com at £108 each.
The Martini glass is said to be a modern take on the champagne coupe and first appeared in 1920s Paris. It became synonymous with martinis as its shape and stem allows chilled drinks to remain colder longer and for an olive pick to be supported on the sloping side. It differs from a Cocktail glass in that its rim is larger in diameter and the Cocktail glass has a more rounded bottom. It is perfect for ‘straight-up’ cocktails, where the ice is used in the making but strained out for the imbibing.
THE ELEGANCE MARTINI GLASS, BY WATERFORD CRYSTAL
The short-stemmed Martini glass from the Waterford Elegance collection is a stunner. A contemporary take on the design gives a silhouette that is crisp, and the shorter stem a lower centre of gravity, making the glass balanced and stable. It has a strikingly deep V plunge to complete the flawlessly modern look. It is 12cm high and has a volume of 300ml. Available direct from www.waterford.co.uk at £60 for a gift box of 2 glasses.
THE PUNK MARTINI GLASS, BY NACHTMANN CRYSTAL
Celebrating the 40 years of Punk, Nachtmann Crystal released their iconoclastic Punk Collection. Developed with Anke Buchmann and Central Saint Martin’s College London, this is one stylish glass. It takes studded punk leather and renders it in crystal, making this a highly tactile glass. The heavier base also makes it very stable. It is 12cms tall and has a capacity of 230ml. Available direct from www.nachtmann.com at €20 for 2.
SO, WHAT’S NEXT ON MY CRYSTAL LIST?
Besides crystal glass and stemware, I have always been fascinated by decanters. I use them for coloured spirits like whisky and brandy more so than gin and the one on my radar at the moment for the Cocktail Nest cabinet is this stunner from the Waterford Irish Dogs collection. The Terrier Decanter can easily take a 70cl bottle of malt and with its angular shape and beautifully sculpted Terrier’s head forming the stopper in contrasting black crystal this is a showstopper. I really like the subtle cutting on the base that reminds me of a terrier’s claw marks when digging.
AND FINALLY, …
CRYSTAL CARE (as recommended by Cumbria Crystal)
Wash your crystal by hand with hand hot water, a soft sponge and mild dish detergent. Avoid extreme water temperatures and soaps containing ammonia. Wash your crystal as soon as possible after use and do not leave water standing in crystal for more than a few days. In flower vases make sure the water is refreshed and the glass is cleaned regularly. This is especially important in hard water areas as elements in the water can bite into the crystal and leave permanent water marks. Never put your crystal in the dishwasher as the detergents can permanently mark the crystal. Limescale build up can be cleaned with vinegar and or lemon.
Dry your crystal immediately after washing it and use a linen or lint-free cloth.
When drying stemware avoid holding the glass by the stem and twisting while drying the bowl of the glass as the weakest part of your stemware is the place where the bowl joins the stem. Instead, hold the bowl of the glass gently in your palm while drying the inside of the glass.
Store your crystal in a safe, dust-free area. Do not store your crystal glasses upside-down in the cupboard: The lip of the glass is very delicate, and it may begin to crack under the weight of the glass.
Our thanks to Cumbria Crystal, LSA International, Waterford Crystal, Nachtmann Crystal and Royal Doulton for their help with this article.