A cold glass is one of the keys to making a great cocktail, and chilling your glassware should be one of the first steps you take when making any drink. By pouring cocktails into a pre-chilled glass, the drink stays crisp and cool longer, and the frost adds a nice aesthetic to the presentation.
Chilling glassware is essential with cocktail glasses and other stemware because "up" drinks like martinis are rarely served with ice. For highballs and short drinks on the rocks, a chilled glass will keep your ice from melting too quickly, and a frosty shot glass can make any shooter go down a little easier. It's not all about the chill, either; when it's time for a cozy drink, heating the mug makes the experience more enjoyable.
No matter the style, there are a few simple ways to match glassware and drink temperature in a kitchen or home bar, and there's no need for fancy gadgets or dry ice. Chilling a glass takes a little planning, though it can be done in just a few minutes as well.
The Frozen Glass
The preferred method is to use your freezer because frozen glasses get nice and frosty, ensuring your glass stays colder longer. Simply put the glass in the freezer for at least 30 minutes—or up to two hours—and take it out just before you pour the drink.
If space allows and you want to ensure that you have chilled glasses on hand at all times, designate a permanent spot to store a few of your most-used glasses. Ensure they return there after cleaning.
When freezer space is limited, glassware can get a decent chill in the refrigerator. Place glasses in the coldest place of your fridge—typically at the back on the top shelf, near the cooling unit—for at least an hour or up to four hours.
The Quick Ice Chill
When you're short on time, use the quick chill trick that bartenders often employ: Fill the glass with cracked or crushed ice (ice cubes will do in a pinch), allow it to sit while you mix the drink, then dump the ice and strain it into the glass.
- For cocktail and wine glasses, pick the glass up by the stem and swirl the ice around the bowl to chill all the way to the rim.
- Fill collins, highball, and old-fashioned glasses to the rim with ice.
- Adding a little cold soda water can help as well. The theory is that carbonation speeds up the chilling process. Ice-cold water is not as efficient but will work.
- This is also good for glasses that are already chilled if you have to pull them out of the freezer a little early.
The Paper Towel Trick
Sometimes you just don't have enough ice around to mix drinks and chill glasses. In this instance, you can get a quick chill with the help of a paper towel: Wet a paper towel thoroughly with cold water, squeeze out excess water, and wrap it tightly around the glass, then place it in the freezer. Your glass should be nice and frosty in just three to five minutes.
- For stemware, wrap the entire bowl of the glass; the stem is not important.
- Cover highball and old-fashioned glasses as much as possible. Concentrate on wrapping the towel around the outside, folding the top over the rim, and pressing it inside.
This trick works better than placing a wet glass into the freezer because that approach often leaves pools of water in the glass. Instead, the freezer's dry air pulls the moisture out of the towel, evenly frosting the entire glass without excess water to dilute your drink.
The wet towel trick is also an excellent way to quickly chill a bottle of beer, wine, or liquor. You'll need more paper towels or a large cotton kitchen towel. Wrap the entire bottle with the wet towel, then place it in the freezer for about seven minutes. Don't forget it! While vodka will not freeze in the average freezer, beer and wine can and will create quite the mess.
The Ice Bucket Plunge
If a refrigerator is not available, plunge the bowl of the glass upside down into an ice-filled ice bucket or cooler. Leave the glass for 15 to 30 minutes for a really good chill.
When Not to Freeze Glassware
There are a couple of scenarios in which frozen glassware is not ideal:
- Crystal glassware is more fragile than other types of glass. It's best to use a delicate touch when chilling crystal and thin wine glasses, opting for the refrigerator or quick chill methods. Also, be sure that the liquid you're pouring is also cold, as temperature differences can easily shatter the glass.
- Beer is a tricky situation because the ideal serving temperature for beer is not universal. Plus, many beer aficionados find that most styles of beer lose flavor and carbonation when poured into a frosty pint or mug. Generally, lagers (except for bocks) are best cold, while ales are served warmer. Follow your own preference and drink whatever beer you have the way you enjoy it most.
Heat Up Hot Drinks
Just as you would chill a cold drink glass, warm up the glass for hot cocktails. This can be done quickly by filling a glass or mug with hot water for a few minutes while preparing ingredients to make the drink. You can also place a water-filled glass in the microwave for about 10 seconds.
For hot cocktails, make sure that glassware is heat-resistant. Irish coffee glasses and glassware designed to hold warm liquids are generally made with thick glass that will not shatter under normal circumstances. You can also find glass mugs and teacups that are insulated with a second layer of glass.