A Deconstruction Of The Iconic Martini Glass Shape

Martini lovers tend to find each other. I remember when I worked at Arnold Advertising in Boston, I found creative director Jay Williams shared my passion for an ice-cold, shaken-like-your-life-depends-on it, Plymouth Gin, dry-as-the-dust-under-your-bed, served with one olive and no toothpick, martini.

And whenever he felt the calling for an after-work tini, he would put his wrists and elbows together and fan out his hands to make the shape of a classic martini glass. That, plus his big grin was all I needed to see. No words needed be spoken.

As I was writing this, I asked Jay to send me a picture of himself doing his tini pose and he kindly obliged:

Jay Williams doing the "tini pose."

Jays's "Tini Pose" should be the international symbol for "Let's grab a martini tonight after work." Even if it's not, it's proof that we have ourselves a powerful icon.

Now, I am not a designer by trade, though I've been around it plenty during my 25+ years in the advertising business. During that time I've learned to recognize great design and poor design. And one thing I know for sure, the classic martini glass shape is an icon for a reason.

Let's geek out for a minute and break down all the reasons the design of the classic martini glass is brims with perfection.

Every part has a purpose.

When something is well designed, it doesn't confuse you. You just know what to do with it. Like a screwdriver (not the drink). Simple, elegant, purposeful.

Same is true for the martini glass. Every part of it has a clear job.

The bowl opens dramatically at the top. That's to help the contents - gin, in particular, with its bouquet of wafty gifts - "open up" via maximizing the surface area of the liquid. Smart, right?

The bowl in a martini glass, unlike the traditional "cocktail glass," has straight sides making a perfect cone shape (versus the slightly rounded sides of a cocktail glass). That's to better contain that shish-kabob of olives on a pick. Nice.

Since the traditional martini is never served with ice, there is great risk that the liquid
will warm quickly (egads!). Particularly if a warm hand surrounds the liquid. Hence, the long, thin stem so the hand can handle the drink without warming the bowl. Brilliant.

And bringing up the rear, the base. Ah, the base. Sort of like the unappreciated drummer in a band. Keeping the beat, but not stealing the limelight. The base is typically just wide enough to eliminate any wobbling of the much wider bowl on top, but not so wide that it overpowers the real heroes here (the bowl and stem). Perfect.

Taken together all of these parts deliver the perfect drink perfectly and, in the process, have come to be known collectively as the hand-gesturable icon of cocktail icons, the martini glass.

Never gratuitous.

When glass designers stray from the iconic design of a martini glass, I find they almost always reduce its power. Their primary concern seems only to be perceived as "different," but in the end only dampen the martini experience.

Take the curved stem glasses. You've all seen them - either a slow curve or the "S" curve. I hate them. Sorry, but I do. They look sort of cool at first but then you try to pick it up, again by the stem so you don't warm the bowl, and the curved stem makes it awkward. Gratuitous design, bad glass.

Or the "martini glasses" with a classic bowl but no stem at all, just a base. Don't even get me started on this blasphemy. Utterly useless and, more importantly, proves a lack of understanding of what a martini is. Drill a hole in the bottom and use these as a funnel in the garage.

There are others. The bowl that's entirely separate and is placed in another bowl of ice (weird and complex), the classic bowl mounted on a glass sphere (what?), or even those with a bowl but hardly even a base (we call that a jar).

Should I lighten up?

Probably, but I can't. I refuse to have a martini that isn't at least contained in SOMETHING resembling the iconic shape of a martini glass. Now, within that single parameter there are many, many ways I've found for innovation to occur.

Within the iconic martini glass shape, we can experience hand painted glass, hand or mouth blown glass, the use of color, designs, size, it's endless.

That is why Tini Grails exists. To mine that shaft and unearth the greatest martini glasses in the world.

And then bring them to you.

It's what we believe. It's what we do. It's all in the glass.

Happy Grailin'!

- Will Burns, Owner of Tini Grails

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