Think about your favorite bourbon, the moment after you lift the glass. Now, what memory hit you first? Was it the thought of the taste, perhaps the scent? The aroma of a fine bourbon is one of the reasons bourbon drinkers around the world don’t just sip on their beverage, but also savor its character, view its consumption as form of art.
But the thing about bourbon is that how you experience it is as dependent on its temporary home—the glass—as the contents itself. From the shape to the weight, there’s a great deal to consider.
We spoke with Gary Gruver, senior beverage manager, Global Operations for Marriott International to better understand the components of a perfect bourbon glass and to learn why Marriott bartenders serve bourbons—straight, neat or in cocktail form—in hourglass Bourbon Glasses.
With its thick base, sturdy yet elegant rolled lip, and aroma-enhancing hourglass shape, here is a look at what makes Marriott’s Bourbon Glass one of kind.
On the Nose
When it comes to bourbons, knowledge practically runs through Gruver’s DNA: He hails from Kentucky. For him, the proper bourbon glass, “concentrates flavors toward the olfactory sense.”
To understand how a glass can play into the experience of enjoying a drink, Gruver says to think about Grand Marnier in a mega snifter, popular among many restaurants and bars. In a large snifter, Grand Marnier’s aromas don’t all come together until the very last second. In this situation, he explains, “the aromas get lost.”
Instead, Marriott’s bourbon glass of choice has an hourglass shape that collects and gradually guides the aromas. As they float up, the smells merge midway — at the narrowest point of the glass. Then, an aroma explosion hits.
“It concentrates flavors toward the olfactory sense as you move the glass toward your nose,” says Gruver.
The tulip shape doesn’t only do good things for your nose, it also makes holding the glass a pleasure. “It’s very natural to hold,” says Gruver. “It nestles between the thumb and the index finger.” Bourbon fans who tend to talk with their hands could find more comfort — plus, it’s that natural hold that could keep the glass from (literally) getting out of hand.
Yet, even if the tulip takes a tumble, things should turn out okay. Since the base is nice and thick, he explains, it has a lot of weight to it. “It’s not flimsy feeling,” he adds. Unlike glasses that are too delicate for a party or the dishwasher, the Bourbon Glass has a little roll down from the lip, making it tough enough to endure parties and their cleanup.
Thinking back to his own parties, Gruver says it used to be inevitable that at least one glass would break. Marriott’s elegantly-shaped Bourbon Glass has shattered that streak. “This is a celebration glass,” says Gruver, “that you don’t always have to worry about it.”
It’s What’s Inside that Counts
According to Gruver, the 8.5 ounce glass is the perfect size to handle both straight bourbon or the evening’s cocktail of choice. Most cocktails have three to five ounces of liquid, so the size allows for the addition of ice and, when appropriate, a garnish—without spilling over.
At this size, there is plenty of space to allow the aromas to seep into your nose, and also enough room to house the perfect ice ball. An ice sphere, Gruver says, “is going to fill this glass beautifully.”
For those with an eye for the decorative, there is also space for an elevated garnish to complete the perfect party-ready cocktail, or simply treat yourself.
Gruver’s Old Fashioned—with a Twist
1. Combine two ounces of bonded bourbon, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, 1 dash of Fee Brothers West Indian Orange bitters, and 1/4 ounce demerara simple syrup.
2. Pour over an ice ball into the essential bourbon glass.
3. Finish with an orange swath.
Sniff, sip, and enjoy.