A cocktail served in a traditional glass is just a cocktail, but put it in something unconventional, and suddenly it’s an experience. That’s the philosophy that Derek Stilmann, bar manager of the Sylvester in Miami, subscribes to. The Sylvester, Stilmann says, “reminds you of a chic grandma who lived in Key West.” The bar resembles a funky, eclectic living room replete with flamingo wallpaper, hanging ferns, lemon-yellow couches, and Miami memorabilia. The aesthetic extends to the drinks.
The Magic City Mule, for example, is served in a disco ball glass with a copper straw (to emulate the copper mug traditional for Moscow mules). “The disco ball is a very Miami thing. It’s bright, it’s kind of loud, it’s pretty and it’s fun, and I think that’s exactly what we were going for,” Stilmann explains. “The idea is it’d be tasty and delicious, but more importantly it can be just fun to drink.”
Those of us imbibing at home can create our own cocktail experiences — or coffee, tea, juice, or punch experiences — by thinking outside the glass. Jamie Boudreau, owner of Seattle bar Canon, says, “I’ve found anything that reminds one of their childhood, or is Insta-worthy will get a good reaction.” He’s sourced interesting drinkware from restaurant equipment retailers 100% Chef and Jakobsen Design, but these vendors tend to be pricey, ranging anywhere from about $30 to more than $100 per glass. Fortunately, we have some examples of unconventional drinking vessels found in bars around the country that are easily obtainable for the home cocktail enthusiast.
A disco ball glass
Disco may be dead, but love of the glitzy disco ball is eternal. To recreate the Sylvester experience at home, you can find disco ball glasses on Etsy (ignore the cheesy bachelorette party vibes) and rose gold-hued metal straws at Anthropologie.
A flamingo teapot
At Sparrow, the rooftop bar atop the Dalmar in Ft. Lauderdale, bartenders serve the Psychic Visions Punch in a vintage flamingo teapot with corresponding tea mugs. The drink, made with Lillet Rosé, sherry, watermelon juice, and hibiscus, is a vibrant pink hue that pops against the soft pink flamingo teapot. At home, mix up your own batch cocktail and serve it in a flamingo teapot like this one from the 1980s on Etsy (if you can snag it; there’s only one in stock), or this teapot with matching flamingo mugs from Amazon.
An animal planter
Who knew cocktails could be so cute? At Whisler’s in Austin, the punch changes daily and is served in a vintage animal-shaped planter. Among the darling menagerie are a dog, fish, and bunny. You can mix up a punch of your choice at home, too, and serve it in a dog planter like this Etsy option from the 1960s or these sweet bunny planters from Amazon.
A volcano bowl
Flaming drinks are Tiki bar hallmarks. Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco serves its Top Notch Volcano punch in a volcano bowl (also known as a scorpion bowl) with a fiery garnish. Similar drinks are found throughout the country at other Tiki bars and hibachi restaurants. Next time you host your own tropical gathering, you can buy a ceramic volcano bowl from World Market, flaming garnish optional.
You probably aren’t going to make a cocktail in a novelty lightbulb glass on a whim. But if the occasion calls for it, channel Canon in Seattle where novelty glassware reigns supreme. In addition to its Bright Ideas tipple served in a lightbulb, Canon also serves a Yoda tiki glass, an owl shaped glass, and a glass hooked up to an IV bag full of a red-hued blend of cognac, bourbon, floral Creme Yvette, spicy Ancho Reyes, and raspberry (the drink is wittily called Transfusion). The lightbulb glass is available on Amazon.
The Porthole infuser
The Porthole infuser, designed by Martin Kastner of Crucial Detail, caused a stir when it first appeared at the Aviary in Chicago. It’s about two inches wide and holds 13 fluid ounces, but when it’s filled with fruit, herbs, and liquid, it’s striking. While the vessel provides a cool way to make a cocktail, it can also be used to infuse oils, teas, and other beverages. You can purchase your own directly from the studio that designed it.
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