Glassware is the key
Drinking is most often a social endeavor, so as long as what you’re sipping is delicious, chances are you’re not contemplating the vessel it’s served in. It’s an easy thing to take for granted.
But there’s a reason the highball your Tom Collins is served in is also known as a “collins” glass. It’s the perfect vehicle for a long, fizzy sipper. There really is just no other way to have it.
Tracking down the ideal glassware for home use can be as frustrating as apartment hunting; sets of glasses sold in retail stores tend to carry a high price tag and are often not exactly what you’re looking for.
As an alternative to retail stores, try seeking out glassware in antique and thrift stores. While adding some serious character to your home bar, it’s also way more fun than navigating the endless aisles of Ikea.
What to look for
You could separate your secondhand store search into three categories: thrift, antique and vintage. I would ignore clothing-focused vintage stores all together. Go to vintage spots specializing in home goods. Chances are you can run into some excellent (and sometimes functional) mid-century cocktail shakers and serving trays.
Antique stores are more worthwhile in your glassware search. You can often find sets of coupe style glasses at a friendlier price relative to the old world furniture filling the store. At an average of $5 a pop, these glasses are always more unique than their retail counterparts.
A few tips…
Keep in mind that if you’re searching for cocktail friendly glasses, you have to make sure they can hold 4-5 ounces. Use your own judgement on anything significantly larger than that size. A tiny drink in an oversized glass looks awkward.
It’s a no brainer to recommend thrift stores for a bargain, but don’t assume the quality is less than good. I’ve found some great quality glassware in neighborhood thrift stores. A pro tip is to visit thrift stores in high income residential neighborhoods. You’d be amazed at what people give away.
Where to go in New York City
In New York City, that means it’s time to hike out to the Salvation Army branches in the Upper West Side and Chelsea. (Remember: 50% off specials on Wednesdays.) In Brooklyn, the Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights branches of Housing Works always stock a generous selection of antique glassware at bargain prices.
Far from a major city?
Some of the greatest resources for antique glasses and barware are at your fingertips right now: Ebay and Etsy. Searching for “antique bar ware” or “cocktail glasses” yield mixed results, so just like any store, you need to do some digging. Fortunately, you can set your own price range.
This might sound counter intuitive, but once you’re done glassware hunting, go back and visit Ikea. You’ll inevitably be needing some cheap shelves and racks to store all your precious bounty.