For a while, the V-shaped Martini glass was the bane of my existence. In my brief stint as a server, the restaurant I worked at served only cloying Martini variations, in the shallowest possible glassware, ensuring that I’d spend all night spilling vanilla vodka on myself and my customers. According to Brian Evans, director of bars for Sunday Hospitality, which includes the Lobby Bar at New York’s Hotel Chelsea, this exact experience is what made so many bartenders turn away from the V-glass in the first place. “When the renaissance of modern mixology started to take shape, what we had to emerge from was every weird, blasphemous variation on a Martini,” he says. The V-glass had become the glass of Lemon Drops, Cosmos and Appletinis, so bartenders turned to the coupe or the Nick & Nora to connote a certain seriousness.
Where the coupe glass is reminiscent of a feminine body unencumbered, a soft breast, the V-shaped glass is, by contrast, a bullet bra. It is sexy like platform spike heels and a drawn-on beauty mark are sexy, like a whip is sexy. It is sharp and hard and a little bitchy. For a long time, the V-glass has been maligned as being fragile, unwieldy and prone to spillage. But as the Martini’s—and indeed the broader ’tini category’s—rein surges on, it’s only natural that its attendant glass make a triumphant return, too.
When trying to create the “timeless” vibes at Lobby Bar, there was no choice but to serve its two takes on the Martini in the classic V. Lobby Bar uses a glass from John Jenkins barware with a dramatically long stem. “What we wanted to do was exaggerate the personality of a Martini,” says Evans. It’s not a coy take on a Martini, it’s a capital-M Martini.
The V also doesn’t have to be unbalanced, as it’s often thought of. Ryan Chetiyawardana, of Silver Lyan in Washington, D.C., says the more vertical V shapes, with “a narrower rim and deeper bowl, make the drinking experience more like a wine glass than the fishbowl Martini glasses of the ’80s and ’90s.” Chetiyawardana likewise uses glassware from John Jenkins, whose pieces, he says, are designed to draw the eyes up toward the drink, and “felt a little more iconic, rather than disco.” Ashley Santoro, the beverage director at New York’s Golden Age Hospitality, agrees that the V-glass brings an extra air of sophistication. “We were all very much on the same page that we wanted something a little bit more classic and beautiful,” she says. Bartenders at Deux Chats also use a Martini glass from John Jenkins, while at fellow Golden Age property The Nines, the drinks come in a more ornate, ’20s-inspired V from Bormioli Rocco. “It’s a real drink, and I think the glassware should kind of match that,” Santoro notes.
That seriousness and tradition are why Takuma Watanabe, who recently opened Martiny’s in Manhattan’s Gramercy neighborhood, has never strayed from the V-glass. “I believe in the classics,” he says. His glassware comes from Kimura, as he wanted to stand out from the number of American bars that rely on thick, dishwasher-sturdy glasses whose design, Watanabe says, adversely affects the Martini-drinking experience. “The first time you touch the Martini, your lip is not touching too much glass. You feel elegant,” he says. The circular shape of a Nick & Nora or a coupe halts the flow of liquid and aroma, while in the V, it’s as if for a moment your mouth and the cocktail are the same being.
The return of the V-glass is an overt consequence of Martini Mania in general, a response to people craving strong, stirred classics in upscale settings that in no way resemble their apartments. But its stark return also signals the return of the artifice of glitz. This is not the time for all-purpose, sturdy glassware. It’s the time for glassware that’s a little fussy, that however well balanced, takes graceful, exaggeratedly sophisticated movements to keep steady. “The joys of the V-shaped Martini glass are less about the practical drinking experience and more about pure vibes,” says Chetiyawardana, “putting yourself in the headspace of generations of people for whom that iconic silhouette represented an end to the work day or something to celebrate.”