The term “Martini Glass” has come to be a reference to a relatively specific style of “Cocktail Glass”. The Martini glass is characterized as being a stemmed cocktail glass, with a bowl that has very straight sides at almost a 45-degree angle.
A Martini Glass is not just for Martinis, just as what is commonly referred to as an Old Fashioned Glass is not just for Old Fashioneds. These two glasses have simply taken on the name of the most iconic drink that is served in them.
The Martini Glass through History
The basic form of the Martini Glass is extremely simple and can be found reflected in various drinkware throughout the centuries. It is however not a terribly commonly used design, partially because the straight 45-degree angle of the sides doesn’t make it very practical for holding liquids. it makes far more sense to have more vertical sides on a glass instead.
The Shape of Things To Come
One instance of a "V" shaped glass showing up before not only the Martini, but before the cocktail as well, comes from the painting "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" (circa 1668-1670) by Dutch artist Jan Steen. This painting depicts a several people gathered in a fairly festive atmosphere, and a focal point is a lady holding out what could only be described as a "Martini Glass" while another gentleman does a "long pour" from a pitcher into it. The very fact that such a glass is showing up in the 1600's, if even rarely, is an indication that the mere existence of a glass in this specific form cannot easily be attached to the Martini.
Looking through many pre-prohibition cocktail and bartending books, you will occasionally see images of a glass with almost a similar silhouette to the modern Martini glass, it has a stem, and it has angled straight sides. However, the angle is far steeper than the typical 45 degrees, and it is also a far smaller glass, probably about 2 ounces. It will typically be seen used for liqueurs, or a pousse cafe. Harry Johnson includes an illustration of the "Pousse L'Amour" in his 1888 edition of his "New and Improved Bartenders Manual". The illustration includes an "Yolk of Egg", from which you can surmise the overall size of the glass as being fairly small.
Exactly when the Martini Glass first came onto the scene can be difficult to narrow down. On one hand you could try to point to the various appearances of a glass in this general shape across the centuries and perhaps try to identify one of these as the being the first Martini Glass. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you could try to find when a glassware company first sold a glass that they were listing as a “Martini Glass”. Neither of these are probably the right event to claim as the origin of the Martini glass.
The 1925 Paris Exposition
From time to time, you may encounter comments along the lines of “The modern Martini glass had its debut at the 1925 Paris Exposition”, but with little in the way of additional details. With some sleuthing, there have so far been two possible glasses we’ve found which were on display here that could fit the bill. Both of these glasses were first manufactured in 1924, and they were also both presented as a new take on the common Champagne coupe, which was also often used for cocktails.
The Hagueneau Champagne Glass
One is the Hagueneau champagne glass (Model #5024), designed by René Lalique and manufactured by the Lalique glassworks in Wingen-Sur-Moder. It was fairly stylized with the design embellishments the exposition was focused on and would become known as “Art Deco”. The sides of the glass weren’t quite the simple straight lines we typically attribute to the Martini glass today.
The Ambassador Champagne Glass
The second glass was from the Ambassador line (model # TS240GL) produced by J. & L. Lobmeyr in collaboration with famed architect Oswald Haerdtl, which anybody would immediately recognize as an elegant, but standardly classic, Martini glass. This glass, which is still produced today, is exactly what comes to mind when you think of a “Martini Glass”.
While both of these glasses could be seen as heralding the entrance of the Martini Glass, it is the Ambassador that could very easily “be” the original Martini Glass. This isn’t to say that it was the first glass of this form in which a Martini was served, and since (to the best of our knowledge) was never directly sold “as” a Martini Glass (at least until modern day), there is still some room for further discovery. But suffice it to say, we are currently willing to say that the Ambassador, in 1925, at the Paris Exposition, is the birth of the Martini Glass.
Marketing the Martini Glass
The goal here is to provide some details on when/how the classic Martini glass starts showing up in advertisement. It appears to take a while, with early ads for "Martinis" using other glassware. This begins to show the importance of the Martini as a noteworthy drink being recognized, but the fact they don't use a "Martini Glass" in the ad shows that the glass itself hasn't yet been fully adopted. One thought here, is that by the time the Martini Glass has started taking hold, brands might not immediately incorporate it into their ads, but instead keep using the same glass they had been using in previous years, thinking that this is the glass their brand is recognized by, and being reluctant to move to something else. It is also possible that there was "a" brand that first adopted the Martini Glass, and other brands didn't want to be associated with it until they had to.
Selling the Martini Glass
For this section we would like to try to find when various glassware companies started selling the glass specifically "as" a "Martini Glass", this could/should also detail when the martini glass "shape" started to regularly appear as a "cocktail" glass instead of a champagne glass
- "As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young" by Jan Steen, c. 1668-1670 Wikipedia.org
- Plate #6 - Pousse L'Amour Harry Johnson's New And Improved Bartenders Manual (1888) pp.65
- "Design Moment: Martini glass, 1925" The Irish Times, November 30, 2019
- "Why the martini glass is a classic, despite its shape" The Economist, October 10, 2018
- "The Iconic Cocktail Glass" Absolut
- "Pandemic Objects: The Cocktail Glass" Victoria and Albert Museum, August 20, 2020
- "The Stories Behind 4 Classic Drink Glasses" Sip Magazine, April 3, 2018
- "Dreams Made Real" The Sunday Age, 2008
- Met Museum Art Deco Collection: Hageneau
- Victoria and Albert Museum Collections
- Rene Lalique Hagueneau Glass RLalique.com -The Worldwide Gathering Place Of René Lalique Enthusiasts & R. Lalique Collectors
- "Ambassador" Set No. 240 Martini Glass by Oswald Haerdtl InCollect.com, Woburn-MA
- J. & L. Lobmeyr Ambassador glassware collection #240
- Oswald Haerdtl, Ambassador Service Stemware, 1924 The Museum of Modern Art
- J. & L. Lobmeyr Ambassador glassware collection #240
- "Ambassador" Oswald Haerdtl Martini Glass from 1925 (Oswald Haerdtl Martini glass from 1925 Paris Exposition)
- "Ambassador" Set No. 240 Martini Glass by Oswald Haerdtl (Adeeni Design Group)
- Dreams Made Real (René Lalique Martini glass from 1925 Paris Exposition)
- History of the Martini Glass Jared Brown, Sipsmith