Let’s talk about the proper glassware for cider. Sure, there’s probably no less than 100 other opinion articles on this topic online already, but we feel compelled to add our point of view and make a few recommendations for glasses that will help you get the most enjoyment out of cider tasting and drinking.
For me personally, there’s nothing more annoying than going out to a bar or restaurant and having a cider served to me in a typical bar “pint glass”. (I put pint glass in quotes because really it’s a shaker glass and, with a few exceptions, no drink should ever be served in one…but that’s an entirely different debate.) Depending on the scene and the situation, I may ask for a wine glass or any kind of glass with a tapered mouth. The second most annoying thing is the indignant look I get when I make this request.
I know what a lot of you are probably thinking, “Wow, Matthew is really a cider snob!” In some aspects that’s probably true, but I don’t know anyone who would be excited to receive a glass of wine in a shaker glass. When you order a glass of wine or a specific style of craft beer, it is expected that it will be served in appropriate glassware and the same should hold true for cider.
Wine glasses have evolved to their modern shape to serve a very specific purpose. The most important feature is the tapered mouth. That tapered mouth ensures that as you sip the wine (or in our case, cider) the aromas from the wine are focused and directed toward your nose. That narrow opening doesn’t allow the aromatics to escape before being enjoyed. Another benefit of the the narrow mouth is the ease of swirling wine or cider.
Similar to wine, you will get more aromatics out of cider if you swirl it first. The wide body with narrow mouth makes swirling a little easier. More specifically, it makes it less likely that you’ll spill your coveted beverage when swirling it. The importance of swirling cider cannot be understated. During a cider pairing dinner, our Editor In Chief, Elisabeth, asked Angry Orchard’s own head cidermaker Ryan Burk about what he looks for in glassware when he is drinking cider. His answer? “Any glass that lets me stick my nose in and swirl without losing too much cider.”
So, while some of the larger commercial producers like Angry Orchard and Crispin have designed their own branded glassware for cider, both specialty drinkware companies and mass manufacturers like Libbey have started introducing cider glass sets to the market to provide a growing array of glasses for drinking cider.
Here’s our path to finding the best glass for drinking cider.
The Cider Tasting Glasses We’ve Tried to Date
To start with, I thought it might be worthwhile to look at some cider glasses that I have accumulated through the years from cideries and cider tasting events.
First off, the Angry Orchard EDU glass stands out as the odd one. EDU is a cider that Angry Orchard produced in the style of Basque sidra. Sidra stands alone in many, many ways (e.g. style, glassware, pouring technique, pour volume, etc.) I’ll get to the specifics about sidra toward the end of this article.
Ignoring the EDU glass for a moment, the rest of the glasses have one thing in common…a tapered mouth. During the Golden Apples event during New York City Cider Week 2017 Dan Wilson from Slyboro Ciderhouse noted that cider is, “…really a white wine made with apples…” and that statement provides a hint as to how we should approach glassware with cider.
You might notice throughout some of my older reviews, I have used a variety of different glasses for tasting cider. What I look for in glassware has changed as I learned more about cider. While I have currently settled on a preferred glass (a Rastal Teku) for producing reviews, I’m always on the lookout for new glass shapes. Let’s take a look at the glasses I’ve used.
From left to right: Libbey Hard Cider Glass, stemless wine glass, Rastal Teku glass, Riedel Vinum Port glass, 33 Books Cider Tasting Mug
The first glass that I used when I started getting serious about cider is the original Libbey Hard Cider glass. I still remember searching online for proper cider glasses and this was the result I saw over and over again. And that’s still true, you can buy this glass at a number of online retailers, including Amazon.
I like that the glass fits comfortably in my hand. I also like that it looks like it could be a specialty beer glass or, more importantly, it doesn’t look like a wine glass. Cider often looks just enough like beer that when drinking it from a wine-like glass in social situations you end up getting a lot of questions about why you’re drinking beer from a wine glass.
I find that the opening is a little too wide for fine cider appreciation. I like it just fine for sessioning ciders on a hot summer day, but it doesn’t work very well for my reviewing purposes. The opening is just a little too wide to really focus the aromas.
I moved on from the Libbey glass to a stemless wine glass. Just a short side story about this glass: My wife and I were in Steamboat, Colorado for a wedding and when we checked into our condo we found that there were no wine glasses, and the rest of the glassware was terrible for wine or cider. Of course, the first stop after checking in was the liquor store so we could stock up for the weekend. While standing in line to pay I saw the glass that you see to the right. If you look closely in some older reviews, you might just see the Steamboat script (backwards) on the back of the glass.
I liked the glass enough that a) it came home with me and b) I started using it for my reviews. The mouth is nicely tapered and does a fair job of focusing aromas and the shape is very comfortable to hold.
The biggest drawback for me was that my cider tended to get warm as I held the glass. Sometimes a cider is better enjoyed at a warmer temperature than you might normally store it. However, when I wanted to keep my cider cold, this glass just didn’t work for me.
From the “Steamboat glass” I moved on to the Riedel Vinum port wine glass. I’m a big fan of port wine and one day I just decided to try a little cider in this port glass. I immediately knew that I had stumbled onto something good.
I love this glass for cider. For quite a while this was my go-to glass for all cider consumption. It has a narrow opening and a nice low-ish profile. Being a port glass, it holds only 8 ounces. For me, a smaller glass helps make a bottle of cider last a little longer.
In the time since I first started using this glass I have found that the opening is a little narrower than I prefer. These days, I only use this glass for ice cider, pommeau, calvados, and other dessert ciders.
Why the Rastal Teku Glass is Tops for Cider
On a cider tasting trip to Seattle, I was introduced to Rastal Teku Glasses. Upon returning from Seattle, I sought out a Teku glass of my own and it has since become the only glass I use for reviews.
The Teku was designed by “an Italian sensory analyst and a top craft beer brewer”. While it was designed for craft beer, I find that it works amazingly well for cider too.
This glass checks all of the boxes for me for reviewing purposes. The opening is the perfect diameter to allow my nose into the glass when I take a sip. It swirls cider incredibly well and the shape lends itself well to not spilling.
The Teku is offered in two sizes, 330 mL (11.2 oz) – $20 via Kegworks, and 425 mL (14.4 oz) – also $22 via KegWorks. I have (and love) the 330 mL version. But… a set of 6 Rastal Teku glasses in the 14.2oz size goes for just under $50 at Amazon, so it’s a better value if you want to host cider pairing dinners. The Teku is also a very thin and delicate piece of glassware so if you are prone to breaking glasses easily, it never hurts to have spares!
Finally, I want to mention the 33 Books Cider Tasting Mug. You can find our in-depth review of this mug here.
In the time since I reviewed the mug, it has become my go-to everyday cider drinking vessel. The only thing keeping this from being featured in my reviews is the difficulty in getting good photos of cider in the mug.
Why Spanish cider (sidra) has its own glassware
I mentioned earlier that I would discuss Basque sidra and how different rules apply to its glassware. Sidra is still, meaning there is no carbonation to help bring the aromas out of the cider and into your nose. With that in mind, a narrow opening probably won’t do a whole lot to enhance sidra.
The traditional way to pour sidra is known as the long pour. In short, you hold the bottle in one hand that is fully outstretched above your head and the glass in your other hand, as low as that arm will reach. The glass should be held at roughly a 45 degree angle, or maybe a little less as you get better with the long pour.
You then pour a long stream of sidra from bottle to glass allowing the sidra to hit the inside wall of the glass. As the sidra hits the glass, it splashes (hopefully mostly into the glass, though some of it will inevitably splash out) and aerates itself, creating a sort of carbonation. (Here’s an old video of me practicing the long pour for an example.)
Tradition is that you never pour more than what you can drink at once. If you pour too much at one time and let the glass sit for even a minute, you lose that “carbonation” and all of the character it brings to the sidra. For many people it is customary to pour, drink, and then dump out any remaining sidra.
Some sidra glasses that I have used have had very thin glass. I have read that thin glass helps with the traditional long pour. The theory is that the thinner glass actually reverberates when the sidra hits it, thus further aerating the sidra during the pour.
The sidra glass that I am currently using is a Vicrila Hostelvia Vaso Sidra Maxi 50. To be honest, it’s a pretty run-of-the-mill sidra glass, but it’s the right shape and is a good size at 500 mL. The Vaso Sidra Maxi glass is a little thicker than I would prefer, but finding good sidra glasses in the United States has proven to be quite a challenge. (Note: Vicrila does offer the Hostelvia Vaso Sidra Maxi Extra Fino which is essentially the same shape with thinner glass. Vicrila is 100% Spanish owned and is based in Bilbao, Spain; their glasses appear to be widely available throughout Europe and virtually non-existent here in the United States.)
Final words on finding the best Cider glassware
Cider is still maturing in its rebirth in the United States, so a learning curve is to be expected. One way to speed up that learning process is to have educated cider drinkers who can then educate waitstaff and bartenders who may not understand the nuances of cider.
If you or the staff at your favored watering hole want to learn even more about cider you can direct them to The United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM)‘s Certified Cider Professional (CCP) program which is an“…accreditation program designed for distributors, servers and others who are interested in becoming bona fide experts on all things cider.” The Level 1 exam is currently available to all and the Level 2 exam will officially launch at CiderCon 2019.
In short, some glassware presents ciders in different ways than others. The reality is cider is best enjoyed out of whatever glass you have on hand and want to use. Even drinking cider straight from a bottle or can is fine…just enjoy the cider!
I am always on the lookout for newer and better glassware to test with cider, and these Luigi Bormioli Cider Glasses are the latest to have piqued my interest. Any new glasses that I get to try for a prolonged period may be added to this article at a later date.