Are Coffee Mugs the New Wine Glasses?

Is it time to forsake stemware and eschew your wine glasses? One writer advocates shedding preconceived notions of proper vessels, and embracing the mug.
Photo by Tracy Allan / Q36 Creative

Before I went off to college, I bought myself a big, purple coffee mug. It fit perfectly in my hand, and it kept hot things hot and cold things cold. It became my all-encompassing vessel: ice cream, oatmeal, ramen, coffee, tea and, yes, wine. Mostly rosé, often out of a box.

As a food and drinks writer and editor, my glassware collection has grown to impressive proportions, but I sometimes still reach for a thick ceramic mug for my wine. And I don’t apologize for it, because it’s a good way to drink. Here’s why:

Mugs are big. There’s more room to swirl and plenty of surface area for aromas to express themselves. This puts them a step above the little juice glasses that some Italian restaurants use.

In casual, intimate settings, a coffee mug is the ultimate way to dispel any sense of formality or fussiness.

You have ideal temperature control. Short of an insulated travel cup, nothing will maintain temperature better than a coffee mug. They also have handles, so you don’t have to worry about body heat.

They’re heavy. That’s not a quality one generally looks for in a wine glass, but if you’re reclining or walking around, that heft feels solid and hard to topple.

They feel relaxed. In casual, intimate settings, a coffee mug is the ultimate way to dispel any sense of formality or fussiness.

The ancient Greeks drank out of mug-like vessels. Some of the original wine drinkers used short, wide ceramic bowls with handles. Who am I to quibble?

When I mentioned this proclivity to unwind with a mug of wine to my Wine Enthusiast colleagues, one asked how I could see the wine properly. The truth is, I can’t.

That’s why I also have stems.

Which is the Best Glass for Sparkling Wine?

I used to drink bad wine out of the wrong cup because that’s what was available. Now, it’s a choice.

I’m lucky enough to sip rare wines from impossibly thin glasses in elegant restaurants; to have good, vintage Champagne and flutes to clink when I’m celebrating; and to spend Sunday afternoons lingering over avocado toast and funky natural wines in hand-blown glasses. But some days, the thing that feels most luxurious is to put on my pajamas and watch an old movie with my cat, dog, boyfriend and a $13 bottle of Beaujolais.

And at those times, there’s no better “glass” than a big old mug.

Get Your Glass in Gear

If you or someone you know still drinks exclusively out of a mug, stop it! Some good guidelines for buying wine glasses are to look for the thinnest rim you can afford, and not to buy anything too tall for standard cabinets. Beyond that, it’s all about finding the glasses in your price range that fit with your personal aesthetic and feel the best in your hand.

Start with white wine glasses. If you can only have one shape, this is the most all-purpose design.

Add some flutes. Nothing says “fancy adult celebration” like a set of flutes and some decent bubbles to drink out of them. Though, of course, white wine glasses can be used for bubbly as well—some folks even prefer them.

Now you’re ready for red wine glasses. Big fishbowls are fun, but don’t get them so large that they won’t fit in your cabinets.

Just for kicks, get some delicate Port or dessert wine glasses. I like dainty little tulips for drinking, but they also double as toothpick or mint holders when I throw a party.

Though Senior Editor Layla Schlack occasionally enjoys using the “wrong” drinking vessel, she absolutely draws the line at red plastic cups.

Published on August 21, 2017
Topics: Editor Speak
About the Author
Layla Schlack
Senior Editor

Schlack has written and edited stories about cooking, dining, spirits, entertaining and travel, as well as developed recipes, in various editorial roles at Fine Cooking and Hemispheres. Her writing has won a NATJA award. When she’s not editing Wine Enthusiast’s food, spirits and entertaining stories, she can usually be found clanging around her Connecticut kitchen, beverage in hand, trying to re-create some tasty meal she’s had over the course of her travels. Email: lschlack@wineenthusiast.net




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