Though I’ve long been obsessed with all things drinky, I’d never cared about tall glasses until recently. A mismatched collection of Ikea highballs and chunky T.J. Maxx Collins glasses have followed me from apartment to apartment. They did the job, containing a sip of water or a pour of seltzer or sometimes a Paloma.
In recent years, though, highballs—that is, the simplest alcoholic drinks, often just a mix of liquor and lots of soda in a tall glass, though sometimes with additional accoutrements—have become a thing, in part due to the clever marketing of a Japanese whisky company that installs fancy bubbler machines at willing bars. These contraptions dispense extra-carbonated whisky-sodas the way a draft system dispenses beer. The bubbles feel more numerous and frenetic than those in a flute of Champagne, and the whisky’s chilled in advance so the whole drink stays fizzy. Those details add up to a refreshing, low-alcohol drink that’s much more than the sum of its parts. It’s an especially nice way to keep drinking whisky as the weather warms.
But you don’t need a branded machine or extra-fizzy soda to make a highball feel special. And to be honest, you can skip the whisky. There is one thing that really helps, though: a really nice glass.
Tall glasses get no love. We covet the coupe and Nick and Nora, elegant glass shapes that pushed the old triangular martini glass out of the cocktail spotlight. And who wouldn’t want a collection of low tumblers, carved and faceted like the Neil Lane rock Pilot Pete’s gonna pull out of his pocket any day now. Sure, a ho-hum tall glass has little going for it besides its easy-to-grasp circumference. But if you invest in a sleek Collins glass, it’ll improve much more of your everyday drinking, because it feels nice, whether you’re sipping booze or not.
As a “you-made-it-through-a-cross-country-move-and-only-broke-a-few-highballs” gift to myself this past fall, I bought a box of these Schott Zwiesel Basic Bar 13.1-ounce glasses. They cost about $5 apiece—more, perhaps, than my T.J. Maxx scores, but nothing like a high-end wine stem. The upgrade is real, though; these glasses feel incredible to drink from. In part, this is due to their featherlight weight: my last remaining older glass is the same height, but weighs 9 ¾ ounces, due to thicker material all the way up, and a heavy, bubble-textured base. In contrast, the Schott Zweisel glasses are a full three ounces lighter: slimmer all the way around and less heavy at the bottom. They’re exceedingly delicate-feeling, but I haven’t broken one yet. They’re made of the same Tritan crystal (strengthened with titanium and zirconium oxide instead of lead) that Scott Zweisel uses in its wine glasses, which have survived my dishwasher going on 10 years now.
I find myself reaching for my new tall glasses every time I’m thirsty—they make iced tea feel more sophisticated, and half a shared beer feel more complete. I think it’s possible they actually encourage me to hydrate. Since we added these glasses to our arsenal, I started wrapping up dinner parties with a round of my favorite mineral water. Sometimes there’s whisky, too. But we hardly need it.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious