The Proper Glass For Drinking Cognac Neat Depends On Your Experience

There are two primary styles of glass that are used for cognac: snifters and tulips. Deciding which one to use is ultimately a matter of preference, but the experts have a clear favorite. Snifters are bulbous with a short stem and a wide middle. They go by many names – brandy snifters, brandy glasses, and balloon glasses. Snifters have a long history dating back to ancient Rome, though the name "snifter" wasn't coined until much later in the 19th century. 

These glasses predate even cognac itself, which wasn't invented until the 1500s. Tulip brandy glasses are a more recent phenomenon but they have quickly become the glass of choice for cognac lovers. Tulip glasses have a longer stem, with a body that narrows in the middle before pluming out. There are two reasons why tulip glasses are preferred over snifters. For one, the way you hold the glass is different. With snifters, you hold it by placing the stem between your fingers and allowing the bottom of the glass to rest in your palm. 

The warmth of your hand will warm the cognac up somewhat. This is by design, but experts say that this mutes the flavors of the cognac. The second main reason for choosing a tulip glass is the nose. Cognac experts claim that tulip glasses give a wider range of smells due to the shape, whereas brandy snifters trap all of the aroma inside the glass leaving you with only the harsh scent of the alcohol.

Why scent matters when drinking cognac

The taste of cognac is unavoidably mixed up with the smell of it. If you take a swig of your drink and get a waft of toasted caramel, vanilla, and apricot, your sense of taste is going to mingle with those scents to form the whole flavor profile of the drink. If all you smell is the burn of alcohol, the same thing will happen, it just won't be as pleasant. You'll still taste the cognac, but the full profile of the drink won't be able to shine through when using a snifter as opposed to a tulip glass since the shape of the glass allows some of the harsher aromas to escape.

Cognac experts definitely talk a lot of smack about brandy snifters. Some go so far as to call for their complete cancellation. But brandy snifters have been used for much longer than tulip glasses for cognac, and you'll still see plenty of cognac lovers using the classic snifters with no real difference to their level of enjoyment. If you know a cognac connoisseur and you're looking to impress them with how hip you are to the latest cognac glassware trends, go for a set of tulip glasses. If you want to feel like a railroad baron chortling over a warm hearth fire, a brandy snifter is just the trick. You can also use tulip and snifter glasses for beer and other beverages.