January 10, 2008

People are drinking way too much. Blame Crate & Barrell.

WaPo explains. The classic martini is 3 ounces, served in a glass no bigger than 5 ounces — the idea being to preserve the coldness through the entire sipping process.
Bette Kahn, spokeswoman for Crate and Barrel, tells me that "martini" glasses in the 11- to-13-ounce range are the store's bestsellers. When I ask why cocktail glasses have gotten so big, she retorts, "You know how they've supersized the McDonald's hamburger?"...

Even contemporary guidebooks such as A.J. Rathbun's comprehensive "Good Spirits," published a few months ago, acknowledge that traditional cocktails were served in glasses as small as three ounces. "A drink this size, it was thought, stayed chilled through its consumption," Rathbun writes. He even invokes the great Jazz Age bartender Harry Craddock's adage that a cocktail should be consumed quickly, "while it's still laughing at you."
Should we blame the businesses that accommodate to and enable our gluttony? We've lost the ability to perceive a portion size — and not just for martinis. In the 1960s, a normal drinking glass was 8 ounces. A juice glass was less than half that size, appropriate for the squeezed juice of one orange. You didn't slake your thirst with juice. And now, people apparently slake their thirst with martinis — or are those martini glasses mostly full of juice?

55 comments:

dax said...

Hey, size matters!

goesh said...

I've never seen so many fat people in my life - it seems most everyone is getting fatter by the year. I'm geezer enough to remember when a person could get the small Coke bottle out of a machine and now I think they are becoming collectable. My sister has lost 50 lbs. in 2 years by just cutting back the portion size of everything she eats and I think this time she will keep the weight off.

Middle Class Guy said...
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Middle Class Guy said...

Gin, splash of vermouth. Three olives. Canapes. Dinner with all the food groups. I think the glasses are so big for aesthetic reasons. You don’t haaaaaave to fill them to the brim.

AllenS said...

Why have cocktail glasses gotten so big?

Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.

Middle Class Guy said...

Said it before:

If you get a bulging gut, thunder thighs, and a triple barstool posterior, whose fault is it?
Gotta blame someone for our own failings. Will C&B be sued?

These glasses are a convenience. I do not have to refill them as often.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

...are those martini glasses mostly full of juice?

Yup. "Pineapple juice."

Bissage said...

(1) Mr. Wilson has a fussbudget thing going more like this than this. NTTAWWT!

(2) The martini glass (oops!) isn’t the only poison-delivery system now fashionably big. A fine set of these will spice up even the most ordinary of smack parties!

Irene Done said...

I'm kinda surprised the C&B spokeswoman didn't mention that a lot of martini glasses are purchased for display -- you're always going to choose a bigger glass for a more impressive display -- and double as shrimp cocktail servers as well as dessert bowls.

Pogo said...

1. Glasses for martinis are perhaps larger, but this only means the imbibers lose the necessary chill for the majority of the drink, and need to add ice, apparently impairing the martini charm.

2. Although the portion size for alcohol was smaller, at least for martinis, people in the past drank alot of them.

3. And US per capita alcohol use has actually declined:
**According to Singh, Gopal K, Hoyert, Donna L in Human Biology, Oct 2000, we are in the third decade of consistent declines in US cirrhosis mortality and total per capita alcohol consumption in general (and per capita consumption of hard liquor in particular).

Total alcohol consumption peaked in 1981 and declined after that so that total intake in 1992 was around that of 1965.
(see BMJ images here)

So this is just a WaPo invention.

4. Side note: the huge increase in the late 60s and entire 70s is consistent with the tanking economy and social unrest, reversing after Reagan was elected. Thanks, Mr. President!

bucket said...

I run a very small bar at a private club, I make a special club drink and serve it in a 9 oz cup because it is a strong drink and because that is how it tastes best. I have had only a small group (maybe 5 people) complain mostly that it is a kiddie cup and they need an adult size, everyone else is totally enamored by it's strength and medicinal uses.

I think some things need to come in the appropriate packaging, a 13 oz. martini glass is in line with those giant mad hatter tea cups for lattes and such. Just over sized to the point of being a wild reinterpretation of the real thing.

MadisonMan said...

I make a special club drink

Can you post the recipe? I'm always up for new ways to drink hard liquor.

Cedarford said...

Juice used to be in 6-8 ounce glasses and I notice that many restaurants serve LARGER sizes mainly on demands of children for larger ones because they have been habituated by schools and parents to hydrate with "healthy nutritious" juice. Which kids like a lot more than water and blossom into little porkers because each square box of 8 oz has 230 calories or so of "natural goodness and vitamins" along with hugh fructose corn syrup.

And, of course, even sedentary obese children can't hydrate on 8 oz of fruit juice so time to go suck on another box.

Good thing the Nutrition Nazis are keeping them away from "nutritionally worthless" diet soda and those awful 120 calorie candy bars!!! Oh, and advising concerned Mom & Dads to "consult the FDA-approved Food Pyramid and feed the porkers lots of good healthy starches that form the Base of the pyramid and "good fruit" (which to kids is the stuff with the highest sugar content)

Paul Zrimsek said...

Yet in the same chapter, Rathbun writes that "there is nothing inherently wrong" with a huge 12-ounce cocktail glass, "as long as the cocktails aren't losing their chill before the last drop." But wouldn't that require gulping them rather than sipping, or drinking them while standing in a walk-in freezer?

So what's your point, Jason Wilson?

Roger said...

I had put on a "couple" of excess pounds a while back, and resolved to get it off. I bough a small kitchen scale and focused on portion control including wine. Continued to eat the same things. Result for me was that I lost about 20 pounds in three months with no other changes.

And its even worse in resaurants where serving sizes are immense. My wife and I can usually make a substantial meal by splitting an appetizer and a salad, or splitting an entree.

bucket said...

MadisonMan:

It is a DarkNStormy but I make my own ginger beer for it. I make it real spicy and sweet so it has a real good kick to it and I use Goslings Black Seal Rum.

ice
1 1/2 oz of rum
top off with ginger beer
lime wedge

Palladian said...

"3. And US per capita alcohol use has actually declined:
**According to Singh, Gopal K, Hoyert, Donna L in Human Biology, Oct 2000, we are in the third decade of consistent declines in US cirrhosis mortality and total per capita alcohol consumption in general (and per capita consumption of hard liquor in particular).

Total alcohol consumption peaked in 1981 and declined after that so that total intake in 1992 was around that of 1965."

I'm trying to single-handedly reverse those trends.

Henry said...

Oh sure, the glasses are bigger, but how many cocktail pitchers are Crate and Barrel shipping. (yes, we own one, circa 1950).

For me, the heft and balance of a glass should be considered. Those huge martini glasses are simply top-heavy.

We have a set of bistro glasses in 4 sizes and the 5.5 oz tumbler is clearly the nicest to hold. Milk, water, scotch on the rocks, what have you.

Pogo said...

I'm trying to single-handedly reverse those trends.

No argument here.
Compared to moderate drinking, teetotalling is actually bad for your health, notwithstanding the odious and coercive nannyism the Temperance Movement prefers.

And Jesus even performed a miracle just to make more of it. Don't make Jesus cry!

Original Mike said...

Yeah. That's it! My glass is too big!

save_the_rustbelt said...

I suspect many of those large martini glasses are full of fruity tropical drinks rather than real cocktails.

On the obesity topic, health care providers are spending money to gear up for treating patients with morbid obesity and super morbid obesity.

By the way, only a savage would put a greasy olive in a martini (see James Bond for the proper recipe). Olives are for salads and snacks. :))

Trooper York said...

The number one issue for bar owners is increasing the size of the glass while decreasing the "pour"(the amount of alcohol). That is why rock glasses and beer pints often have a glass insert in the bottom of the glass that extends upward to mean less actual liquid in the drink. Turn over the glass to see if your bartender is ripping you off with these tactics
(after you empty the drink of course).

Roger said...

Martinis: in the (very) old days was once a 2-1 or 3-1 gin and dry vermouth chilled mix with no sweetness at all. Designed to be sipped at a small night club table for two with a small lamp in the middle of the table and to be drunk while smoking a cigarette. (See any 1930s movie for proof). Apparently martinis are starting to morph into tropical rum and tequila-like drinks. Oh the shame....

Trooper York said...

The philosophy of drinking is very interesting. When I was coming up, men drank scotch or rye or a beer if you really weren't drinking. Women enjoyed a Tom Collins or a Manhattan or the occasional martini. Then vodka began to dominate and everything was vodka and cranberry and the sea breeze and bay breezes also became a hit along with the Long Island Ice tea. Rum and coke and various tequila based drinks also had a long run. The cigar craze also lent a shot in the arm into the single malt business. But the advent of the cosmopolitan began the affectation of fruity mixed drinks that has morphed into such abominations as the appletini. When I was a young punk working in the Blarney Stone you basically had two choices; a shot and a beer, or a slap. Good times.

Anthony said...

And its even worse in restaurants where serving sizes are immense. My wife and I can usually make a substantial meal by splitting an appetizer and a salad, or splitting an entree.

Me (us), too. I don't know if the portions have really gotten all that much bigger or not, because my metabolism has shifted such that I simply can't eat as much as I used to. I've gone from a McD's Quarter Pounder and fries to a cheesburger and a few fries. I also remember in my early 20s when I was gettin' the ol' "Freshman/Sophomore 20" (pounds) I ended up just cutting my portion sizes in half and that trimmed me up nicely.

Anyway, someone else wondered the same thing I have: Maybe the bigger glasses is all marketing. Making us think we're getting more, but generally just putting in more mixer and charging more. People think they're getting a way bigger drink when the booze content stays about the same.

former law student said...

I don't know if we're drinking more volume of liquor drinks. If I order a rum and coke at a bar, it comes in a small glass half full of ice, with a shot of rum and enough coke to cover.

In the fruity 70s, drinks like Singapore Slings or Planters Punches were tumblers filled with fruit juice, with plastic scimitars spearing orange slices and maraschino cherries on top. That was the era of drinks made with creme d'everthing. The favorite tipple of my buddy's girlfriend was a Kahlua and cream, which was usually Kahlua with Milnot or other ersatz heartclogging product.

My beef now is with the disappearance of the 12 ounce single soda can. Now, if you want a cold drink, you have to buy a 20 ounce bottle, which contains enough sugar to make a jar of jelly. The serving my mom grew up with was eight ounces.

Anthony said...
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Anthony said...

Martinis! How I plan to survive the next few years!

http://thecatholiclibertarian.blogspot.com/2007/10/how-i-plan-to-survive-another-clinton.html

MadisonMan said...

The serving my mom grew up with was eight ounces.

Six ounces for my Dad. Til Pepsi came along and offered twice as much for a nickel too. (Pepsi-cola is the drink for you!)

Middle Class Guy said...

Trooper York reminds me of an old story. There was once a famous Madison Avenue advertising executive who ordered his staff to only drink gin martinis at theoir business lunches. His reasoning? He would rather clients thought his people were drunk instead of stupid.



Note: vodka has no odor.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

I have actually seen an increase in the availability of 6 oz cans of Coke, Pepsi & the like in this area- not in convience stores, but larger retailers.

I blame the larger portion sizes on the resturants- the extra food probably costs them less than 1/10 of the addition revenue they get from a few ounce increase in price

Middle Class Guy said...

After three Martinis I'm under the table. After four I'm under the host.
Dorothy Parker

Anthony said...

MCG -- I like -- I'll need to remember it.

When asked to describe my politics I explain it this way these days -- "I am always three martinis away from being an anarchist. However, at my age, I tend to pass out after two."

Ignorance is Bliss said...

For me, the heft and balance of a glass should be considered. Those huge martini glasses are simply top-heavy.


Tell me about it. By the third or forth one my glass keeps tipping over!

jeff said...

This is happening with soda pop too - Ms Crate & Barrel wasn't far off with her supersize comment - remember when a 20oz soda was a large - or even a medium?

Now it's a small at Carl's Jr.

32oz is a "standard size" (that's a "Big Gulp" mind you) at others.

Kirk Parker said...

Roger,

"And its even worse in resaurants where serving sizes are immense. My wife and I can usually make a substantial meal by splitting an appetizer and a salad, or splitting an entree."

And your problem is... ? Sounds like you and your wife have come up with a restaurant-ordering solution that works just fine for you.

Meanwhile, I really don't the restaurant serving-size complainers: Do you have to eat it all? Don't the restaurants you go to offer doggie bags? (The lunch place next to my office offers huge portions; I just plan to make two meals out of it when I order there.)

Finally, and most importantly, do the complainers think that the restaurants should be serving the exactly perfect "average" serving size, thereby dissatisfying half their customers? (I repeat, you don't have to eat it all...)

Eric said...

Q. How are martinis like breasts?
A. One is not enough and three is too many.

Roger said...

Kirk: I take your point, and you are, of course, correct; perhaps my initial comment is based on the "clean up your plate before you get dessert" trauma I was subjected to as a child--yeah thats it! repressed clean plate syndrome. Thats my story and I am sticking to it.

Original Mike said...

Me too, Roger. I pretty much have to eat it all. (I suppose I could seek professional help.)

Phelps said...

For a sane Coca-Cola serving, try the "100 calorie" cans, which are 8 oz. They are just the right size for a 12 oz. glass with ice. They are also right for making one tall cuba libre, or two regulars.

BlogDog said...

Last time I bought the largest fountain drink 7-11 sells, I took it home, plumbed it in on my deck and now I have a nice 2-person hot tub.

Kat said...

As a bartender and a sommelier student, I run into something similar with wine. A proper Bordeaux glass is large, oversized so that you can properly appreciate the nose on such a flavourful and complex wine. Burgundy glasses are a round, shallow bowl, but still larger than the glasses most people remember their parents drinking from. Bartenders nowadays feel the need to compensate for such a large glass by pouring more than the 5oz considered "normal" by experts.

As a result, people end up drinking quite a bit more than when having an aperitif or a glass of wine with dinner at home.

The same thing is happening with drinks. The huge cocktail glasses (they're not actually martini glasses, those are no more than 5oz and must be particularly thin and have a specific depth of bowl and slant of sides to be considered "proper") are becoming so prevalent in clubs and lounges that consumers expect them everywhere. The cocktails that go into these glasses are usually half mixer, and not nearly as strong as a true martini. This not only increases the calories in a drink, but it also makes them that much sweeter, so drinkers end up consuming more over the course of an evening. The large glasses do a disservice to a properly made drink.

Trooper York said...

So true Kat, so true. Plus the problem of the arguments you get when you serve a martini in a "true" martini glass. The shape and size of the glassware is one of the most important decisions a new bar can make and it so often escapes the notice of the novice bar owner.

MadisonMan said...

I think I'll have a nice gin martini tonight. I'd like to try Death's Door gin -- it's all Wisconsin-made, you know -- but the visa bill just came. Biggest ever. Death's Door will have to wait.

Meade said...

It's been my personal observation that people who drink too much tend to blame it on anything but their own poor judgement.

• Reductions in driving after drinking saved more than 150,000 lives between 1982 and 2001 — more than the combined total saved by increases in seat belt use, airbags, and motorcycle and bicycle helmets.
• Today alcohol is involved in 40% of traffic deaths.
Among persons aged 16 to 20, the percentage is 36.
• Of particular importance for prevention efforts is the recent realization that alcohol abuse, dependence, and related problems such as alcohol-impaired driving must be addressed throughout the lifespan, not just at middle age.
• NIH studies revealed that young people who began drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence during their lifetime than those who began drinking at age 21 or later.
• Those that drank before age 15 are also seven times more likely to report having been in a traffic crash because of drinking both during adolescence and adulthood.
• The number of alcohol-related traffic deaths among 16 to 20 year-olds in the U.S. decreased from 5,244 in 1982 to 2,115 in 2004 in large measure because of the legal drinking age of 21 and Zero Tolerance Laws.
• Several NIH-supported studies demonstrated that comprehensive, community-based intervention programs can further reduce traffic deaths and other alcohol-related harm beyond that achieved through age 21 drinking laws.


- National Institutes of Health

Steve Wood said...

The cocktails that go into these glasses are usually half mixer, and not nearly as strong as a true martini.

That's not always true. Not long ago, I ate at Maggiano's Little Italy, a chain of (duh) Italian restaurants. I ordered a martini. It came in a glass the size of a bucket (at least a 10 oz glass) that was almost full, and it was just vodka and vermouth. I guesstimate that it was the equivalent of 3 "proper" martinis. No, I didn't HAVE to drink the whole thing, but, temptation being what it is, I did and essentially missed the rest of the meal. Oh, I ate, but I was too drunk to taste much of anything.

This drink inflation business is a topic near and dear to my heart. I love martinis and love ordering them in restaurants as well as making them at home. However, I usually just want the pleasant buzz that comes from one; sometimes, I enjoy the pleasure of ordering a second one. That is impossible when the first one is made with 4 or 5 oz of gin/vodka.

In the good old days, with standard martinis (made with 2 oz of gin or vodka), one could titrate one's drinking. Sure, some people guzzled one after another, but others could stretch them out over the evening or enjoy the pleasantly wicked experience of ordering a second martini without getting completely blitzed.

Finally, from an aesthetic perspective, the smaller glasses of yore are far more elegant, especially when held between the fingers of a beautiful, well-dressed woman, than the clumsy, overgrown monstrosities of today.

Eric said...

What is your ratio of gin to vermouth?

I like 3.75:1, +3 olives shaken not stirred.

I usually put 3.75 oz Tangeray gin and 1 oz extra dry vermouth in a traditional shaker 1/2 full of ice. Pour it into a large Lennox crystal glass. Since I keep the gin in the frezer and the vermouth in the fridge, I get little ice snowflakes on the top.

Eric said...

What is your ratio of gin to vermouth?

I like 3.75:1, +3 olives shaken not stirred.

I usually put 3.75 oz Tangeray gin and 1 oz extra dry vermouth in a traditional shaker 1/2 full of ice. Pour it into a large Lennox crystal glass. Since I keep the gin in the frezer and the vermouth in the fridge, I get little ice snowflakes on the top.

Steve Wood said...

I usually put 3.75 oz Tangeray gin and 1 oz extra dry vermouth in a traditional shaker 1/2 full of ice. Pour it into a large Lennox crystal glass. Since I keep the gin in the frezer and the vermouth in the fridge, I get little ice snowflakes on the top.

The frozen gin and vermouth ice crystals are nontrad, but, hey, it's your martini.

What you've mixed is what used to be known as a double martini. That is, it has twice as much liquor as a classic martini. Furthermore, Tanqueray, like most premium gins, is almost 95 proof (47.5% alcohol), whereas cheaper gin and most of the vodka, whiskey and rum sold in the US is 80 proof (40% alcohol). IOW, that's a potent potable you're mixing up there, Eric. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

As for ratio in my own martinis, I don't measure the vermouth by the ounce. I use 1.5 or 2 oz of gin (sometimes vodka) and a capful of vermouth, using the cap from the vermouth bottle. That's pretty dry - something like 6:1 or 7:1. Your 3.75:1 martini is closer the classic 4:1 measure. Then again, I don't like vermouth.

Revenant said...

I prefer martinis when they aren't that cold. Room temperature, even. The main effect of serving chilled drinks is to numb the taste buds and prevent you from tasting the drink.

Kat said...

Two comments (and I apologize in advance for the length):

First, to address meade's points from NIH

"Reductions in driving after drinking saved more than 150,000 lives between 1982 and 2001..."

True, and they are talking about lives across ages, not just underage. Let's get this out of the way. Drinking and driving is stupid and very wrong. Heck, I work in the business, and I can't tell you how many of my cohorts will go to a tasting, down a bunch of wine, and then get in their cars and go home.

"Today alcohol is involved in 40% of traffic deaths.
Among persons aged 16 to 20, the percentage is 36."

Note that the percentage is actually lower for those under the "legal drinking age."

"Of particular importance for prevention efforts is the recent realization that alcohol abuse ... must be addressed throughout the lifespan, not just at middle age."

Of course. Establish a bad pattern early, and it will stick with you. I once heard that if you do something every day for three weeks it becomes a habit. Whether or not this is true doesn't really matter, but the idea that the younger you begin a pattern the harder it is to drop makes sense.

"NIH studies revealed that young people who began drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence during their lifetime than those who began drinking at age 21 or later."

Actually, the NIH studies dealt with youth who began abusing alcohol and binge drinking, not using alcohol responsibly. All you have to do is take a look at the Europeans, who teach their children to drink responsibly. They have a much lower incidence of alcohol-related traffic deaths, and they also have a lower overall incidence of alcoholism. It is neither vilified nor revered in their culture the way it is in ours. In fact, France drinks more than 3 times the amount of wine than we do every year, based on import/export numbers, and we don't hear about the massive numbers of French college students dying in traffic accidents.

"Those that drank before age 15 are also seven times more likely to report having been in a traffic crash because of drinking both during adolescence and adulthood."

Again, we're dealing with a society that has a love/hate relationship with alcohol, and this doesn't demonstrate anything beyond the American problems with self-control that have been discussed here.

"The number of alcohol-related traffic deaths among 16 to 20 year-olds in the U.S. decreased from 5,244 in 1982 to 2,115 in 2004 in large measure because of the legal drinking age of 21 and Zero Tolerance Laws."

ZTL's actually did more to effect change in the rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths than the increase in the drinking age. To show only the stats for ages 16-20 is misleading, as the first point in this post established. (40% overall vs 36% under 21)

"Several NIH-supported studies demonstrated that comprehensive, community-based intervention programs can further reduce traffic deaths and other alcohol-related harm beyond that achieved through age 21 drinking laws."

Age-based laws rarely do anything to benefit society in the long term. The laws surrounding alcohol specifically are a throwback to the Prohibition laws, and are a direct descendant of the Puritan concepts that this country was (unfortunately) founded on. There are a number of studies and publications, especially in recent years, that give the lie to the idea that a drinking age of 21 is at all a good idea.

http://www.youthrights.org is a good source for stats and other info that supports lowering the drinking age (they can be a bit fringe at times, don't hold it against them).

The second point is in response to Steve Wood - I was referring to cocktails such as Cosmos, Kamikazes, and other fruity drinks that are served in cocktail glasses, not Martinis and Manhattans. They are two very different breeds of drink, and most cocktails are made with quite a bit of fruit juice or sour mix that waters down the alcohol.

Eric said...

The frozen gin and vermouth ice crystals are nontrad, but, hey, it's your martini.

What you've mixed is what used to be known as a double martini. That is, it has twice as much liquor as a classic martini. Furthermore, Tanqueray, like most premium gins, is almost 95 proof (47.5% alcohol), whereas cheaper gin and most of the vodka, whiskey and rum sold in the US is 80 proof (40% alcohol). IOW, that's a potent potable you're mixing up there, Eric. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Indeed, I call it a Mountain Man Martini. :) I drink most of it but my wife takes a "wife tax".

Steve Wood said...

Drinking and driving is stupid and very wrong. Heck, I work in the business, and I can't tell you how many of my cohorts will go to a tasting, down a bunch of wine, and then get in their cars and go home.

I guess the question is how much is "a bunch," over how long a period was it consumed, and how big is the person in question.

This is one of those discussions where a disclaimer along the lines of "I'm not defending drunk driving, but ..." seems to be required. So, I'm not defending drunk driving, but there is a difference between driving drunk and driving after drinking. The first is wrong; the second may or may not be wrong, depending on a number of circumstances. That's a distinction that we seem to be losing as some advocates push for legislation that would essentially make it illegal to drive after even one drink. I am temperamentally and politically opposed to neo-prohibitionists and puritanical bluenoses like (insurance-industry-funded) MADD and wish that there were more voices outside the liquor lobby speaking up to say, "enough is enough."

Trooper York said...

Luckily in Brooklyn, I don't drink and drive. I do drink and cab. Or drink and subway. Or drink and stagger from side to side of the sidewalk and bounce from wall to parking meter to wall to lamppost to wall to mail box etc. etc.etc. But the prohibitionists are out and they mean business. They want everywhere to be sleepytown where everyone is in bed by 8 pm and never is heard a cheerfully drunken word and beers and the taps run dry.

B. Durbin said...

A 16 ounce drink is the smallest size offered at Jamba Juice. I have trouble finishing one of those, and I have a pretty high metabolism. Of course, I understand the difficulties of blending a smaller drink when your proportions include fresh fruit, but still— Jamba Juice is a meal, not a drink.

On the other hand, I just got a set of little juice glasses from Ikea. Six 8 oz. glasses for two bucks. Yay.