Question: What did the women of Sex And The City not know how to do
that Bogart and Bergman finally got right in Casablanca?
Answer: The correct way to hold stemware! In a number of scenes throughout the series, the sophisticated ladies of Sex and the City are seen holding their wine or champagne glasses incorrectly–by the bowl instead of the stem. And, although Bogie and Bergman fumbled their goblets, as well, in Casablanca, they finally got it right in the scene where they are together for the last time in Paris. Toasting each other with champagne and holding their glasses correctly by the stems, Bogie utters one of his most famous lines: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Why is it so important to hold stemware by the stem instead of the bowl? Well, believe it or not stemware is designed for a purpose, not just to look pretty. Water and wine goblets and champagne and sherry flutes are meant to be held by the stem to avoid warming your water or chilled white or rosé wine, or changing the chemical balance of your room-temperature red wine. But, they also are pretty and there are few things more unsightly than a beautiful stemware glass bowl that has fingerprints all over it. Many people are under the misconception that it looks “cool” to hold your stemware by the bowl, but in reality it just makes you look clueless to those who are savvy about such things. Read world renowned food critic Anthony Dias Blue’s mini-rant on the subject.
To hold the glass by its stem so that you have control, delicately place your thumb and all fingers in the middle of the stem, or in the case of a very long-stemmed glass a little more than half-way up the stem.
The exception to the rule is the brandy snifter, which has a short stem, and which you should cup with your hand just under the bowl with the stem between your fingers. Unlike other wines and champagnes, with brandy—or cognac—you do want to warm the liquid, and holding the snifter in this manner will keep the bowl fingerprint free.
Glasses and Goblets to the Right
Glasses and goblets are placed to the upper right of your dinner or luncheon plate, and depending on the level of formality of the meal may include a water glass, wine goblets and champagne and/or sherry flutes. Brandy snifters and small cordial glasses may be brought out at the end of the meal, either during or after the dessert course. At a very formal affair, brandy and cordials might be served with coffee or demitaisse in the living room, parlor, library, lounge or outdoors on the veranda.
Arrangement of the Crystal
Whether the glassware and stemware are made of fine crystal or everyday glass does not matter. What is important is the arrangement of the glassware. As there usually is no room for more than four glasses at a place setting, additional glasses will be brought out, if necessary. In the arrangement of the glasses, the glass or goblet that holds your water is placed closest to you, directly above your knife, as you will use that glass throughout your meal. Other goblets will be placed in the following common arrangements:
Triangle – Three glasses, consisting of a water goblet and red and white wine glasses.
Diamond – Four glasses consisting of a water goblet and red and white wine glasses and a champagne, sherry or dessert wine flute.
For example, if sherry were being served with the first course, your sherry glass would be the one farthest away from you, white wine with the next course would be the next farthest and the red wine glass for the main course would be next to your water goblet. Your glasses might be in a slightly different arrangement, perhaps in a straight line, but they should be positioned in the select-from-outside-in formation.
Waiter Service from the Right
At a formal meal, either in a restaurant, dining hall or private home, servers will replenish your water throughout the meal, as needed. Other beverages, including soft drinks, will be poured, as requested or required with each course. Service will be from the right both when providing glasses and pouring, as well as when replacing or removing glasses.
At an informal or casual meal, you might have tall glasses, tumblers, or steins or pilsner glasses to hold beer on tap. Such glasses should be held at the bottom half rather than the top, for the best control, to keep fingerprints off the glass and to make you look your best while holding and drinking from the glass.
Whether you are dining formally, casually or somewhere in between, use good posture when sitting at the table to avoid bumping the server or spilling your drink.
Sip, Don’t Gulp
Whether drinking your water, soft drink, wine, champagne, sherry, cordial or brandy, be sure to sip your drinks rather than gulp them down. Swallow your food completely before taking a sip of your drink. Pacing your small sips, rather than taking large gulps, will help you to avoid getting the hiccups, becoming tipsy or filling up too fast. And, again, watch your posture. This will aid in your enjoyment of the conversation and food and with digestion!
If You Don’t Want a Particular Beverage
Not everyone wants to or can drink alcoholic beverages. If you wish to pass on wine and other spirits, don’t turn your glass upside down. Rather, simply hold your hand over the top of the glass when the server arrives to pour, look at the server, smile and say, “no, thank you.” The server should refrain from pouring and at some point remove your goblet. You may then request a soft drink, or simply sip your water. If the server errs and pours the wine or other spirits anyway, simply ignore it, and don’t complain or make a fuss. When you have an opportunity, ask the waiter politely to remove the goblet. If there is a toast, you may toast with your water, if you prefer it to champagne.
Until next time,