Cordial Glasses

By Paula Kirwan


In days gone by, no dinner party would have been considered “top drawer” without the table set in the most elegant and extravagant manner possible. There were silverware pieces for every imaginable type of food and special dishes for each and every course. There were different shapes and sizes of stemware for the various beverages served, as well as special glasses, called cordial glasses, for before-dinner aperitifs and after-dinner cordials. GasLamp offers a great selection of vintage cordial glasses. (Etched cordial glasses, photo right; part of a set that includes wine glasses and decanter; $89.95 for the complete set at GasLamp Booth B-310).


Today, our tables still look lovely when we have a dinner party, but the amount of dishes, flatware and stemware pieces has been significantly reduced to a much more manageable number. However, we still practice some of the old formalities when it comes to using specialized glasses for specific liquid refreshments, such as cordials, also known as liqueurs. (Photo, left; six Revere pewter cordial glasses; $29 at GasLamp Booth B-310).


Liqueurs are descendants of herbal medicine; wine and sweeteners were added to medicinal concoctions of the Middle Ages to improve their taste. By the 17th century, housewives made cordials from fruit grown in their gardens. Then, in 1786, Italian distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano created vermouth. In England, the Georgian period of 1714 to 1830 included strongly-flavored alcoholic drinks described as “cordials” and “ratafia.”  


Today there are many delicious liqueurs to enjoy, among them Kahlua, Baileys and Amaretto. These tasty liquid refreshments are prepared by infusing certain woods, spices, chocolate, fruits, flowers, nuts, sugar or other items to make a variety of delightful tastes.  No matter what your preference, these drinks offer a sweet ending to a good meal.


Such drinks have long involved the use of special glasses, which have always been the smallest in a set of stemware. As early as the 1600s, such diminutive glasses were called “Jacobite glasses” or “propaganda glasses” after the supporters of James II. (Photo, right, green glass with sterling detail, one of a set of five; $35 at Booth T-371.)


Cordial glasses of the more recent century generally hold about two ounces of liquid and come in a variety of styles, colors and shapes, and may even have matching decanters. (Shown, photo left: Four of a set of eight cordial glasses; $54.95 at Booth B-210.)


Don’t be reluctant to mix and match these vintage glasses. Just imagine the presentation your guests will enjoy when you use an assortment of these beautiful, little glasses to celebrate the conclusion of a delicious dinner. It will be a memorable final impression of a special gathering and a reminder of your gracious hospitality. And even if only a few matching pieces can be found, these glasses are still highly collectible and will make beautiful additions to your table and bar.







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