One of the joys of going out for drinks at a bar is that you don't have to do any of the work. Yes, we have been writing for years about how anyone can make fantastic cocktails at home, but sometimes you don't want to think about the details. You want to let a professional take care of you. Sure, using the proper tools and techniques you can make your own delicious beverages, and over the years we have documented plenty of great ideas. Some of them might have seemed foolish or unorthodox at the time, but strokes of brilliance rarely feel commonplace. This year, we've come up with a solution to a problem that plagues every aspiring mixologist: washing glassware.
It's a recurring problem that never goes away: cleanup is something you cannot avoid. Maybe that splash of lime isn't hurting anybody, and the egg white on the wall will go unnoticed. Even fallen ice cubes that scuttle across the floor will melt and evaporate—but you can only stack so many cocktail glasses in the sink before you need them (or the sink) again. It's a problem you simply can't ignore. Even professionals working behind the bar at the finest drinking establishments in the world must deal with dirty glassware. Lipstick on the rim, the sticky residue of dried-up vermouth, a shriveled citrus peel, a gnawed toothpick—dirty cocktail glasses are messes we'd all like to avoid. At long last, we have the solution!
It starts with a vacuum food storage system. These devices are commonly used to shrink-wrap meat or produce for storage in the freezer, but the process can be used to enrobe glassware too. By sealing glassware inside a bag you create a barrier between the glass and the cocktail. Done properly, the glass will stay perfectly clean inside and can be removed for use again and again. This idea isn't new. Think about it—every time you use a rectal thermometer you probably slip it into a plastic sheath. Latex gloves work the same way. You may have even seen dental hygienists cover x-ray equipment with little plastic bags before use. Well, that's all we are doing!
We find that this technique works best if you start with the corner of a bag. Work the glass into a bag that is big enough to accommodate enough surface area without distorting the open end which has to remain flat for the vacuum system to work properly. Orient the open rim of your glass toward a corner of the bag and pull some of the surrounding surface into the glass. The bag won't stretch, so you need to press the bag into the glass and flatten it with your fingers as best you can. Once you have the inside of the glass covered to allow it to hold the cocktail as it should, you can turn your attention to the rim, folding the bag down and over the outside. Finally, gather the bag around the bottom of the glass so it will sit upright and place the open end into your vacuum sealer. If you do it wrong, you can always open the bag and start over. Once sealed, a clean glass will remain clean until you take it out again.
Next, mix any cocktail as you normally would and pour it into the sealed cocktail glass. We have had good luck with sturdy coupes (don't shrink wrap anything too delicate) as well as solid rocks glasses. This technique may not work well with Collins, chimney glasses or high balls. It's just too hard to invert the bag during the sealing process to ensure you will get the full volume when put into use.
Now for the best part: No washing! When the cocktail is gone, make sure there's no more liquid between the folds of plastic and simply cut open the bag. The vacuum seal will release and you can easily remove your glass, perfectly clean and ready to be sealed again. No washing is ever necessary with this technique. As long as you have a good supply of vacuum bags, you can keep using glassware over and over again.
It makes sense to batch seal a bunch of glasses before a big party. That way, you are prepared for your guests. Some may think it's strange to drink out of plastic-wrapped glasses, but a quick explanation will help them understand. Besides, the extra flap of bag makes a good handle for some glasses and can help keep hot hands from warming up a chilled cocktail. Good luck, and have fun (you can thank us later for saving you the cleanup trouble).