Brian Hart Hoffman is your go-to resource for anything you’d ever want to know about vintage barware. The lifestyle expert and author of ‘The Coupe‘ (a gorgeous book dedicated to the elegant glass) gave us his best tips on starting a vintage barware collection, as well as fun ways to use (and display!) your wares. Read on to learn more from the expert, and don’t miss the delicious cocktail recipe he shared with us!
When did you start your vintage coupe collection?
My coupe collection started a few years ago after working with Matt Gilpin (beverage director at Highlands Bar & Grill) on an eggnog story for Taste of the South magazine. While preparing the cocktail for the photo shoot, he decided that it should be served in a coupe glass and declared it ‘the year of the coupe.’ I immediately knew that I too would be serving my annual homemade eggnog in a coupe glass – but needed some in order for that to happen, and that’s when I started ‘coupin’ – the act of shopping for coupe glasses.’ Needless to say, it’s been over a year, and the coupe is still the glassware of choice for Matt’s annual eggnog!
Do you have a favorite vintage coupe glass?
I think my favorite coupe glasses in my collection aren’t yet in the collection – they are my mom’s. The best part of any collection should be the ones handed down, and I can’t wait for the day that my mom passes hers to me (but since I wrote the book, she is now excited to put them to use and entertain with them, as she should!). So, until the day she gifts hers to me, I will keep shopping vintage collections.
Bar cart or bar cabinet?
Bar cart all the way! When I found my 1960’s French bar cart, I knew it was destined to be mine. Bar carts allow collections of glassware, bottles, cocktail linens, and favorite cocktail books (hint, hint) to be displayed beautifully!
What’s your best tip for styling a bar cart or home bar?
Beautiful bottles! I travel often, and one of the best ‘souvenirs’ to bring home from any place is a taste of their culture. I recently traveled to Taiwan for the first time, and I was thrilled to find a beautiful whisky (they don’t use the “e” in their spelling) that is now proudly displayed on my bar cart.
Is there something that surprised you about entertaining that you learned since you began your vintage coupe collection?
It makes a statement when guests see such beautiful glassware being used for entertaining. Too often, people aren’t using the ‘nice crystal’ when guests come for drinks, and I certainly advocate for collections to be more than dust collectors in the shelves, get them out and use them!
It makes a statement when guests see such beautiful glassware being used for entertaining.
What hotel do you think is doing decor and cocktails with the most style?
Chez Fonfon in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama has to be my favorite! I always begin an evening there with a French 75, and then on to one of their seasonal cocktails or a glass of Chablis. The corner seats of the beautiful wooden bar hold many memories of date nights, birthday celebrations, and time with best friends.
Better splurge: barware or booze?
Both! If you’re going to serve top quality cocktails in beautiful coupe glasses and other barware, I would advise to splurge on both…but if I had Eddie Ross’ thrift store luck, I could find Baccarat coupe glasses for $1 each – so then the liquor splurge would be obligatory to serve from those amazing finds!
Gramercy Tavern, New York, New York
Makes 1 serving
Bourbon (1 oz)
Calvados Apple Brandy (1 oz)
Fresh apple cider (1 oz)
Thyme Simple Syrup (1⁄2 ounce) – recipe follows
Fresh lemon juice (1⁄2 ounce)
Angostura Bitters Garnish: dried or fresh apple slices (1 dash)
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add bourbon, brandy, cider, Thyme Simple Syrup, lemon juice, and bitters. Shake to combine, and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with apple slices, if desired.
THYME SIMPLE SYRUP
Makes about 1⁄2 cup
Sugar (1⁄2 cup)
Water (1⁄2 cup)
Fresh thyme (15 sprigs)
In small saucepan, bring sugar and 1⁄2 cup water to a boil over medium heat, swirling pan to help form syrup. Remove from heat. Add thyme sprigs, and steep until syrup is completely cooled; a clear thyme flavor should come through. Remove and discard thyme. (Syrup should be kept in the refrigerator.)
Thank you for your expertise on the lovely coupe, Brian! Brian’s book ‘The Coupe’ is available here.
All photos by Stephen Devries, courtesy of Brian Hart Hoffman