Monday, January 16, 2012

Flown the Coupe

Over the weekend, I hosted a small birthday celebration for a good friend. Of course, no birthday party is complete without indulging in a few celebratory glasses of champagne. I have two sets of champagne glasses that I use for entertaining: plain flutes from Crate and Barrel and vintage coupes that once belonged to my grandmother. While I like my Crate and Barrel flutes because of their clean shape and their low price (something that alleviates any stress over breakage), I love my vintage coupes. They don't hold much champagne which means I'm constantly having to top off the glasses, but I don't mind because the coupes add to a party's festive atmosphere.

Coupes were once the glass in which to serve champagne. Oftentimes, they were spindly affairs with their shallow bowls perched precariously upon delicate stems. But then we were told that the only proper way in which to drink champagne was in a flute, its shape being better suited to keeping those bubbles from dissipating. (A coupe's shallow bowl allows champagne to go flat more quickly than in a flute. If you drink champagne like I do, though, it doesn't stay in the glass long enough to go flat.)

Looking through my old books and magazines, I very rarely see a flute. But starting in the 1970s or so, flutes seem to have supplanted the coupe in popularity. Fortunately, it seems that coupes are starting to make a come back, but I doubt they'll ever be as de rigueur as they once were. Somehow, coupes seem more fitting for evening wear and sparkling conversation than today's standard of jeans, flip-flops, and texting.

My vintage blue coupes, recently pressed into service to hold vodka and kosher salt for the tipsy tomatoes.

Something else that has gone the way of the coupe: fancy salads. This one is Lobster Salad Heligoland.

A "Special Occasion" lunch in which champagne was served... in coupes, of course.

The glasses that Churchill Brazelton used to serve champagne look like a cross between a coupe and a heavy goblet.

For her 1980s Tiffany table setting, Nan Kempner chose trumpet flutes to go with her Piper-Heidsieck.

McMillen Inc. created a "Gypsy Tearoom á La Tiffany" table with Cristal champagne and hollow stemmed trumpet flutes.

Image at top: House & Garden, July 1948; images #4 and #5 from Tiffany Table Settings; #6 and #7 from New Tiffany Table Settings.


  1. The coupe for me Is indelibly associated with a product popular in the 1960s (and it may be still) whose advertising jingle still rings in my head - Babycham, in individual-sized bottles. Not, I think, a real champagne but one based on cider. It was marketed as a woman's drink, and perhaps that is why I associate a coupe as a feminine artifact not a masculine one. In much the same way as I'm self-conscious using a cocktail glass for my Manhattans I'm not sure I could use a coupe for a glass of fizz. Just an old fuddy-duddy, I suppose.

  2. Jennifer I have taken to serving desert in my vintage etched coupes. Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Raspberry Sauce or Liqueur poured over is beautiful and delish!

    Art by Karena

  3. If it is just me and my husband drinking champagne, we go for my great-grandmother's Baccarat coupes. I just love them. I use flutes for guests as I would hate to ruin a friendship over crystal.

  4. I just got two vintage coupes for Christmas from my best friend because I'm obsessed with hers, which her grandparents got as a wedding gift. Maybe in 40 years the stemless wine glass will make a comeback as a throwback to this decade!

  5. La Comtesse Lola10:43 AM

    I have Tiffany hollow stemmed trumpet flutes, and they are horrible to clean! Is it true the coupe was in the shape of a woman's breast?! If so, how fabulously romantic (and much more practical than drinking out of a slipper LOL!)

  6. According to Wiki, the coupe is not as desirable for the dry champagnes that are more popular today; they do better with the sweeter wine that was prevalent in the 20s & 30s.

    My mom's wedding crystal from 1948 - Cherokee Rose by Tiffin - has coupes as well as parfait, water, wine, oyster (!), cordial and assorted other pieces. I love the coupes, and I use the parfait glasses for serving desserts as well.

    And I had to look up "tipsy tomatoes" - they're on the list for my next party!

  7. Jennifer, I'm glad you make the relevant point when it comes to the alleged functional advantage of flutes over coupes: that if one drinks champagne the correct way--fast, or, as Harry Craddock of The Savoy Cocktail Book puts it, "while it's still laughing at you"--there's no time for the the stuff to go flat.

    Drinking it straight from the bottle through a straw might be a further precaution, but I'm not quite willing to go that far--yet. After all, it is still Monday morning.

  8. When I drink champagne, it barely has time to start laughing before it's gone! ;)

  9. Except for the finest crystal and silverware, the rule in this household is, " can it go in the dishwasher?", and tall flutes definitely can not.
    The tall flutes are always being knocked over. So if they aren't spilling their contents, they're breaking. Luckily, Champagne doesn't stain as much as red wine would.

  10. What a fabulous post. I have coupes from Mom crystal but use flutes for my guest. I adore the phrase about champagne from The Savoy Cocktail Book.

  11. I am back to coupes as well when it is just me and my honey as I only have two left! But they make the moment feel far more special somehow than flutes do. I live in France and so that is another reason why the coupes are only for us, in public, oh my would that be considered "trés americain"...

  12. TV Diner9:14 PM

    I recently went to a Christmas week dinner at a friends antiques filled house in Bridgehampton. I was pleasantly surprised that he served the champagne in coupe glasses. I've always loved them, and I have my parents ones from the 50's (along with my Dads swizzle stick collection), but I normally use very modern flutes. No more! Especially after this post - I declare - champagne served in coupes for 2012! : )

  13. And I'm going to use my coupes more often too!

  14. I grew up with coupes and then when I had to get my own stemware, was forced into flutes since coupes were not readily available. Up until last December when I got one of my parent's sets of Lalique coupes, I had desperately been looking to get some. They may be coming back, but what is out there and not vintage, is not nice. I'm thrilled and happy you wrote about this topic. Maybe between you and your readers we will bring them back. Perhaps they're not as efficient as the flutes, but who REALLY cares. It's all about the experience :-)