First introduced in the 1660s for Champagne, the coupe glass reached the height of its popularity in the 1930s with the introduction of Prohibition-era cocktails, and in recent years its popularity is on the rise again, namely with a special class of drinkers called me.
The coupe shape is a wide shallow bowl on a long stem. Legend has it the glass' original design was based on the left breast of infamous party girl Marie Antoinette, but whether that theory holds true or not, there's no denying that this glass has some sexy curves going on. (There's also some debate as to whether or not Marie Antoinette actually ever said "Let them eat cake." Maybe it was "Let them drink from my boob.")
If the Champagne glass is Twiggy, and the martini glass is Audrey Hepburn, then the coupe is Marilyn Monroe. It was indeed invented for (and is still often used for) Champagne, but as oenophiles know, it's really not the best vessel for sparkling wine, since all the exposed surface area causes the bubbles to evaporate too quickly.
It is, however, an excellent choice for many other drinks served neat.
The Aviation -- an elegant and refreshing little classic cocktail consisting of maraschino liqueur, creme de violette, gin and lemon juice -- is often served in a coupe, and that's how it'll come if you order it at Windmill Lounge, where owner-bartender Charlie just happens to mix up a textbook-perfect version. Its unique purple-gray hue is perfectly on display in the glass, like a curiously colored fish swimming in a fishbowl.
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Another drink perfectly suited to this particular glassware is The People's Last Stand's The Boleyn, coincidentally named after yet another famously scandalous lady of royalty. A pale pink but juicy mix of Plymouth gin, yellow Chartreuse, strawberry, lemon juice and the slightest hint of rosewater, it's subtle, feminine and elegant, just like the coupe itself.
I love the coupe because it looks and feels elegant in the hand, less ostentatious than the champagne flute, which screams celebration or special occasion. I like the wide bowl so I can really get my nose into my drink -- I realize a flute or a snifter technically carries aroma better, but I like to get up close and personal with my cocktail. Plus, the shallow shape means I don't have to throw back my head quite as far to get the last few sips. (Yeah, first-world problems.)
You might see giant twenty-four ounce versions filled with frozen tequila slush at your favorite Tex-Mex spot, but the coupe is really best on a smaller scale, topping out at around nine ounces. I'll be adding a couple of coupes to my home bar very soon, and as long as I'm around they'll never be used for anything other than a proper cocktail -- although according to Ms. Monroe, dipping potato chips in them is perfectly fine.