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9 Tips for Cleaning Bar Glasses

The clinking of glasses is part of every bar experience, but you want to save that sound for when guests are toasting. Drinkware is, of course, one of the mission-critical bar supplies, and while you don't need to handle your glasses with kid gloves, you do need to handle them with care.

We've asked bartenders and restaurant owners to share their tips for taking care of glassware, so you can follow these best practices.

Washing Down

Here are three tips for washing drinkware.

  1. Outfit your back bar with a commercial glass washer or three-compartment sink. The first sink is for warm soapy water, the second for rinsing and the third for sanitizing. Check with your local health department to determine specific requirements for equipment, water temperature and cleaning solutions. If the bar also serves food, have a separate washer exclusively for glassware.
  2. Forgo machine washing altogether for stemware and other expensive glasses. “Hand-washing is best, and avoid hot water as it can break the glass,” says James King, owner and operator of Portland, OR's The Frying Scotsman.
  3. Use filtered water, because it's easier on the glasses, according to Mattson Davis, owner of the Kona Brewing Company, headquartered in Kailua-Kona, HI. It cuts down on the spots and cloudiness that sometimes emerges after multiple washes. Filters are available for most commercial washers and sinks.

Drying Out

Follow this advice for drying glasses.

  1. If you hand-wash, use drying racks or trays specifically made for glassware to let the pieces air dry. Most commercial glass washers have drying functions, which also aid in sanitization. Avoid using bar towels to dry drinkware. Lint sticking to the glass isn't appealing to the eye or the palate. Use lint-free towels if you don't have time for air-drying.
  2. Let drinkware cool completely to complete the sanitizing process and let the chemical and bleach smells dissipate.
    Pro Tip: “Have enough glasses so you can allow them to dry and cool fully before using them again,” advises Stephen Murtaugh, general manager and bartender at Acme Food & Beverage Co. in Carrboro, NC.
  3. Don't stack wet glasses. First, it encourages them to stick together, which often leads to breakage. Second, it traps water, creating a breeding ground for bacteria—that's not a secret ingredient you want in your drinks.

Putting Up

Here are a few kernels of wisdom for storing and protecting your glassware.

  1. Kill two birds with one stone by setting up a drinkware display space that also promotes air circulation. At the Las Vegas Lounge, co-owner Ken Pisarcik lines the shelves behind the bar with rubber mesh mats so glasses are on display while cooling and drying.
  2. Stemware should be hung in glass racks or stored in a single layer. The latter also holds true for delicate cordial glasses.
    Pro Tip: Because stemware gets closer inspection from patrons checking out wine's legs and nose, hold the glass bowl side down over a container of steaming water (a wine bottle chiller works nicely) for a few seconds before pouring. “This allows us to wipe off whatever spots might remain,” Murtaugh says and releases any residual odors from sanitizers or bleach.
  3. Use an ice scoop. The easiest way to chip or break a glass is to jam it into the ice bin, which not only reduces your glassware inventory, but forces you to kill the ice and clean the bin, which can bring bar service to a stop.

Use these 9 tips covering the three major aspects to drinkware to keep your glasses clean, sanitary and long-lasting.

Carrboro, NC-based Margot Carmichael Lester grew up in a gourmet grocery and parlayed that into a career writing about food, drinks and business for a variety of outlets, including in-flight magazines, consumer titles and Web sites. She has owned her own business, The Word Factory, for two decades. A devotee of dining at the bar, she favors sparkling wines and anything with bacon.

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