Why do we go through the effort of chilling glassware before we pour drinks? Is it worth all of the hassle? The simple answer is yes, but actually it is a lot more complicated than that.
When a drink is served “up”, it is at the perfect dilution and temperature, so we don’t want anything to change from there. Removing the ice keeps the dilution on target but unless you are mixing drinks in a meat locker, temperature is a problem. The drink is going to warm up over time but craft cocktails are meant to be savored. The best thing we can do is to take steps to slow down the warming process and give you as much time as possible to enjoy that new riff on a Manhattan.
This is where a chilled glass becomes important. Heat transfer is in part determined by the difference in temperature of the two substances (in our case glass and cocktail). Chilling a glass to be at or near the temperature of the drink effectively drops rate of transfer to zero, until the glass begins to warm. For example, a drink poured in a properly chilled glass 5 minutes ago will still be colder than one poured in a room temperature glass just 30 second ago. This give you way more time to enjoy your libation.
However, using a freezer to chill glasses ahead of time is not always do-able depending on your bar setup. We often turn to filling a glass with ice and water while we prep the rest of a drink. However this only gives us about a minute or less of chilling time, and it can take 6 minutes or more using this method to chill a glass to the temperature we are pouring the drink at. That is a lot of time in a fast paced bar environment. Hell even making drinks at home I am often not patient to wait the 6 minutes it can take for that chilling process. It is far more effective to keep a stock of pre-chilled glasses in the freezer, but if you can’t it’s OK. Every bit of effort that you do will help to extend the lifetime of that cocktail.
Conclusion: Always chill your glasses, but keep them in a cooler or freezer whenever possible to ensure your cocktails taste as good on the last sip as they did on the first.