Every summer, I brew coffee in the evening to chill in the fridge overnight. Once it sits in my stovetop percolator long enough to cool down, I pour it into a vintage orange juice carafe.
Not quite pitcher, not quite fancy wine decanter, the orange juice carafe is somewhere in between — and decidedly retro. With a flat bottom and goose neck, standing about 9 inches tall, it looks like the vessel full of OJ on Betty Draper’s kitchen table in breakfast scenes in Mad Men, and Aunt Bee’s in The Andy Griffith Show. Turns out, there’s a lot of them out there. On both eBay and Etsy (where I bought my bright and fun one, decorated with yellow stripes and graphic orange slices), you can search “vintage orange juice carafe” and find many variations. Yellow stripes, orange slices, whole oranges, green stems, and green leaves grace the sides of these carafes, made from around the 1940s to the 1960s and floating around the internet today. Some are sold individually; many come with matching glasses (a la these lemon-adorned ones on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). Some may even be lingering in the homes of older loved ones. My aunt (who lives with my grandmother) still drinks water from one of the classic glasses every night.
They’re made by a myriad of brands, but the two most prevalent on the aforementioned sites are Anchor Hocking and Libbey, two glassware companies that have been around since the early 1800s and are still producing kitchen goods and tableware today. Libbey told me that their carafes were made from the same glassblowing process that is used to make bottles for beer and other beverages. The shape of the neck and the thicker round rim (as opposed to, say, the pour spout and sleeker walls of a pitcher) likely exist to get a good seal with a plastic lid or stopper to keep juice fresh. Back in the day, it was a uni-tasker.
But I’ve found many more uses. I employ mine, its Libbey marking stamped on the bottom, mostly for my morning caffeine. It also works as a vase, and as a kitchen crock for some choice tools to keep next to the stove. I also like to use it for ice water on the dinner table, or a batch cocktail when a few friends come over (bonus if said cocktail is citrus-heavy). Without fail, someone always comments on how cool it is.
I hold the firm belief that one can’t have too many vessels of various shapes and sizes — but this might be my very favorite of them all, just as handy as it is well-designed, a statement even beyond the breakfast table.
Emma Wartzman is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn.