Craft cocktail connoisseurs know that enjoying a cocktail is a multi-sensory experience. Your eyes see the vibrant color of the garnish, your hands feel the temperature of the glass, and your nose takes in the aromas of the cocktail, all before the grand finale of tasting the cocktail itself.
You might be wondering how it is possible to achieve all of this, but the answer is simple: It’s all about the glass. Let’s explore the various types of beautiful glassware you’d find at a cool cocktail bar– ones you may want to add to your own collection.
What Are the Most Common Types of Glassware for Cocktails?
Proper glassware was initially developed out of the need for practicality. The size and shape of each bar glass are particularly designed to both enhance aroma and to maintain the proper temperature of your cocktail.
This is why there is cocktail-specific glassware: Each serves a purpose! So let’s explore some of the most common types of glassware.
The lowball is an easily identifiable glass that is recognized by its short, round shape. The wide rim creates space for your nose to get close to the cocktail, increasing your exposure to the different aromas that are carefully curated to compliment the taste of the cocktail.
And because there is no stem, the heat from your hand warms the cocktail, which also concentrates the scent of the cocktail.
The lowball can have other names based on its volume: The single rocks glass/single Old Fashioned glass is traditionally 6-10 ounces, and the Double Old Fashioned glass/double rocks glass is anywhere between 12-16 fluid ounces.
This style of glass is most commonly used for mixed drinks that are high in alcohol content. The wide glass allows for a large piece of ice and also provides ample space to take in the aroma of the alcohol that you are enjoying. Restaurants often use them as regular drinking glasses as well.
Popular cocktails for a lowball glass:
The highball glass is the taller, thinner sibling of the lowball. The tall size easily fits “long” or “tall” drinks, which have a higher proportion of mixer to alcohol.
The highball has a smaller opening because the higher mixer content means the smell of the alcohol is less obvious, and the height allows ample room for ice to keep the drink nice and cold. There is also less surface area so that the cocktail stays colder for longer.
The highball is often confused with a Collins glass, which is actually just a taller glass. However, most bartenders agree that these two glasses are interchangeable, so this specific cocktail glass mix-up isn’t really a faux pas at all.
Delicious craft cocktails to serve in a highball glass:
- Gin and Tonic
- Vodka Sodas
- Cuba Libre
Nick & Nora Glass
My personal favorite, the Nick and Nora glass, has a thin stem and bell-shaped bowl mostly intended for spirit-forward, stirred drinks. The Nick and Nora glass is not meant to hold ice, and its modest capacity is the perfect size for cocktails with few ingredients. Instead, the glass is typically chilled prior to use to maintain the coolness of the cocktail.
The Nick & Nora-style glassware also has the best origin story, in my opinion. It was featured in the classic 1930s movie, The Thin Man, and was then known as the “Little Martini,” although only produced for a short time. In the 1980s, bartender Dale DeGroff had production recommissioned for the famous New York bar the Rainbow Room and named after the two main characters the Thin Man movies, Nick and Nora Charles. The company that originally produced these glasses began making them again and eventually adopted the Nick & Nora name. Isn’t that cool?
Cocktail recipes to serve in Nick & Nora cocktail glasses:
- The Alaska
- Old Pal
The coupe glass, also known as a Champagne coupe, is another stemmed glass that has a wide, shallow bowl. It was also very popular during Prohibition when cocktails flourished because they easily masked the “prohibited” alcohol. Its slightly larger capacity allows for drinks with more ingredients, such as sour cocktails.
The classic design of the coupe glass dates back to the 17th century and was popular among the socially elite as the default celebratory glass. If you were attending one of Gatsby’s parties, you would definitely be drinking out of a coupe glass!
Drinks to be enjoyed in a coupe:
- Champagne cocktails
- Shaken Daiquiri
- Clover Club
- Pegu Club
While Champagne can also be served in a coupe, it does have its own special glass. The Champagne glass is tall and slender with an elegant design, narrow mouth, and dainty stem to hold your class without warming the Champagne. This flute also holds the bubbles in the glass for slightly longer than the Coupe.
Champagne cocktails are a great way to amp up the celebration and are stunning when served in the Champagne flute. Many bartenders are also choosing to add a splash of Champagne to their craft cocktails for a little extra sparkle, so they may decide to use a Champagne flute for those rather than another type of glass. Some of the classic Champagne cocktails include the Kir Royale and the Bellini.
Though wine glasses are not traditional cocktail glasses, we would be remiss if we left them off the list. Aside from holding wine, a wine glass is also the perfect vessel for serving wine-based cocktails such as Sangria or a larger Champagne cocktail with more mixers.
Have you ever heard the famous phrase “shaken, not stirred” in reference to a Martini? (Thanks, James Bond.) A shaken cocktail is crafted by pouring ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shaking it to combine. The shaking also introduces air, which can change the texture and aroma of the cocktail. A stirred cocktail, however, is created in a mixing glass. These sturdy yet stylish glasses allow for more control over the texture and level of dilution. While not a glass that you can drink out of, a mixing glass certainly deserves to be on your list for making cocktails.
Honorable Mentions: Popular Bar Glass Styles That Aren’t Exactly Necessary
While many glasses are versatile, there are also a few specialty glasses, such as the
While many glasses are versatile, there are also a few specialty glasses, such as the Mule mug, Julep cup, Margarita glass, Hurricane, or a brandy snifter. These are fun to have, but your bar will not necessarily be lacking if you do not include these glasses.
One of the most recognizable types of glassware is the Martini glass. It is a pop culture icon (thanks again, Mr. Bond), and its contents are unmistakable.
Martini glasses have a long stem so that you can hold your glass without warming the cocktail itself. The wide mouth of the glass slopes outward, allowing for air to touch as much of the alcohol as possible to open up the spirit. The slope also provides a gentle rest for the iconic garnish on a cocktail pick.
However, the wide brim of this glass also makes it easier to spill. The classic Martini glass is an evolution of the Coupe glass, which is by all accounts a little classier looking and less easily tipped over.
Craft Beer Glasses
While not specifically for mixed alcoholic drinks, having some pint glasses or other beer glasses on hand can be useful. You can make beer cocktails and even some classic drinks like the Long Island Iced Tea– plus they’re great drinking glasses for water, iced tea, and soda. But if beer is your drink of choice, you may also want to invest in tulip and taster glasses.
While it’s not really necessary to have a dedicated Margarita glass, it can be fun for these classic cocktails. However, a rocks glass is a common replacement, and they’re much easier & smaller to store.
If you’re really into frozen cocktails and tiki drinks, this style makes an excellent blended Margarita or Daiquiri glass. If you already have pint glasses on hand, these certainly aren’t a requirement, but they do add a fun, tropical element to your drinks.
If you love hot drinks, grab a hot beverage glass like a a clear mug; it’s stylish & classic with the added benefit of seeing the contents. The best-known drinks for this cocktail glass style include an Irish coffee and spiked hot chocolate.
Where to Buy Cocktail Glassware?
For classic glassware, the options are endless. Search for the stores that cater specifically to bars and bartenders, such as Collins and Coupe. You can also check out the bigger home stores like Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma, and West Elm, as they have a substantial selection of cocktail glasses. Their websites have a large variety of glassware to accommodate every cocktail in your repertoire.
If you like a challenge, try searching through thrift stores and garage sales– Some of my favorite glassware has come from these treasure hunts! One of my best finds was a stunning glass teacup with a clover etched into it, which perfectly displayed a stunning Irish Coffee-inspired cocktail in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Don’t forget to think outside of the box! If you know that a lowball needs to be short and wide, why not try a teacup instead? Found a tall, narrow vase that you really like? Consider using it in place of a Collins glass.
And check out the thread on our Craft Cocktail Club Facebook group. Novice and professional bartenders from all over offer their best tips and tricks for finding the perfect glass for every cocktail. If you have a question, this is the place to seek an answer. Cheers, and happy shopping!