Behind the Bar Rail: Glassware

You wouldn’t drink beer in a martini glass, would you? I mean you could, but let’s be honest with ourselves, that would probably never happen. If you asked a bartender for a martini glass for your beer, they would probably look at you like you grew a third eye. Choosing the correct glassware is more critical than it seems. The proper drinking glass can enhance the experience, not just in how it looks but in how the drink goes down. 

Let’s break down the several types of alcohol-drinking glasses and why they are essential for the drinking experience.

Top 10 glasses you need in your home or bar:

  1. Martini glass
  2. Highball glasses
  3. Old Fashioned (rocks) glass
  4. Shot glass
  5. Margarita glass
  6. Beer glasses
  7. Wine glasses
  8. Champagne glasses
  9. Tall Specialty cocktail glasses
  10. Short specialty cocktail glasses


Martini Glass

Arguably one of the most popular glasses in any bar or restaurant, the conical shape of the martini glass is familiar to all who have ever had a cocktail. That is why it’s a must-have and listed as number one! These glasses are used for 3 to 6-ounce cocktails without ice.

Popular drinks served with a martini glass are the “cosmo” or cosmopolitan, Manhattan, sidecar, and of course, the famous “James Bond Vesper martini.”


Highball Glass

Great for stirring, highball (or hi-ball) glasses are usually tall in nature. Their similar counterpart is called a Collins glass. Highball glasses range from 8 to 16 ounces and are nearly identical. However, there are still some differences:

  • Collins glass is narrow and taller
  • Highball is stout and is no more than 10 oz

Most drinks are made inside the glass, filled to the top with ice, and then stirred. Highball glasses make for great everyday glasses. Juice, soda, iced tea, and other nonalcoholic drinks can be kept cool if ice is added to the brim. More ice means the drink can be kept cool for longer and less diluted!


Old Fashioned or “Rocks” Glass

The Old Fashioned glass is typically used to serve darker spirits like whiskey and bourbon (there’s a difference)! It has a thick bottom and can hold between 6 to 8 ounces. The glasses are short and even sometimes called a “lowball” glass.

Double rocks glasses can double the volume holding up to 10 or 12 ounces. 

Smaller old-fashioned glasses are used for serving a drink straight or neat. Straight means the drink is chilled before being poured, and neat means entirely out of the bottle without being chilled. Another popular drink besides the Old Fashioned made in the glass is the White Russian. One large ice cube is a great choice when drinking from the glass “on the rocks.” Most cocktails, including ones for a martini glass, work exceptionally well in an old-fashioned glass.


Shots Glass

A shot glass is essential in any home or bar, not just a souvenir with your name on it! While fun to collect, they offer a true purpose when drinking for the effects and not the taste. Having a few lying around is a good idea so everyone can take the shot together or in case they break. Most likely, the latter. 

The average shot glass is one and a half ounces, with a “short” or “pony” shot glass being one1 ounce. Double shot glasses can hold two 2 ounces. A tall, thinner shot glass can be called a Caballito, which means “small horse” in Spanish. These shot glasses are usually used for tequila or mezcal. 

Depending on the thickness of the bottom of the shot glass, some can look deceiving. The pour can look warped and seem like there is a double shot inside when it is just one.


Margarita Glass

Margarita glasses are fun and unmistakable in their shape. The wide rim makes it easy to coat with sugar, salt, or even some zesty tajín. The double bowl is perfect for frozen margaritas. As the ice melts, the liquid can go down to the smaller bowl making each sip just as icy as the first. 

Margarita glasses can be significant and more complicated to store than regular ones. So while not essential, they can be a great addition to any bar or home. 

They can come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from six to 20 ounces. Some are as large as 60 ounces! The 60-ounce ones will require some friends to help!

  • Small margarita glasses are great for drinks with no ice.
  • Medium-sized glasses are suitable good for frozen margaritas.
  • Large-sized glasses are excellent for large big frozen drinks with lots of ice.


Beer Glass

Certain styles of beer are preferred to be served in their respective glasses. 

These include:

  • Pint glass
  • Pilsner glass
  • Beer mug
  • Ale Glasses

Pint Glass

A regular pint glass is usually a tall glass with straight sides. They hold 16 ounces, allowing room at the top for a foamy head and a bottle of beer. Pint glasses are incredibly versatile as they can be chilled in the freezer and bring the temperature of a warm beer down. They also can be used as a mixing glass for cocktails when using the Boston Shaker set.

Pilsner Glass

Pilsner glasses hold anywhere between 10 and 14 ounces. The flute shape is fantastic for lagers and, of course, the pilsner beer (hence the name.) The wider rim allows for a good pour with a decent head. 

Beer Mug

A beer mug has a handle and a thick base. Beer mugs are helpful because you can hold your beer without warming it when handling it with your hand. Ideal for lagers, mugs are commonly used in bars and most definitely in pubs! 

The volume of a typical beer mug can vary. Most hold between 10 and 14 ounces, with thicker mugs holding just the minimum at 10 ounces. Smaller mugs are usually used by bars to give a patron a smaller pour. If a mug seems deceptively tiny, a regular beer bottle will yield more beer than a draft pour.

Ale Glasses

Two glasses offer the best value when it comes to ales, stemmed tulip glasses, and nonic pint glasses. Both styles show off the beer’s head and color, while the round shape towards the top traps the mixed aromas. Ales are best served at 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  • Stemmed tulip glasses are quite traditional among Belgian ales. They have a large bowl that points towards the rim, making sipping easy. Most but not all Belgian ales have high alcohol content.
  • Nonic pint glasses vary slightly compared to regular pint glasses. The difference between the two is the aroma bulb towards the rim. It also goes exceptionally well with lagers.


Wine Glasses

Many wine glasses differ in shape and size to showcase a particular style of wine. However, there are two basic types. It will depend on which type of wine you’ll be drinking.

  • A white wine glass has a taller, narrower bowl that is more open towards the rim.
  • A red wine glass has a smaller, rounder bowl with a narrow rim.

Why do traditional wine glasses have such long stems? The answer is that they keep the wine at a proper serving temperature without the drinker having to touch the wine in the glass.

A standard serving of wine is five ounces. Despite this, wine glasses have grown in size over time. Some can hold 8 to 22 ounces meaning they are never filled to the brim. Wines with ice are best served in white wine glasses. Heavily garnished drinks such as sangria are perfectly served with stemless wine glasses.


Champagne Glasses

These glasses are meant for those special occasions to celebrate in life and thus have one word in mind: elegance. Champagne glasses make an excellent investment to pour that sweet, bubbly nectar. They can come in various shapes and sizes, with a set usually coming with four to eight glasses. These three types of glasses will enhance your drinking experience.

Champagne Flute

The flute is designed to retain the perfect amount of fizz for the longest amount of time. They usually hold around 7 to 11 ounces depending on the size. 

Flutes are fantastic for showcasing a champagne cocktail. An elegant garnish such as a lemon or orange twist can make things pop. A single berry dropped at the bottom can add a simple yet effective way to add a bit more flare. The berry can even change the color of the champagne!

Champagne Saucer

The Champagne saucer is also known as a coupe glass. It has a flat rounder bowl than its taller counterparts. Its small shape makes it extremely easy to sip and enjoy many other cocktails. It holds 6 to 8 ounces and also looks great with a garnish.

Saucers are primarily used to serve Champagne straight to a lot of guests at once. Their vintage appearance makes them extremely popular with speakeasies! Their large

 round bowl is useful when wanting to float a large slice of fruit on top of the drink.


Champagne Tulip

Similar to the flower in shape and size the Champagne tulip is another elegant glass to add to the collection. It has a long stem and a bowl of flute glass but instead of the rims flaring in they flare out. Because of this, the bubbles will not be trapped. It still makes a great option for mixing Champagne or drinking it with other sparkling wines.


Tall Specialty Cocktail Glasses

When the occasion comes these glasses are your go-to when drinking that special cocktail. Each is used for a specific purpose and can add a significant amount of flare to the drink! They may not be used as much but are still well worth it to keep around.


Hurricane Glass

Reminiscent of vintage hurricane lamps, hurricane glasses have an unmistakable pear shape. They hold 10 to 12 ounces and are used for the famous hurricane cocktail! Another well-known cocktail that uses a hurricane glass is the piña colada. Its exotic shape is great for summer cocktails. Add a fruity garnish and you’re set!


Irish Coffee Glass

Who would have thought the Irish coffee cocktail was created by an American living in Switzerland? The iconic cocktail comes in an iconic glass with a handle that provides protection against hot drinks. The thick heat-resistant glass holds between 8 to 10 ounces and is a great substitute for a mug.


Brandy Snifter

The brandy snifter is perfect for sipping on the good stuff. It makes a great glass for brandy (as the name implies) and is quite large. Despite the size, only a standard pour should go inside the glass. It has an excellent hand feel and creates a wonderful experience when imbibing. It really allows the drinker to notice all of the distinctive features of brandy; the color, the aromas, and its legs.

If space is an issue, getting a smaller brandy glass might still be a great option for those looking to buy one. A smaller glass will still have the benefits of a larger glass and will hold around 6 ounces.


Short Specialty Cocktail Glasses

These peculiar glasses all have short stems and are used on rare occasions when creating simple yet delicious cocktails. 


Sour Glass

A sour glass is a small version of a white wine glass. Used to make the whiskey sour, the glass is made to enjoy modest amounts of easy-to-make cocktails. Its short stature holds in at around 3 to 6 ounces. 


Cordial Glasses

Commonly used during the late 1920s and early 1980s, cordial glasses don’t provide much function but are still fun to collect as vintage glassware. They are primarily used for sipping on cordials and liqueurs. They hold a meager amount clocking in at  2 to 3 ounces.

Common styles of cordial glasses include:

Genever: A small tulip glass. It is commonly used by the Dutch to drink Genever, a cross between whiskey and gin. The custom goes as follows, fill the glass all the way to the rim with cold genever, lean over the glass, and without hands a long loud sip off the top!

Schnapps: Used for sipping on fermented fruit juice a schnapps glass is similar to the sour glass and flares out at the rim.

Grappa: these glasses have a round bowl towards the bottom and a thin cone-shaped rim.

Fortified wines: popular drinks to sip out of fortified wine glasses are sherry and port. They are enjoyed straight and the glass looks similar to a white wine glass.


Tips for Buying Glassware

  • Look for glasses you will use and not collect dust.
  • Shop at second-hand stores. They have some of the best quality glassware.
  • Do not buy thin, cheaply made glasses. They will break easily creating a hazard and will not last long.


Tips for Glassware Cleaning and Storing

  • Hand wash expensive glassware. Do not put them in the dishwasher!
  • Store glassware upside down. This way they don’t collect dust inside or break if knocked over.
  • Always dry your glasses as soon as possible to avoid water spots.
  • Never put wet glasses upside down in cupboards or glass racks. They can accrue mold and it could ruin the surface of where they are stored.
  • Dust your glassware frequently!
  • Rinse your glasses well to remove soapy residue. It could ruin the taste of the drink!
  • Using white bread can be an effective way to pick up little shards if a glass breaks.
  • Purchasing a glass rack saves space and keeps your glassware safe!