Raise Your Glass! A Guide to Cocktail, Wine & Spirit Drinkware

In the world of cocktails, wine, and spirits, the sheer variety of available drinkware is practically as complex as the drinks themselves. And while it’s tempting to think “a glass is a glass,” that is simply untrue. When you invest in a quality glass, you can be assured that it was designed and constructed to enhance your drinking experience.

Below are some of the most common types of drinkware along with a description of the drinks they’re best suited for. And while no one is suggesting that the average person needs every type listed, it may behoove the committed drinking enthusiast to invest in those glasses that pair best with his or her favorite libation(s).

Cocktail Glasses

A glass has a tremendous impact on how you experience a cocktail, which is why bartenders purposefully choose certain styles of glassware for certain drinks. Function, aesthetic, and historical precedent can all factor into their decisions.

coupe glassCoupe

Details:
A coupe is a stemmed cocktail glass with a wide, shallow round bowl and a Prohibition Era vibe. Its elevated bowl prevents your hand from warming your drink, making it ideal for chilled cocktails served without ice. It was originally designed to serve champagne but transitioned to cocktails when discerning drinkers realized other glasses do a better job of preserving sparkling wine’s effervescence.

Ideal For:
Shaken or stirred cocktails served without ice like Daiquiris, Manhattans, and Sidecars, among many, many others

Recipes to Try:


martini glassMartini Glass

Details:
Sometimes referred to simply as a “cocktail glass,” the Martini glass is sleek and iconic. Its detractors complain that its wide, v-shaped bowl makes the glass unwieldy, which can lead to spills. Nonetheless, Martini glasses are nice to have on hand for serving their namesake drink in mid-century style.

Ideal For:
Martinis or any cocktail served up (that is, chilled without ice)

Recipes to Try:


nick and nora glassNick & Nora

Details:
The Nick & Nora glass–named after the cocktail-swilling husband and wife detective team from the 1934 film The Thin Man–is an elegant stemmed glass variation that has been making a comeback. Its bowl is deeper and less wide than a coupe and not as top-heavy as the Martini glass, rendering it more stable. It also tends to be on the dainty side, as far as stemmed cocktail glasses go, making for a more practical-sized drink.

Ideal For:
Martinis, Gimlets, Martinez cocktails–anything served chilled without ice

Recipes to Try:

Corpse Reviver No. 2


 

Margarita glassMargarita Glass

Details:
The iconic Margarita glass is more about tradition than function, though some theorize its large mouth and generous rim supports an optimal salt-to-beverage ratio. Many also tend to be larger than, say, a coupe to accommodate the generous serving size Americans have come to expect from their Margaritas. The bowls of standard versions tend to be stepped, but we are partial to the elegant, streamlined take on the Margarita glass, pictured left.

Ideal For:
Margaritas, frozen or otherwise


rock glass

Rocks Glass

Details:
Commonly referred to as lowballs or Old Fashioned glasses, rocks glasses are short, straight-sided, thick-bottomed tumblers that range anywhere from 4 to 10 ounces in capacity. They are perfect for serving spirits straight, drinks served with ice that you build in the glass, and shorter drinks that your stir or shake and and pour over ice.

Ideal For:
Straight spirits served neat and anything on the rocks like an Old Fashioned or White Russian

Recipes to Try:


highball glassHighball

Details:
A highball glass has straight sides and an elongated, cylindrical design, making it appropriate for any number of tall drinks served over ice. Its height and narrow body also help preserve the bubbles in cocktails prepared with soda or tonic. Straws are optional but highly recommended.

Ideal For:
Tall cocktails made with club soda, tonic, and/or fruit juice and lots of ice like Mojitos, Gin & Tonics, and Swizzles

Recipes to Try:


collins glassCollins Glass

Details:
With its long, slim design, a Collins glass is similar to a highball but taller. The two glasses are used interchangeably these days, for the most part.

Ideal For:
Tom Collins cocktails, Fizzes, and other tall, bubbly drinks served over ice

Recipes to Try:


shot glassShot Glass

Details:
Shots pack a wallop, so they ought to be consumed from a properly diminutive serving vessel. Enter, the shot glass, which generally fall in the 1 to 2 ounce range. As a bonus, you can use shot glasses to measure cocktail ingredients in ratios if you don’t have a jigger handy.

Ideal For:
Shots (duh) of either straight liquor or mixed concoctions

Recipe to Try:

  • The Ferrari (equal parts Fernet Branca and Campari)
  • Jello Shots

hurricane glassHurricane Glass

Details:
 A Hurricane glass is tall with a short stem and distinct, pear-like curves. It shares its name with a classic New Orleans cocktail and holds anywhere from 15 to 20 ounces of fluid.

Ideal For:
Hurricanes and other tall tropical and/or frozen drinks like Planter’s Punch and Piña Coladas

Recipes to Try:


absinthe glassAbsinthe Glass

Details:
While it isn’t essential to have a special glass to perform an absinthe drip, reservoir-style absinthe glasses help ensure you are louching the proper amount of absinthe at any one go. To boot, their vintage-inspired design evokes absinthe’s heyday, the Belle Epoque.

Ideal For:
Absinthe drips and absinthe-based cocktails

Recipe to Try:


moscow muleMoscow Mule Mug

Details:
The Moscow Mule was invented in the early 1940s by a bartender in Los Angeles hoping to unload a glut of Smirnoff vodka and homemade ginger beer in his inventory (this was before vodka was America’s liquor of choice). The cocktail’s characteristic copper mug (devised as a marketing gimmick to promote the sale of more Moscow Mules) came not long after. Now, they are essential to the drink’s proper service.

Ideal For:
Moscow Mules, for sure, but they also work for a Dark ‘n’ Stormy

Recipes to Try:


mint julep cupMint Julep Cup

Details:
Elegant Mint Julep cups were prized in the American South (the birthplace of the Mint Julep) at least as far back as the early 19th century. In 1938, the cups reached icon status when the Mint Julep was named the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Now, no Derby party is complete without a set. When used properly, the shaved or crushed ice of the cocktail will form a thick, pretty frost on the cup’s outside.

Ideal For:
Classic or flavored Mint Juleps and other crushed ice drinks like a Smash

Recipes to Try:


tiki mugTiki Mug

Details:
As tiki cocktails have surged in popularity, so too have elaborate tiki mugs. These kitschy pieces of drinkware can be traced back to the days of Don the Beachcomber–a pioneering restaurateur who served tropical drinks in island-motif ceramic vessels as early as the 1940s. True tiki mugs–those fashioned to resemble anthropomorphic statues–probably didn’t hit the scene until the late 1950s. Today, tiki mugs come in an incredible range of designs, making them highly collectible.

Ideal For:
Any number of tiki or tropical drinks like the Mai Tai, Scorpion, and Painkiller

Recipes to Try:


irish coffee mugIrish Coffee Mug

Details:
An Irish Coffee mug is typically footed and made of tempered glass to withstand heat. A handle protects your delicate fingers from potentially scalding temperatures. 

Ideal For: 
Irish Coffee, Buttered Rum, Hot Toddy, Tom & Jerry, spiked cocoa, and other warm drinks

Recipes to Try:

Wine Stemware

Stemware come in a variety of shapes and sizes to highlight the attributes and minimize the imbalances inherent to different varietals and styles of wine.

bordeaux glassBordeaux Glass

Details:
Bordeaux glasses are a type of stemware designed to best showcase tannic, moderately acidic, heavy reds, like the merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc blends characteristic of the Bordeaux region of France. Their bowls are generous and tall to allow the wine’s bouquet to fully reveal itself and to direct the wine’s tannins appropriately on the palate in order to better balance them with fruit and acidity. Generally, they also taper toward the lip to focus the wine’s aromas.

Ideal For:
Tannic, moderately acidic, heavy reds, like merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc


burgundy glassBurgundy Glass

Details:
Burgundy glasses are large and wider than Bordeaux glasses to better emphasize the nuanced but more subtle aromas of light, delicate reds. Their wide-mouth design directs wine to the front of the palate, where its natural acidity will be perceived in better balance with fruit and tannins. Ideally, the glasses also taper inward toward the rim to direct aromatics to the drinker’s nose.

Ideal For:
Lighter, acidic, moderately tannic reds like pinot noirs from Burgundy


Chardonnay Glass Chardonnay Glass

Details:
The chardonnay glass is generally considered the “standard” white wine glass. It has a relatively small bowl (as compared to Bordeaux and Burgundy glasses) to help keep wine cold for a longer period of time. Its design also concentrates aromas and keeps the wine closer to the nose, which helps the drinker perceive complex aromas, even under chilled conditions.

Ideal For:
Specifically chardonnay, but it is all-purpose enough to be used for other whites


champagne glassChampagne Flute

Details:
The long, slender body of the standard champagne flute encourages the bubbles in sparkling wine to rise slowly and helps prevent their rapid dissipation. It also concentrates the wine’s aroma better than a wide-mouthed coupe. But beyond its function, the champagne flute is a cultural object–one that is practically synonymous with celebration. 

Ideal for:
Champagne and other sparkling wine as well as sparkling wine cocktails

Recipes to Try:


port glassPort Glass

Details:
As a fortified wine, port typically registers somewhere around 20% ABV. It also runs sweet (which is why you traditionally drink it after dinner). Ergo, port glasses are small in anticipation of the modest pour you’ll probably want to take. They are also specifically shaped to deliver the best balance of fruitiness and acidity.

Ideal For:
Port. Also appropriate for Madeira wine.


Glassware for Spirits

If you’re drinking well liquor, go ahead and shoot it. But if you’re drinking anything nicer, it’s worth putting it in proper glassware and sipping it slowly.

cordial glassCordial Glass

Details:
A cordial is just another word for a liqueur, which is a distilled spirit that has been sweetened and flavored with fruit, herbs, nuts, cream, botanicals, or some combination thereof. A cordial
glass is stemmed, elegant, and purposely dainty (generally, 2 to 3 ounces) for a more modest pour. Serve cordials as an apéritif or for/in lieu of dessert.

Ideal For:
Dessert liqueurs, apéritifs, and digestifs


grappa glassGrappa Glass

Details:
A little goes a long way when it comes to grappa. The small bowl of the grappa glass reflects this reality. Like a cordial glass, it is stemmed to keep warm hands from affecting serving temperature. Its round bowl further helps with temperature regulation, and its flared lip helps you better take in grappa’s heady aromatics.

Ideal For:
Grappa


brandy snifterBrandy Snifter

Details:
The best brandy snifters are crafted from thin, leaded crystal and boast a large, curvy, bell-shaped bowl perched on a stubby stemmed pedestal. Its rotund figure lets the aromas of a fine aged brandy unfold, collect, and linger as you warm the glass with your cupped hand. Just be sure not to fill the glass anywhere close to all the way–a 6-ounce pour is about right.

Ideal For:
Brandy and cognac


single malt whiskey glassSingle Malt Scotch Whiskey Glass

Details:
A fine scotch deserves better than a water tumbler. To fully appreciate the nuances of your single malt, your best bet is a specialized tulip-shaped or bulbous-bottomed glass that captures and concentrates the layered aromatics your favorite distiller worked so hard to achieve.  

Ideal For:
Scotch and whiskey


tequila glassTequila Glass

Details:
If you only drink tequila out of shot glasses, you’re doing it wrong. A larger glass gives your fine, 100% blue agave tequila a chance to breathe, which, in turn, makes more available to you its complex flavors and aromas. Sip it without ice to fully appreciate the artistry of your favorite small tequila producer.

Ideal For:
Tequila blanco, reposado, or añejo


 

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1 Comment

  • Jule December 21, 2017 @ 9:25am

    Caitlin, phew that was one superb post that I’ve ever came across. I never knew that there could be these many types of glasses for wine, whiskey and any other spirit lovers.

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