Make Their Drink Memorable with the Right Cocktail Glasses
Our cocktail glasses buying guide will go through everything you need — including the why, the what, and the types of cocktail glasses — to have your bar set up to deliver the best possible cocktail.
Much of the allure of ordering a cocktail is the presentation — vibrant colours, powerful aromatics, expertly crafted foams and garnishes — which builds the anticipation and excitement of your first (and subsequent) sips.
The perfect way to tie all of the presentation details together in an expertly crafted cocktail is the cocktail glass. The shape, size and style of the cocktail glass can make or break how memorable your drink is. Let us explain.
Why are there different types of cocktail glasses?
Like wine and beer, cocktails come in a plethora of textures, tastes, and smells.
Be it a velvety drink with a sultry foam, a spicy margarita with a sea salt rim, or even a simple gin and tonic, the number of cocktails available to customers is limited only by the imagination of bartenders around the globe.
And those cocktails all have different features, which are emphasized by the various shapes and sizes of a cocktail glass — coupe glasses enhance the smell, highball glasses look impeccably clean, and so much more!
Why should restaurants and bars use the "right" cocktail glass?
Just as much as the right cocktail glass can enhance a drink, using the wrong vessel can mute the best attributes of a drink — and making a good first impression is half the battle!
You wouldn’t put a whiskey sour in a highball glass, as the rim is too small to show off a rich foam, just as you wouldn’t put a Tom Collins in a coupe glass (the carbonation would be gone way too quick) or put a Manhattan in a hurricane glass — it would look small and, well, sad.
To give a customer the best possible experience, you want them the taste every herb, spice, and spirit that goes into a cocktail to the fullest degree… which in turn also makes your venue seem more knowledgeable and show that you truly put every effort into delivering the best product possible.
And the only way to do that is by putting the carefully crafted beverage in the right cocktail glass.
Need to know how many cocktail glasses and other drinkware to have on hand? Check out our Restaurant Drinkware Buying Guide.
The 5 Parts of a Cocktail Glass
The rim is the first point of contact when transferring the drink to your mouth from the glass. The rim can vary in thickness, but it should always be smooth and free of chips/cracks — not just to prevent any spillage or loss of flavour, but also so your guest doesn’t cut their lips!
Unlike beers, which often are poured to the top of a glass, cocktails generally have a little space between the top of the beverage and the rim of the glass. This has two purposes: first, sipping a cocktail that is filled to the brim is difficult and almost guarantees spillage, and second: it’s harder to regulate the ratios of a cocktail if you’re focused on filling the glass every time, as opposed to just focusing on a good, consistent product (especially with foams or whipped cream toppings).
For footed glassware, such as snifters, coupes, and even martini glasses, the bowl sits at the bottom of the drinking portion of the cocktail glass, where the majority of the drink resides — usually coupled with a tapered top half. The tapered bowl helps keep drinks from separating, especially cocktails with foams or whipped cream toppers that are lighter than the weight of the liquid (it's a physics and chemistry thing).
Most drinks served in stemware are generally done so without added ice. The beverage is chilled in a cocktail shaker but after that, are constantly warming up. In order to prevent drinks from warming up too quickly (which alters the taste) from our hands holding the glass, there’s a stem for us to grasp the glass. There is no liquid in the stem and it’s generally a separate piece of glass that’s attached to the bowl, so holding it has zero effect on the temperature of the cocktail.
What the drink sits on! Some bases are attached to the stem (so you can set it on a table), while other bases are just a thicker part at the bottom of a glass (such as highballs and rocks). The base, also called the sham, provides stability for your glass and can vary greatly in thickness between glassware companies. One thing to consider is a thicker base means there is more space to hold the cocktail without warming up the drink.
Capacity of Cocktail Glasses
Cocktail glass capacities can range from 5 oz coupe glasses to a standard 12 oz highball, or even all the way up to a 20 oz Hurricane glass.
Choosing the right glass often starts with knowing how much cocktail there actually is. Unlike beers and wine, which are generally standardized in the volume poured, cocktails can range in how much liquid you are pouring:
- A 1-2 oz spirit served neat or on the rocks
- A classic stirred cocktail that is strictly a couple of spirits and no mixers
- A tropical cocktail that features juices, syrups, and fruit in addition to the alcohol
Those three types of drinks will all share space on a menu… but require drastically different cocktail glass sizes.
Types of Cocktail Glasses
The quintessential (and iconic) cocktail glass, a martini glass is typified by a v-shaped bowl, wide rim, and skinny stem. Also referred to as an “up” glass, since drinks in a martini glass are usually served straight up (with no ice). Most commonly used for sipping cocktails with little-to-no mixers. Designed for: Classic martini, Cosmopolitan, Sidecar.
Also known as a chimney glass, this is a tall, thin, cylindrical cocktail glass that usually holds around 12 oz and is normally filled with ice. Similar to a Collins glass (which is slightly taller and thinner), the small diameter rim helps retain carbonation while the glass shape keeps the ice from melting too quick (and the drink stays cold). Designed for: Classic “x-and-y” drinks — rum and coke, gin and tonic, dark and stormy.
Another stemmed cocktail glass, which features a large, round bowl. They can look like large coupe glasses, but many margarita glasses also have a secondary, sub-bowl, although they all share large, broad rims, These broad rims showcase a salt or sugar-coated rim while offering the drinker a chance to intake the ever-present citrus aromas of its eponymous drink. Designed for: Margaritas (frozen or shaken on the rocks), Daiquiris.
Also referred to as an old fashioned or lowball glass, these cocktail glasses are similar in diameter to highballs… but are significantly shorter. Designed for more spirit-forward drinks with one or two ice cubes. Rocks cocktail glasses are also great for building, muddling and stirring the drink right in the glass. Designed for: Old Fashioned, Negroni, straight spirits (served neat or on the rocks).
Originally (and historically) designed for champagne, coupes have been adapted for showing off elegant, spirit-forward cocktails (served without ice), as well as drinks that have a foam topper. Like martini glasses, carbonated beverages don’t work well in coupes, as the large surface area leads to a quick loss of carbonation, resulting in drinks going flat quickly. Designed for: Manhattan, Gin Fizz, Pisco Sour, Boulevardier.
Named after the classic Hurricane cocktail, these glasses are tall, big, and have a flared rim, short stem, and a tulip shape — almost like a classic Pilsner glass. Great for cocktails that have a lot of mixers (often fruit juices and other aromatics), Hurricanes are a favorite for showing off tropical-style cocktails with bright, vibrant colours. Designed for: Singapore Sling, Pina Colada, Blue Hawaiian.
Also restricting the view of the drink, copper mugs feature drinks that are chock full of ice (crushed, shaved, or cubed) and keeps them cold for a long, long, time, with your hands neither warming the drink nor getting frostbite thanks for a trusty little handle. Designed for: Moscow Mule, Mint Julep, Bourbon Smash.
These aren’t all the cocktail glasses available to a bar — there are many more shapes, sizes, and variations are your disposal — but having your bar stocked with some of these cocktail glasses will go a long way to giving your cocktails the glassware love they deserve.
Written by Jared Hochman