There are so many types of cocktail glasses that it can be daunting to figure out what they’re all for. Even the most experienced bartenders and drinkers may find themselves perplexed by a rare type of cocktail glass that they’ve never seen before.
Many cocktail glasses have a design ideal for one specific kind of cocktail or drink, making them extremely niche. Nevertheless, it’s fun to learn about the origins of these fancy glasses and what to use them for. Some date back hundreds of years, while others came about toward the end of the 20th century.
Interestingly, many cocktail glass designs go beyond enticing appearances and have a specific function to make the cocktail more enjoyable.
Some glasses keep summer cocktails colder for long periods. Others make scents more accessible, and some help the spirit breathe, which enhances the flavor. Overall, each drinking experience is unique.
Types of Glasses
Below are twelve types of cocktail glasses with some information on each to help everyone navigate the complex and exciting world of cocktails.
There are many kinds of martinis, as well as other drinks that belong in this glass, such as:
Martini glasses are a stem glass, with a wide mouth that forms a triangle on top of the thin stem.
The wide mouth allows the spirit to breathe and open up the flavors. Many types of cocktail glasses fall under the martini glass category, such as Nick and Nora glasses and Coupe glasses, but they all have slight differences.
Check out our favorite martini glasses here!
A highball glass is a tall and thin glass that many use for water and other non-alcohol drinks.
I use these glasses for mixed cocktails, such as Long Island iced teas or mojitos.
The sides are straight and tall, and each glass holds between eight and twelve ounces. And, of course, they’re used for the highball cocktail, which typically combines whiskey, juice, and a carbonated beverage.
The top of the glass has a thin circumference, so rather than let the alcohol breathe and release tannins, it maintains the cocktail’s flavor.
I think these glasses are excellent for layered drinks because they create a stunning visual effect.
A Collins glass is a tall, straight glass typically used for Tom Collins or John Collins cocktails.
It is often confused with highball glasses, but a Collins glass is typically thicker and wider than a highball glass. It also holds less liquid.
It usually has the capacity for no more than eight ounces and is meant to have lots of ice.
So Collins cocktails have more liquor with fewer mixers, therefore needing less space in the glass.
Collins and highball glasses are used interchangeably at casual bars for any cocktail that needs a tall glass.
Many people use these in their homes for drinking water, but they are technically cocktail glasses.
Margarita glasses are one of the most distinct and recognizable types of cocktail glasses.
Unlike many other glasses, like the Collins and the highball, a margarita glass isn’t suitable for other kinds of cocktails.
A margarita glass is a stem glass with a smaller bottom portion for the liquid that gradually grows bigger.
It’s similar to a martini glass or coupe glass, but it has a distinct ridge, creating a curved shape that makes it easy to cup your hand around the base.
The Margarita has an interesting history, and so does its glass. Many believe the glass resembles an upside-down sombrero, but it originated from a mistake when crafting champagne glasses.
Coupe glasses were originally for champagne, also called the Champagne Coupe or the Champagne saucer.
They are small stemmed glasses with a saucer or low bowl shape.
The volume they hold is smaller than a martini glass, and the top has curved sides, unlike the straight sides of the martini glass.
People once thought the shape makes the champagne stay bubbly for longer, but the coupe has since been replaced with the champagne flute as the preferred glass for this bubbly drink.
But the coupe is still a popular glass.
Nick and Nora Glass
Nice and Nora glasses are a fancy hybrid of:
- Martini glasses
- Coupe glasses
- Wine glasses
They are petite stemmed glasses with curved sides and a narrower mouth than the coupe or martini glasses.
But the sides don’t curve inward to create a super round shape the way wine glasses do. They got their name from the couple Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hamett’s novel, The Thin Man.
I find that these glasses are more spill-proof than martini and coupe glasses, but they allow the alcohol to breathe more than wine glasses.
Nick and Nora glasses are one of the least popular types of cocktail glasses in both bars and homes. Nevertheless, they work for shaken or stirred cocktails of a small volume.
A rocks glass, also called a lowball or old-fashioned glass, is a low, stout glass. It has straight sides and a wide base the same size as the mouth.
These are the short, simple glasses that most people drink whiskey from, whether it’s neat or on the rocks.
These glasses can be used for cocktails with a higher volume, like a rum-based drink. But they are most common for straight whiskey or vodka drinks with little to no mixers or ice.
They often have intricate designs in the glass or pointed edges for added flair, but they’re always wide and short.
Copper mugs are a unique cocktail glass.
Copper mugs are what they sound like: a mug made of copper. These are for mules, a cocktail that combines lime, liquor, and ginger beer.
The copper helps activate the flavor of the ginger beer and enhance the taste of the cocktail. Moscow mules, made with vodka, are the most popular.
But there are also Mexican mules, Kentucky mules, and more, where the type of spirit is swapped out.
Copper mugs usually have a thin handle and a textured base. The metal material works to keep the drink cold for longer!
Glencairn Whiskey Glass
The Glencairn whiskey glass is a super-specific glass that isn’t for cocktails, but straight whiskey.
The proper way to use this little glass is for a neat whiskey, meaning no ice, mixers, or any other additives; just straight whiskey.
Raymond Davidson designed the glass in Ireland to enhance the whiskey-drinking experience. The glasses are tulip-shaped with a short glass base, like a super thick but short stem.
The tulip design allows the drinker to inhale the whiskey before and as they take a swig, so they can experience the full flavor profile.
The hurricane glass is one of the most fun types of cocktails glasses!
This glass is what you most commonly see strawberry daiquiris, Pina Coladas, and other fruity or frozen vacation drinks in.
They typically hold about 20 ounces, but big ones can hold up to 24 ounces. They’re often used for blended drinks or virgin smoothies. The glass has a short stem and a dramatic curved shape.
People often compare the shape of the glass to a lamp base or a flower vase. It’s narrow at the bottom, then widens significantly, and then narrows again at the top, ending with an outward flair perfect for sipping.
Many tiki bars use these glasses to add an exotic flair to their drinks.
Julep cups are another special cocktail cup because it isn’t glass, like the copper mugs.
These glasses are for mint juleps, a refreshing and light cocktail popular in the South of the US, specifically at the Kentucky Derby.
They use stainless steel or copper to keep drinks colder for longer, even in the extreme summer heat. The bottom of the cup is narrower than the mouth for a subtle cone shape.
This cup has been around since the 1800s when ice was hard to come by, and people didn’t want ingredients to go to waste.
A snifter is another popular glass for whiskey drinkers.
Some bars will serve cocktails in these glasses, but they are mostly for enjoying whiskey neat. They look like short, fat wine glasses. They have a short stem, usually about an inch, and a wide rounded base.
The mouth is narrower than the base and delicately curves inward with straight edges.
This design allows the drinker to smell the spirit before it hits their lips. But, the glass is open enough that the whiskey can breathe while in the glass.
I prefer snifters to Glencairn whiskey glasses as snifters are usually much larger.
Types of Glasses
- Martini Glass
- Highball Glass
- Collins Glass
- Margarita Glass
- Coupe Glass
- Nick and Nora Glass
- Rocks Glass
- Copper Mug
- Glencairn Whiskey Glass
- Hurricane Glass
- Julep Cup
Some people may call different types of cocktail glasses interchangeable. In reality, they were all designed with a specific cocktail in mind, excluding the margarita, which has quirky origins. But for every cocktail, there is the perfect cocktail glass!
If all beautifully crafted drinks went into the same pint glass, they wouldn’t be the fantastic array of flavors they’re known for. The cocktail glass used is an essential aspect of mixology, fostering the perfect experience.
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