Types of Drinking Glasses for Your Next Cocktail Party

drinking glasses

From a dry martini to a pour of Merlot, using the proper glassware when enjoying your favorite beverage is an easy way to elevate your tasting experience. For several decades, different beverages have been served in unique glassware for largely practical reasons. Today, it’s fairly predictable what type of drinking glass you’ll be served when you order your favorite beverage at a bar or cocktail party.

Typically, drinks that require a lot of ice are served in tall tumblers, while beverages served without ice cubes are usually put in glasses with a stem to keep warm hands away from the liquid. The shape and style of glassware has continued to evolve over time to make each beverage taste better and look more aesthetically pleasing.

Using different types of drinking glasses has a big impact on the taste, smell, and temperature of the beverage that you are enjoying. Read on to learn everything you need to know about what glass to use, and when.

Wine Glasses

wine glasses

When drinking wine, it’s important to use the right type of glass to ensure that the vintage is able to reach its full flavor potential. Wine glasses are made up of three key components that impact your drinking experience: a bowl, a stem, and a foot.

Almost all wine glasses have these three elements, and the main difference between styles is the size and shape of the bowl, which will differ depending on the type of wine that you are enjoying. No matter what kind of wine you are drinking, it’s best to hold the glass by the stem to ensure that you do not affect the temperature of the beverage.

Get the most out of your wine collection by understanding which glass pairs best with different flavor profiles.

  • White wine glasses are usually shorter with a small mouth and less surface area to aerate so that the wine does not oxidize too quickly. White wines typically have lighter and more delicate notes. This glass style helps to retain this flavor profile.
    • Used for: White wines with lighter and more delicate notes like Chenin Blanc, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Bordeaux glasses are typically taller than other red wine glasses and are used for full-bodied red wines. They also usually have a slightly smaller bowl than other red wine glasses. The taller shape helps to maximize the flavor of rich red wines.
    • Used for: Full-bodied red wines like Cabernet and Merlot.
  • Burgundy glasses are shorter than Bordeaux glasses with a larger bowl. These glasses enhance the flavor of light-bodied red wines by directing the drink to the tip of the tongue.
    • Used for: Light-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir.
  • Flute glasses are the narrowest of the wine glass family and have the least surface area to help keep sparkling wine and champagne from going flat. This is also the ideal glass in which to enjoy champagne cocktails.
    • Used for: Sparkling wine, champagne, and champagne cocktails.
  • Stemless glasses are a casual take on the traditional wine glass. They can be used for wines of all types and are typically used when consuming wine at a picnic, barbecue, or casual party.
    • Used for: Drinking the wine of your choice at a casual event.

Beer Glasses

beer glasses

Beer enthusiasts know that there are many different types of glasses that can and should be used when enjoying a brew. Different types of beer glasses are designed for unique purposes like preserving the head of a beer or bringing out the color and flavor of your beverage. When drinking beer, be mindful of the glassware you choose, as different varieties will affect your drinking experience.

  • Pint glasses are what you are most likely to be served when drinking beer or cider at a bar or restaurant. These glasses are simple to clean and easy to stack, making them a favorite of both bartenders and beer enthusiasts.
    • Used for: The beer of your choice.
  • Pilsner glasses hold between 10 and 14 ounces of beer, and have a tall, skinny flute shape that works well with lighter beer. The wide rim retains the foam head, and the slender design helps drinkers appreciate the carbonation and color of their drink.
    • Used for: Lighter beers like blonde ales and pilsners.
  • Beer mugs are often used for enjoying a nice cold beer outdoors, as the handle allows you to hold your drink without warming it. These glasses vary in size but typically hold between 10 and 14 ounces of beer.
    • Used for: The cold beer of your choice.

Classic Cocktail Glasses

classic cocktail glasses

Whether you order a classic cocktail at a bar or cocktail party, it’s easy to anticipate what kind of glass you will be served. The ratio of mixer to liquor, whether your drink has ice or is served neat, and the size of the cocktail all affect the choice of glass that is typically used for serving. The style of glassware also impacts the feeling of enjoying a classic cocktail, giving some drinks an air of sophistication and others a more playful feel. Cocktail lovers know that the right glass can make or break the drinking experience.

  • Martini glasses are used most often for martinis, though they can also be used to serve other classic cocktails between three and six ounces. Use a martini glass for refined cocktails that are served without ice.
    • Used for: Martinis and other classic cocktails.
  • Coupe glasses feature a broad, shallow bowl atop a stem. Though originally developed for enjoying champagne, today these glasses are also used for craft cocktails like sidecars, aviations, and daiquiris.
    • Used for: Craft cocktails or champagne.
  • Highball glasses are used to serve tall cocktails that call for a high ratio of mixer to alcohol and are served over ice, such as a Tom Collins or a mojito. This glass type is very similar to the Collins glass, though the highball glass is wider and shorter. Cocktails served in highball glasses are often created right in the glass.
    • Used for: Cocktails like a mojito, Tom Collins, and gin fizz.
  • Lowball glasses are short glasses that hold between 6 and 8 ounces. The solid bottom of this glass type is ideal for muddling ingredients and for drinks that are served neat, like an Old Fashioned.
    • Used for: Cocktails like an Old Fashioned, a White Russian, or a Sazerac.
  • Shot glasses come in different shapes and sizes and are a mainstay in any bar cart. The average shot glass holds 1½ ounces and is made of thick glass along its base to prevent the glass from shattering if a drinker slams it down after taking a shot. Use short glasses for classic shots of your favorite liquor, and larger glasses for unique recipe combinations.
    • Used for: Classic shots and unique shot recipe combinations.
  • Snifter glasses have a short stem that the drinker cradles to warm the drink, a large bowl that allows the liquid to be swirled, and a shorter mouth that provides a strong smell when sipping.
    • Used for: Brown alcohols like whiskey and brandy.
  • Sour glasses are similar to champagne flutes. They are slightly smaller, with a wide opening. These glasses hold five to six ounces and are typically used for small cocktails.
    • Used for: A whiskey or vodka sour.
  • Cordial glasses are usually used to serve after-dinner liqueurs. These small, stemmed glasses can also be used as party glasses, as they add a touch of elegance to any drink.
    • Used for: After-dinner liqueurs or the wine of your choice.

Specialty Cocktail Glasses

specialty cocktail glasses

While you can’t go wrong with standard drinks, speciality cocktails are a fun deviation from the norm, as most people only get to enjoy them occasionally. The right glassware is arguably even more important to the allure of speciality drinks. To elevate the drinking experience for yourself or your guests, make sure you know the right glassware to use for each of these unique occasions.

  • Irish Coffee glasses are made of heat-resistant glass and include a handle so that you can enjoy the beverage without burning your hand.
    • Used for: Hot Toddies, Irish Coffees and other warming beverages.
  • Hurricane glasses are used primarily for drinking the Hurricane cocktail, which was created by Pat O’Brien, a New Orleans tavern owner, in the 1940s. The cocktail is traditionally served in hurricane lamp-shaped glasses.
    • Used for: Sweet, rum-based cocktails made with fruit juice and grenadine.
  • Margarita glasses are used for serving margaritas and can come in slightly different shapes and sizes depending on the type of margarita served. The double-bowl shape works especially well for frozen cocktails. The wide bowl of this glass makes it easy to add salt or sugar to the rim.
    • Used for: Margaritas served frozen or on the rocks.
  • Tiki mugs originated at tropical-themed restaurants and tiki bars.
    • Used for: Rum-based cocktails with over-the-top garnishes.

Bar Cart Essentials

In addition to stocking a bar cart with all of the glassware essentials, it’s important that you include the right liquor and bar accessories to ensure you can provide a refined at home bar experience. The rule of thumb is to include include all basic liquors like vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and whiskey, and mixers like juice, tonic water, and bitters.

No matter what you like to drink or where you like to enjoy a beverage, don’t forget about the glass you’ll choose. While the rules outlined above are the standard, make sure to consider the atmosphere of where you’re drinking, as well as your personal preference.

Types of Glassware Guide

This quick reference guide will help you remember what glassware you need for your next event. Fancier events will call for more sophisticated glasses, while a stemless wine glass could be perfectly appropriate at a backyard barbecue. Understanding what glass to use and when will help you elevate your drinking experience, whether you’re enjoying a beverage at a bar or hosting a formal cocktail party.

Sources: Greatist | VinePair | The Spruce | The Cocktail Novice | Whisky Mag | Mr. Boston Drinks | Joy Jolt | A Bar Above | Bottleneck Management | Webstaurant Store