Types of Bar Glasses for Your Next Cocktail Party

drinking glasses

Even if you’re observing a dry January, now would be a good time to stock up your drinking cabinet for your next soiree, especially if you’re looking to buy vintage glassware at auction. 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, its fairly predictable what type of drinking glass youll 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 bar 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, its 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, its 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 

These 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 

Typically taller than other red wine glasses and 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 

These 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 

The narrowest of the wine glass family, these glasses 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 

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 

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 

These 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 or Tankards 

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, its 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 

These glasses are used most often for martinis, though they can also be used to serve other classic cocktails between 3 and 6 ounces. Use a martini glass for refined cocktails that are served without ice.

Used for: Martinis and other classic cocktails.

Coupe Glasses 

Featuring a broad, shallow bowl on top of a stem, these glasses were originally developed for enjoying champagne. Today they are also used for craft cocktails like sidecars, aviations, and daiquiris.

Used for: Craft cocktails or champagne.

Highball Glasses 

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 

Short glasses that hold between 6 and 8 ounces. The solid bottom of this glass type is ideal for mixing 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 

These 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 

These 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 

Similar to champagne flutes. They are slightly smaller, with a wide opening. These glasses hold 5 to 6 ounces and are typically used for small cocktails.

Used for: A whiskey or vodka sour.

Cordial Glasses 

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

Speciality cocktails are a fun deviation from the norm, as most people only get to enjoy them occasionally. The right glassware adds 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 drinks.

Irish Coffee Glasses 

Made of heat-resistant glass and includes a handle so that you can enjoy it without burning your hand.

Used for: Hot Toddies, Irish Coffees and other warming beverages.

Hurricane Glasses 

Used primarily for drinking the Hurricane cocktail, which was created by Pat OBrien, 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 

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 

These originated in 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, its important that you include the right liquor and bar accessories. The rule of thumb is to include all basic liquors such as vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and whiskey, and mixers such as juice, tonic water, and bitters.

No matter what you like to drink or where you like to enjoy a beverage, dont forget about the glass. While the rules outlined above are the norm, do consider the atmosphere of where youre 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 is best to use will help you elevate your drinking experience, whether youre enjoying a casual drink at a bar or hosting a formal cocktail party at home.

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

Written by Alexis Culotta View all posts by this author →

Alexis holds a PhD in art history and has enjoyed professional roles across gallery, museum, and academic settings. Thanks to these myriad experiences, Alexis holds a wealth of knowledge across the fields of fine and decorative arts and enjoys every opportunity to share these insights along with the stories of these makers and objects with Invaluable collectors.