While purchasing the requisite types of liquor is vital for a complete home bar, owning a worthy set of barware in which to mix those drinks is just as important. A martini served in an orange juice glass not only won’t do justice to the drink, but it also won’t impress dinner guests.
With so many different types of barware—martini glasses, coupe glasses, highballs, lowballs, and more—this guide will clear up those questions by exploring the barware suitable for serving different drinks, and showcase some of the best cocktail glasses available.
- BEST OVERALL: Marquis by Waterford Markham Old Fashioned Glasses
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Libbey Mixologist 18-Piece Bar in a Box Cocktail Set
- BEST MARTINI GLASSES: Riedel Extreme Martini Glass, Set of 2
- BEST HIGHBALL GLASSES: Volarium Highball Glasses with Heavy Base, Set of 6
- BEST COUPE GLASSES: Libbey Capone Speakeasy Coupe Cocktail Glasses, 4
- BEST FOR TROPICAL DRINKS: Bormioli Rocco (Set of 4) Cocktail Glasses Tulip
- BEST FOR MOSCOW MULES: PG Moscow Mule Mugs | Large Size 19 ounces Set of 4
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cocktail Glasses
While understanding the types of cocktail glasses and the types of drinks they are designed to serve is crucial to outfitting a home bar with glassware. Several other factors are also important to consider; including the material, durability, and style of the glasses and the available space in your home bar.
- Highball: A highball glass is tall, narrow, and typically holds between 8 and 12 ounces. This large capacity makes it ideal for mixed drinks that have a significant amount of ice and large garnishes, such as a Scotch and soda, a rum and Coke, or even a Manhattan.
- Collins: A Collins glass is identical to a highball glass with one exception—it is notably taller and thus a couple of ounces larger. It works well for such mixed drinks as a gin and tonic, a vodka and soda, and, of course, its eponymous drink, the Tom Collins.
- Lowball: A lowball glass, also referred to as a rocks glass or an old-fashioned glass, is notably shorter than a highball glass and is designed for iced drinks without non-alcoholic mixers. It holds between 4 and 6 ounces—but can be as large as 8 ounces—and is used for an old-fashioned cocktail, a bourbon on the rocks, and sometimes a Manhattan.
- Martini: This classic glass features a V-shaped bowl that is perched atop a long stem. The average martini glass holds around 6 ounces, though it can be as small as 4 ounces and as large as 12 ounces. Drinks are served straight up in a martini glass with common options including a martini (of course), a gimlet, a cosmopolitan, and even the occasional Manhattan.
- Coupe: Consider the coupe glass a user-friendly version of the martini glass. It has a long stem, like a martini glass, is a bit smaller at 6 ounces, and features a rounded shape as opposed to a V-shape. This makes it much easier to carry the glass and swirl the contents without spillage. A coupe glass is popular for a martini and for serving champagne as an alternative to a flute glass.
- Margarita: This specialty glass is similar in shape to the coupe glass with a curved shape and long stem. Unlike a coupe glass, a margarita glass has a small bowl in the center that adds volume and gives it the iconic shape. Most margarita glasses are about 9 ounces and, surprise surprise, are used exclusively for margaritas.
- Tulip: A tulip glass has a bulbous body with a flared lip that sits on a thick stem with a large round base. This glass is a popular option for fruity drinks one might sip in a tropical setting or poolside in the summertime, including a Bahama mama, a pina colada, a daiquiri, and a Blue Hawaiian. A tulip glass usually has a large capacity of around 16 ounces to comfortably hold the alcohol, mixer, ice, and garnishes.
- Copper mug: This specialty piece of barware is one of the few that isn’t made of glass. Aside from having a distinctive look, there is also a functional reason for using a copper mug. The copper material causes an oxidation process that enhances a drink’s flavor and aroma. While the Moscow mule is the best-known drink served in a copper mug, the mint julep and greyhound are also popular options.
Most cocktail glasses are made of, well, glass. For safety reasons, nearly all glass barware is made of pure glass or lead-free crystal, which is really another name for high-quality glass since all real crystal contains lead. This is due to the fact that lead is a health hazard and has the potential to leach into one’s drink.
Instead, look for crystalline, which offers similar clarity and brilliance as lead crystal without harmful lead. Metal barware also presents a potential hazard. Using a pure copper mug too often can irritate the lips or cause nausea, making copper-plated stainless steel a better option.
Cocktail glasses have different thicknesses to meet different demands for durability. Lowball whiskey glasses are typically made of thicker glass, which gives them a more substantial feel while strengthening construction. Margarita glasses and tulip glasses usually have a heavier feel, also making them more suitable for outdoor use.
Most cocktail glasses have thicker glass at the base to prevent tipping and thinner glass near the lip to facilitate sipping. For situations that demand durability and safety, some cocktail glasses aren’t glass at all. Since using glassware around a pool is potentially dangerous, many cocktail glasses are available in tough, shatter-resistant plastic.
Weight and Stability
A high-quality cocktail glass should be well-balanced with a base that can competently hold the bowl without tipping. With this in mind, most cocktail glasses are balanced so that the majority of the weight is in the base. This includes highball glasses, which have a thick glass base, and stemware that features a broad circular base.
The weight of glass cocktail glasses can vary significantly, generally from 6 ounces to 5 pounds. Plastic and stainless steel glasses are much lighter, and you can expect them to weigh between 0.5 ounces and 2 pounds.
Ease of Use
Cocktail glasses are designed to make them easy to use while also enhancing the look and flavor of the drink.
With stemware, while the stem does add elegance and a unique aesthetic to the glass, it isn’t just about looks. The stem provides a means of holding the glass without warming the liquid with the hand. That said, stemware is more delicate than a highball glass or a rocks glass, making it more likely to break and more difficult to carry around at a social gathering.
Stemless cocktail glasses are easier to hold, will withstand more abuse, and are typically dishwasher safe. Rocks glasses and highball glasses typically have thick bases that prevent the glass from tipping and can better withstand the impact of being set down over and over again.
For these reasons, many nonalcoholic drink glasses intended for everyday use take their designs from stemless cocktail glasses, such as highball glasses and rocks glasses, because they are easy to use and hold up to daily washing.
In addition to the style inherent in the different types of cocktail glasses, they also offer other design features that add to their overall aesthetic. This includes patterns made through crystal cutting, a process that is popular with rocks glasses. Cut glass with hard edges can give a cocktail glass a more vintage or traditional feel, while rounded contours create a more contemporary look.
Some cocktail glasses boast different glass treatments that create a certain look or different colors. Metal barware offers a distinctively different look than typical glass barware. Metal mugs feature divots, which give them a classic hammered copper look.
Drinking cocktails is often a communal activity involving a partner and possibly guests. As such, most cocktail glasses are sold in sets. Specialty glasses, such as martini glasses, copper mugs, and rocks glasses, come in sets of two or four, which is enough for an after-work cocktail with a partner or a small cocktail party with four people. Highball glasses and tulip glasses, which are used more often in larger social gatherings, typically come in sets of four or six.
Keep these numbers in mind when populating the glassware in a home bar or bar cabinet that has limited storage space. When deciding which glasses will populate your bar cabinet, remember that some glassware is more versatile than others. While margarita glasses and copper mugs may have limited use, highball glasses and rocks glasses are appropriate for a wide variety of drinks.
Our Top Picks
This list of top picks narrows the field to include some of the best cocktail glasses by type. Any of these glasses would make a worthy addition to a home bar or liquor cabinet.
The high quality of the glass itself is the feature that makes these cocktail glasses stand out from the crowd. Made from the legendary Irish glass maker Waterford, these glasses have the look of fine crystal without the health hazard of lead. Instead, the glasses—part of Waterford’s more affordable Marquis line of glassware—consist of lead-free crystalline.
As with other Waterford glasses, they feature the classic look of cut crystal that, when filled with dark liquor, attractively refracts light. Each rocks-style glass measures 3.75 inches high. With their 11-ounce capacity, these glasses are ideal for old-fashioned and Manhattan cocktails. This set of four glasses also comes in a striking Marquis box, making it an excellent gift option. Hand-washing is recommended.
Creating a versatile home bar with the required glassware can be an expensive undertaking. This set from Libbey is an affordable solution, featuring 12 glasses that cover the gamut of barware. It includes four 13.5-ounce highball glasses, which are ideal for larger mixed drinks on ice; four 12-ounce margarita glasses, and four 10.5-ounce tulip glasses for tropical drinks.
This set provides the necessary tools to help make a variety of drinks: a 16-ounce mixing glass, two shot glasses, and a metal strainer that fits into the mixing glass. The mixing glass conveniently features popular recipes printed on its side, including instructions for a Tom Collins, a margarita, and a daiquiri. All the glasses consist of thicker, lead-free glass for durability. Cleanup is also easy as all the glasses are dishwasher safe.
The curved lines of Riedel’s Extreme martini glass not only provide an attractive, more contemporary take on the V-shaped martini glass, but also makes it more functional. The classic martini glass is notoriously difficult to swirl or carry without spilling.
However, the curved lip of this martini glass, a hybrid of the classic martini and rounded coupe glasses, provides a more comfortable sip. The design also closes the bowl of the glass just enough to keep the liquid from sloshing out.
Each glass in this two-piece set sits just under 7 inches tall and has a capacity of 8 ounces, a volume that allows some room for error between the lip and the surface of the drink. These glasses are also dishwasher safe, though Riedel suggests hand-washing them.
The clean lines of this set of six highball glasses from Volarium make it a great addition to a home bar. These glasses feature a simple cylindrical shape with clear glass, providing a blank palette for colorful mixed drinks with fun garnishes. The ample 12.25-ounce capacity is enough to hold spirits, mixers, ice, and garnishes but not so large that the drink includes too much alcohol.
A thick base balances the weight at the bottom of the glass to prevent tipping while absorbing impact when repeatedly set down. The glass tapers to a thin rim that’s comfortable for sipping. Each glass measures just over 6 inches tall. Dishwasher-safe glass makes them easy to clean when the party’s over.
It isn’t just the name of this glass that hearkens back to the long-ago era of the Roaring Twenties—its form does, too. The striking angles of the beveled stem add a vintage look to this set of four coupe glasses from Libbey. The stem’s stout geometric shape provides a solid place for holding the stem while also creating a sturdier glass. The glass bowl curves in just enough to prevent spills and provides an ideal surface for sipping.
This ample stem is less likely to break, an important feature if assembling a classic coupe glass champagne tower. At 8.6 ounces, these glasses are larger than most coupe glasses, which are typically closer to 6 ounces. This makes them ideal for serving Manhattans and cosmopolitans or for large glasses of champagne at a wedding celebration.
Tropical drinks need plenty of space to accommodate all that goes into them, including the large wedges of fruit that cling to their rims, the ice to keep them cool in the heat of summer, and of course, a mini umbrella. With each glass having a 17-oz capacity, this set of four tulip-shaped glasses from Bormioli Rocco is ideal for such summertime drinks as the pina colada, the strawberry daiquiri, and the Blue Hawaiian, among others.
The undulating shape of the glass ensures a secure fit in one’s grip, while a short stem and weighted bottom provide a steady base for resting the glass on a rattan side table or a wicker ottoman. The lead-free Italian glass boasts a high degree of clarity and features a thicker lip to support large garnishes and to also endure repeated cycles through the dishwasher.
A classic look and ample capacity make this set of four copper mugs from PG ideal for a home bar. They feature a shiny polished finish with divots of hammered copper. Shaped handles add to the aesthetic while providing a comfortable spot to hold a drink without inadvertently warming it with the hand.
With a 19.5-ounce capacity, there is plenty of room in each mug for garnish, ice, mixer, and spirits. The size also makes them versatile for beer or nonalcoholic drinks. These mugs use copper-plated stainless steel as opposed to pure copper, which isn’t safe for more acidic drinks and can cause irritation to the mouth and nose and even dizziness or nausea. To preserve the copper plating, these mugs should be hand-washed.
FAQs About Cocktail Glasses
If you’re wondering how glass shape affects the taste or which drinks are appropriate for a martini glass, then read on for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this type of barware.
Q. What are different shaped glasses for?
The shape of the glass largely has to do with creating and maintaining a particular aroma and temperature. Glasses with larger openings at the top, such as a martini glass, create a broad surface for the nose to take in aromas while drinking. This is especially important for martinis, which have different ingredients and garnishes that add distinct aromas and impact the taste.
Glasses with smaller openings are typically for sweeter drinks that don’t require aroma to add flavor. The smaller mouth also better preserves temperature than those with wider mouths. Glasses with stems give the user a means of holding a drink without warming the liquid with the hand.
Q. What drinks can be served in a martini glass?
In addition to martinis, a wide variety of different drink types can be served in a martini glass, including Manhattans, negronis, cosmopolitans, gimlets, and grasshoppers.
Q. What size of glass should a mixed drink be served in?
Mixed drinks that involve multiple spirits, a mixer, ice, and a garnish should be served in a large highball glass that has a 12- to 16-ounce capacity to comfortably hold all of these elements. More basic drinks that don’t include a nonalcoholic mixer and use a limited amount of ice are best suited for smaller rocks glasses with a 6- to 8-ounce capacity.
Q. What style of glassware is whiskey served in?
This depends on how the whiskey is being served. Whiskey on the rocks should be served in a rocks glass. Whiskey straight up is typically high-quality whiskey and should therefore be served in a tasting glass, such as a Glencairn glass, which maximizes aroma.
Q. How is a cocktail glass chilled?
To quickly chill a cocktail glass, fill the glass with crushed ice and soda water. The carbonation of the soda water coupled with the ice causes the glass to freeze faster.