The essential guide to glassware for your home bar

Do you consider yourself a connoisseur of spirits, liqueurs and other alcoholic beverages? Perhaps you have an enviable selection of fine whisky, brandy, vodka or schnapps at home that you like to share and appreciate with friends?

Knowing which glassware to use for which drink will not only make you look like you know your stuff, but it will actually enhance the flavour of the beverage. Whether you’re a cocktail lover or a single malt enthusiast, choosing the right glass for your chosen drink is the mark of good taste.

That said, there are so many different types of drinking glasses out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer choice. Luckily, as you’re not a professional bartender you don’t have to have every glass for every conceivable drink – but what you do need is a good selection to cover all the bases.

Over time, you can build a collection of standout glassware to be proud of. Why not put a set of sexy gin balloons or gorgeously curvy grappa glasses on your birthday list, or ask Santa for a gentlemanly lead crystal whisky set, complete with decanter? For now, though, here’s a rundown of the 7 essential glasses that we recommend you should definitely have in your home bar.

Glasses for spirits

If spirits are your thing, you need 3 types of glasses – tumblers for whisky, snifters for brandy, and shot glasses for, well, shots.


Commonly referred to in bartender parlance as old-fashioned glasses, lowballs or rocks glasses, tumblers are short and stout, with a thick base and a wide rim. They’re used to serve shots of whisky, with ample room for ice if that’s your preference. The thinking behind serving whisky or similar spirits ‘on the rocks’ is that the ice opens up the aroma, and softens the alcohol burn as you drink it. Tumblers are also used to serve short or ‘old fashioned’ cocktails, hence the name.


Brandy Snifters

Also known as cognac glasses or balloons, a brandy snifter is elegantly shaped and instantly recognisable. A wide bowl sits atop a short stem with a large bowl that’s wide at the bottom and relatively narrow at the top. The wide base means you can swirl the liquid around to release the aroma and accentuate the nuances in the bouquet, which then gets trapped at the narrow top of the glass. The thin walls of the glass allows you to gently warm the brandy through cupping the glass in your hand.


Shot Glasses

As much as you may wish to resist, there will come a night when shots are in order. Shot glasses are made for quick, high impact drinking, which is why they’re small and designed to hold a single measure of spirit, such as tequila or vodka or any mixed shots that you prefer. The glasses typically have a narrow mouth to enable you to neck the precious liquid in double quick time, going straight to the back of the throat.


Cocktail glasses

While cocktails can be served in glasses of all sort of shapes and sizes, it is useful to have a few classic staples in your drinks cabinet.

Highball glasses

A highball cocktail is made up of a spirit base with a larger proportion of a non-alcoholic, often carbonated, mixer. Whether you’re serving a Vodka Tonic, Mojito or Cuba Libre, a highball (or the even taller and thinner Collins glass) is the right glass for it. Highball glasses are tall, skinny tumblers that have a thick base and can hold around 300ml of liquid, which is perfect for a long drink. The idea is not to expose too much surface liquid to the air, so the drink won’t go flat.


Cocktail coupes

The coupe or champagne saucer is the quintessential classic cocktail glass used for Manhattans, Cosmopolitans, Daiquiris and many other cocktail recipes served ‘up’, that is without ice. It’s also a perfectly acceptable glass for serving champagne. Coupes have a wide bottomed round or inverted cone bowl on a long stem. They look elegant and inviting, while the long stem keeps the drink cool. The shape evolved from the fact that traditional cocktails tend to have had enticing aromas, and the wide mouth of the glass allows the drinker’s nose and mouth to get close enough to appreciate both scent and taste fully.


Martini glasses

The iconic Martini glass is long stemmed with an inverted cone shaped bowl. While it can be difficult to take the first sip without spilling the drink, there’s a serious point behind the shape: it prevents the cocktail ingredients from separating. The shallowness of the glass shows that it’s to be drunk fairly quickly, while the long stem ensures your hands won’t warm the drink. All Martini cocktails are served ‘up’.


Hurricane glasses

Bigger than other cocktail glasses and resembling the shape of a hurricane lamp, these glasses are designed for fun, fruity and tropical drinks such as a Pina Colada, Singapore Sling or Mai Tai. Hurricane glasses are curvy, and taller and wider than standard highball glasses. The stem is small, so the drink needs to be served with plenty of ice so it doesn’t melt while you’re holding the glass in your hand.


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