Spirits and cocktails can be served in all styles of glassware (we’ll leave beers and ales for a separate conversation), but which is best for your favourite tipple? Before you reach for a glass check out our guide to matching your drink with drinkware.
The inverted cone sat on a stem is the best holder for cocktails that are chilled when mixed, but not served with ice, and have plenty of aroma.
As people hold the glass by the stem, it prevents heat transfer from hand to liquid and keeps the contents cool. The wide mouth means aromas can escape easily and tickle the nose. If you’re wondering why the glass is cone-shaped; this prevents the different liquids (alcohol and mixer) separating in the glass — like they can potentially do in a rocks glass.
We’re using ‘highball’ to cover all taller, slimmer, straight glass types. If we want to be pernickety we could divide them into Delmonico, Collins, and highball but that’s taking things a little too far for this guide.
Professional mixologists choose the right highball glass for a drink, home mixers should select one based on the volume of liquid. These glasses are made for drinks with lots of mixer, like a gin and tonic, or when you need room for plenty of ice.
Rocks / Old Fashioned glass
Short, stout, and robust. When someone asks for a drink ‘on the rocks’ that’s a clue to pull out a rocks glass to give room for the ice and spirit to mix.
The wide mouth of a rocks glass gives plenty of space for boozy aromas to waft up from the glass, and its the ideal size for holding in your hand and swirling the contents gently.
Why is a rocks glass also known as an Old Fashioned glass? The clear-cut answer is that the vessel is the standard glass for an Old Fashioned cocktail.
A simple one this; wine glasses are for serving wine in. Like martini glasses, the stem is there to keep the contents cool and the different sizes of glass are for different types wine.
The biggest wine glasses are for red wines, the large open mouth letting the rich aromas flow up. Smaller, and with a narrower opening, is the white wine glass, and the smallest is the dessert wine glass. Dessert wines are much sweeter and are meant for smaller measures.
Anyone who has been to a wedding has seen a flute. It’s slim design and narrow mouth are put to good use for Champagne, Prosecco, and other sparkling wines.
The flute design encourages bubble retention, to prevent the sparkling drink going flat. The smaller the surface area of a liquid the fewer bubbles escape (as they only break free at the top) so the flute has a narrow mouth, The tall design also shows off the trapped bubbles at their best.
A stumpy looking glass. Short with a wide bottom and narrow top. The sniffer is mostly used for non-chilled aged spirits like brandy, whisky, and bourbon.
Glasses with stems want to keep drinks cool, the snifter is the opposite and encourages you to cup the glass in your hand, warming the liquid inside. The wide bottom sits comfortably in your palm and it’s impossible to resit the urge to swirl the contents gently.
Cleverly, although the larger surface area of liquid rising at the bottom encourages evaporation; the aromas get trapped by the narrowing of the mouth. This concentrates the smell at the rim and delivers a pleasant whiff as the glass comes close to the face.
Shots and shooters
Tiny glasses made for a single reason. To quickly get the contents into your mouth in one go.
Often used with liqueurs and liquor when the focus is on a quick hit of a drink, provoking an instant reaction in the mouth (sometimes pleasant, sometimes a ‘kick’).
Shooters are slightly taller to accommodate a bit of mixer, or a mix of alcohols.