Think back to when you used to attend events. Weddings, for example, or murder mystery parties. When you left your house, you probably looked pretty good. Maybe you even ironed your clothing or used a lint brush - because appearance matters (or at least it used to). And that’s one reason why glassware is so important. It’s great for self-respect, and it’s perfect for when you want to make your life seem more orderly and refined than it actually is. But, even more importantly, the proper glassware will actually make a cocktail taste better. Every glass holds a different amount of ice, for example, and some glasses (like highballs) give you more room to top your drink off with seltzer or sparkling wine. Also, most Martini glasses are trash. Sorry, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s get into it.
Wondering what equipment you need to make better cocktails? Check out our Cocktail Tools Guide.
There are all sorts of rocks glasses out there. Sometimes they’re called “tumblers” or “juice glasses,” and sometimes they’re referred to as “double old-fashioned glasses.” Call them whatever you want. Just know that a rocks glass is any short, wide glass that you use for, say, whiskey neat, tequila on the rocks, and all sorts of cocktails from Negronis and Old Fashioneds to Margaritas and Penicillins. When we buy rocks glasses, we look for something that can hold a big cube, and that usually means around 10-12 ounces. As for the design, we like to keep things simple and classy - but follow your heart. The important thing is that you have a bunch of these glasses so that you can properly make at least 50% of the cocktails we talk about.
Looking to add a few more rocks glasses to your supply? We like these.
Taller and thinner than rocks glasses, highballs are ideal for any cocktails made with soda, sparkling water, or sparkling wine, such as Palomas or Gin-Gin Mules. The term ‘highball’ actually refers to both the glassware and any drink that’s tall and carbonated. If you order a vodka soda in a bar, it’ll come in a highball, and if you’ve ever had a glass of milk, that probably involved a highball as well. And if you’re currently trying to figure out the difference between a highball and a Collins glass, it’s important that you stop doing this. It’s a futile exercise, because they’re essentially the same thing.
Need more highballs? We like these.
Ah, the coupe. It’s a wonderfully engineered piece of glassware, and you can use it for anything from Martinis and Manhattans to anything else you might serve up. (“Up,” if you’ve always wondered but been too ashamed to ask, means that the drink is served in a stemmed glass without any ice. This is a safe space.) The curved lip keeps your drink from spilling, the stem keeps your hands from warming up your beverage, and the heft of a standard coupe helps your glass stay colder longer when you chill it in a freezer. And if you ever want to have a Jazz Age party with your roommate and his plants, you can also drink your champagne out of a coupe. You should have at least four of these in your home at all times.
Ready to get better glassware? Here are some coupes we like.
Earlier, we told you Martini glasses are “trash.” And we apologize for saying that. This is an emotional subject for us, and sometimes we get carried away. There are, in fact, some decent Martini glasses out there - but there are also plenty of oversized versions that look like they were left over from a 1980s Club Med commercial. Also, martini glasses have flared, conical shapes that are prone to spillage. They’re the shotguns of the glassware world - perfect for when you want to toss a drink at someone - but they’re less ideal for when you don’t want to lose half your drink every time you cross a room. Still, at the end of the day, coupes and martinis serve the same function, and choosing between the two is mostly an aesthetic thing.
We prefer coupes, but we’ll allow certain martini glass designs, like these ones.
Nick & Nora Glasses
Who are Nick and Nora? They’re a couple of characters invented by mystery writer Dashiel Hammet, played memorably by William Powell and Myrna Loy in the Thin Man movie series - and they were very passionate about drinking. We particularly like these glasses for Martinis, because they aren’t as flared as your standard Martini glasses, and they tend to hold a little less liquid, which will ensure that you finish your drink before it gets warm. Also, they’re just so goddamn elegant. They technically aren’t essential (because, once again, a good coupe can handle most jobs), but we still like having a few around.
Ready to get better glassware? Here are some Nick & Nora glasses we like.
An all-purpose wine glass (something around 18 ounces) is perfect for certain drinks. Mainly spritzes, but you can also make something like a gin and tonic in a wine glass if you’re feeling fancy.
If you need more wine glasses for your cocktails, these should do the trick.
Honestly, you don’t need Champagne flutes. Sure, you’ll see some people using them for French 75s or other cocktails with sparkling wine - but we prefer wine glasses and highballs for such things. Hell, even if you’re drinking Champagne, you should really just use a wine glass. That way, you’ll actually smell what you’re drinking. That said, flutes will make certain occasions feel more celebratory. Weddings, for example, or whenever you want to hang out and watch an elegant line of bubbles rise through a glass of sparkling wine.
Here are some flutes we like.
Are tiki glasses essential? No. But neither is fun, laughter, or T-Pain. Still, we’re glad T-Pain exists, and we’re equally appreciative of tiki glasses - a large category that includes a bunch of different kinds of glasses, like hurricanes and pearl divers. They’re all pretty large and interchangeable, and they’ll come in handy once you finally get that bottle of orgeat for your Mai Tais.
Ready to get better glassware? Here are some tiki glasses we like.
When you just want to spend some quality time with a spirit, and the thought of adding ice offends you, snifters are the way to go. Yes, you can always just drink your fine whiskey, rum, or tequila out of a rocks glass, but the shape of a snifter helps you get the full olfactory experience. You can also swirl your booze, mostly for fun.
Listen, if you love frozen margaritas, and you need to drink them out of these oversized glasses that almost definitely started out as a marketing gimmick, we support you. There’s nothing wrong with that. We don’t think they’re worth the cupboard space (and we also prefer rocks glasses for frozen margaritas), but you do you.
You should only have Moscow Mule mugs if you like Moscow Mules so much that this has become a defining personality trait for you. Your parents buy you Moscow Mule-themed pajamas, for example, and you have a doormat that says something like “You Can Only Come In If You Have A Handle Of Vodka.” That’s really the only scenario when you should buy a set - because, while the mugs may be festive, a Moscow Mule tastes just as good in a highball.
Why do shot glasses exist? You can take a shot of anything. A rocks glass, for example, or even a flute. Don’t buy them. And avoid the urge to pick up a handful for your coworkers the next time you vacation somewhere near a beach.