Buyers Guide to Cocktail Glassware

Using the right glass for the right cocktail is fundamental to great bartending, whether you are a professional or just a domestic cocktail aficionado.  It is widely acknowledged that having a full collection of glassware is just as important as a hearty collection of liquors and spirits.  If you are building a bar, it is important to look for the right glasses and the right qualities.  Here are the top 10 glasses that any self-respecting bar should include:

♦ Boston

The Boston glass is the backbone of any bar.  As well as being used for beers and ales, Bostons are primarily used to form one half of a cocktail shaker.  As a result, when choosing a Boston, make sure the glass is toughened to cope with ice, fruit muddling and occasional mis-handling.  Good Boston glasses are known to survive being dropped, and if you splash out on one quality glass, make sure it is this one.  Avoid Bostons with rubber rims to seal onto the shaker; good glasses and shaker tins will not need this.

♦ Martini (‘Cocktail’)

The classic cocktail glass!  Also known as a ‘V-Shape’, this glass is designed to hold strong drinks (like Martinis) in limited quantities, so make sure they are not too big (7 ounces is big enough).  The sexiest Martini glasses may be ones with a long, thin stem, but they are notoriously fragile.  Choose ones with thick stems and moderately thick glass; these glasses are used often and should stand up to frequent abuse!

♦ Highball / Tall / Collins

In essence, these are the same kind of glass although highballs tend to be squatter than the others.  These can be used for beers as well as long cocktails.  Choose glasses with smooth, straight sides to aid measuring and cleaning.  Also, try to go for thick bases as these will stand up to frequent use, as well as being more stable if carried on trays.

♦ Shot

There are small shot glasses for boring people and big ones for the idiots!  Whatever you choose, go for shot glasses with thick bases (these little glasses are often banged on tables once drained).  Shot glasses come in endless shapes and sizes; go for whatever you like.

♦ Flute

Designed for champagne and champagne cocktails, the tall shape of flutes ensures the drink stays bubbly for longer.  Avoid the temptation of going for thinner, taller glasses if you use these frequently; they are very fragile.  An alternative to flutes are champagne saucers; however these are a lot less versatile and much more fragile.

♦ Wine

Wine glasses are rarely used for cocktails; one of the most exotic drinks to be served out of one is a spritzer.  However, they can be used as such; and make a creative alternative when serving short drinks.  Give it a try!  Big wine glasses are better (go for 11 ounces) as they are more dramatic.

♦ Old-fashioned / ‘Rocks’

Used for short drinks such as a Negroni or the eponymous ‘Old Fashioned’, these glasses benefit the most from tough bases and thick rims to ensure that they stand up to the ice and even muddling of fruits.  Rocks are usually thicker than Old-fashioned glasses.

♦ Snifter

Few things are classier than a snifter glass, especially if it is full of brandy.  As with wine glasses, the bigger the better, as these glasses scream out ‘luxury’.  These glasses are perfect to enjoy finer spirits and liqueurs as their shape captures flavour and scent particularly well.

♦ Margarita

Still used mainly for the famous Mexican cocktail, traditional Margarita glasses have a wide lip for rimming with salt, and a distinctive, pitted base.  Like Martini glasses, they can be quite fragile and therefore try to choose thicker ones if you get through a lot of Margaritas!

♦ Toddy

Avoid the temptation to serve hot cocktails like mulled wine, liqueur coffees and hot toddys in anything but a Toddy glass.  Regular glasses will crack (and don’t have a handle) and woe betide anyone who serves a cocktail in a mug.  Toddy glasses are made from tempered glasses and are also known as Latte glasses.  These can be found in coffee shops as well as regular homeware shops.

♦ Final Thoughts

Glassware can get pretty expensive; think about the drinks you like the most and focus on the glasses for these.  Also consider how often you use them; if you are an occasional drinker, it would be nice to invest in some expensive glasses.  Alternatively, if you are a party animal, go for more robust glassware and even consider plastic glasses.  The choice is yours!