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The Best Type of Glass for Every Cocktail

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There’s a reason so many different types of cocktail glasses exist. Martini glasses, rocks glasses, shot glasses—they all serve a specific purpose. Factors such as height, width, shape, and material will change your drinking experience, and they can enhance or detract a cocktail’s flavors, aromas, and textures. “The glassware your drink is served in will affect at least four of your five senses,” says Tim Sweeney, Bon Appétit contributor and head bartender at Pebble Bar in New York. “It’s going to affect your taste, it’s going to affect your smell, it’s going to affect touch, and obviously, the visual aspect is important.”

In this episode of BA’s cocktail series, Sweeney breaks down some of the most popular cocktail glasses around, and discusses the details that make for better cosmopolitans, margaritas, daiquiris, and more. You’ll find that some of the glasses have stems so your hand won’t warm up the drink, some have narrow brims to preserve the drink’s carbonation, and some have bulbous bowls that help aerate and open up the drink. Below, we dive into all the details. This cocktail glass guide highlights all the drinkware home bar needs—like the coupe, the highball, the double rocks glass—as well as other glasses for most specific drinks.


Stemmed cocktail glasses

Martini Glass

The martini glass is one of the most recognizable types of cocktail glasses there is thanks to its iconic shape. “It was invented in the late 1800’s, but it found its heyday during the prohibition era, where it was the be-all, end-all glass,” says Sweeney. It has a long stem and distinct conical shape with a wide rim and tiny base. The stem prevents your hand from warming the drink, the wide rim allows you to take in the aromas, and the angled sides prevent the drink’s ingredients from separating. “The base goes down into a point, so there’s less of a bottom for ingredients to sink to,” Sweeney explains. The glass is named after the drink it’s most commonly used for, but you can use it to serve other drinks, like a Cosmopolitan, Manhattan, or lemon drop.

Libbey Entertaining Essentials Martini Glasses Set of 6

Riedel Vinum XL Martini Glasses, 2 Count

Kira Hand Etched Martini Glass

Coupe

According to Sweeney, the coupe—previously known as the Champagne saucer—is sort of like a more modern Martini glass.. While it was originally used for serving Champagne, it became more receptive to craft cocktails over time. Like the martini glass, this one has a long stem to help keep your drink cold, so its most basic function is the same. That said, there are many cocktails Sweeney would serve in a coupe that he wouldn’t serve in a martini glass, because he feels it’s less dainty and less likely to spill: “A daiquiri might be one, an Aviation would be one, and an egg white cocktail that is served up would look beautiful in a coupe glass,” he says. (Note: served “up” refers to a cocktail that is shaken or stirred with ice, then strained into a stemmed glass without the ice.)

The rim isn’t as wide as a martini glass, but the bowl allows the cocktail to become more aromatic thanks to the surface area, which makes your cocktail taste better, Sweeney explains. Because the coupe’s rim isn’t as wide, it’s also much easier to garnish than a martini glass, which inevitably gives you more drink options. Sweeney says: “If you’re talking about just three glasses that can make a bar function, this is one of those three for me.”

Libbey Signature Kentfield Coupe Cocktail Glasses Set of 4

Estelle Hand-Blown Colored Cocktail Coupe Glasses, Set of 6

Eve Coupe Glasses Set Of 8

Nick and Nora

This glass was named by Dale DeGroff, father of the modern cocktail movement, after the fictional detectives Nick and Nora Charles from the 1930s film The Thin Man. Sweeney explains that this glass is best known for serving dark and boozy cocktails less than five ounces in volume. With a long stem and an egg-shaped bowl, it resembles a mini wine glass, and it’s a sure-fire way to elevate the appearance and elegance of your drink.

While you can drink a variety of cocktails that are served “up” in this glass, it’s superior for stronger, smaller drinks like Vespers and Sazeracs. “If you serve a drink that’s less than five ounces in a typical martini glass, it will look like you’re only getting part of a drink,” says Sweeney. For these cases, there’s the Nick and Nora glass. However, if you want to make a full martini and serve it in this glass, you definitely can: keep the rest of the cocktail in a mini carafe that sits on ice on the side (as see here)—you’ll often see drinks served this way in bars.

Riedel Drink Specific Glassware Nick & Nora Cocktail Glasses, Set of 2

Bormioli Rocco Nick & Nora Glasses Set of 4

Vintage Art Deco Nick and Nora Coupe Glasses, Set of 4


Tumblers

Highball

The basic definition of a tumbler is a glass that’s flat to the surface you’re resting it on—which is ironic, because these glasses are among the least likely to tumble. The highball glass, also known as the Collins glass, is the first tumbler on this list. “Technically, a Collins is thinner and taller and would have a little bit more volume than a highball, but we use them interchangeably,” says Sweeney. If you ask for your drink in a tall glass at the bar, this is one you’ll receive.

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