5 Cocktail Glasses You Actually Need in 2024, According to a Spirits Expert
Consider this your glassware 101 — including best coupe, wine glass and more!
Our Top Cocktail Glasses
One of the first things I learned as a novice bartender was that every cocktail needed to be served in a specific glass. When serving cocktails, as important as the proportion of gin to vermouth, which garnish to use, or whether to shake or stir, it was crucial to make sure that the right drink ended up in the right glass. I spent countless hours memorizing what the best glassware was for every cocktail I served, but why?
Sometimes convention is just that, convention. People like their Martinis served up, Margaritas on the rocks, and it’s a matter of personal preference. But there are some practical, physical reasons why certain drinks work best in particular glassware. The two most significant physical characteristics that differentiate glassware are size and stem. Size should be pretty self-explanatory: you need the right size glass to hold the proper amount of volume; big drink, big glass. The second, stem, might be less obvious: the primary function of a stem, like what you’d find on a wine glass or cocktail coupes is to prevent the drink-holder’s hand from coming in contact with the glass, which can add unwanted heat to a beverage.
I have to point out that the gender of the person drinking is irrelevant to the form factor of the glass. There is no such thing as a “girly” or “manly” glass, period. That said, there are valid reasons for a person preferring one type of glass over another, such as physical ability and personal style. If you have trouble holding on to a stemmed glass? Put it in a tumbler. You think it looks cooler to drink a Gin & Tonic out of a wine glass instead of a highball? Be my guest.
With all this out of the way, let’s explore the five essential glassware types for any home bar, and my picks for the best of the bunch. This list is ordered in decreasing levels of priority, so if you want to build your glassware collection slowly, start at the top and work your way down.
Despite being labeled as a champagne coupe, these glasses support all manner of drinks served “up” (which means in a stemmed glass with no ice). Martinis, Margaritas, Corpse Reviver No. 2s will all fit perfectly in these sturdy, slightly oversized and dishwasher-safe coupes. And of course, they’re perfect for any type of bubbly.
For any drink served “on the rocks” (with ice) or neat (room temperature with no ice), you need a good old-fashioned glass. These stackable Spanish tumblers will give you tons of mileage, whether you’re serving up Vieux Carrés, whiskey neat or even a brunch time Bloody Mary. Furthermore, if you’re planning to use large ice cubes, you need a wide enough glass to make sure there’s plenty of room to slide in that big sexy chunk.
It might not seem obvious that a wine glass would be my third pick for essential cocktail glassware, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate the value of a good all-purpose wine glass. These seemingly delicate but surprisingly tough (dishwasher safe!) wine glasses are perfect for big, spritzy drinks like an Aperol Spritz, or even a Spanish-style gin and tonic. They’re also great for if you want to get into tasting spirits in a serious way — the wide bulb of the glass allows you to swirl and sniff for maximum aromatics.
If you’re going to be serving long drinks like Tom Collins, Singapore Sling or even any frozen slushie drinks, a large, tall tumbler glass is a must. You want something that’s big enough to contain the full drink but not so large as to be clumsy or take up too much space in your cabinet. I love these for their rounded base that feels great in the palm of my hand and narrow form factor. Their 20-ounce capacity means you’ll have plenty of room for drinks, ice and all. These glasses can also serve double duty as water glasses, which is an essential element to any cocktail-drinking session.
Kimura is a Japanese glassware company that’s been crafting impossibly delicate and gorgeous glassware for over a century. They supply bars and restaurants, in addition to everyday consumers, so their glass is remarkably sturdy. You can get lost in their website, but these tumblers are a standout for me, both for their aesthetics but also practicality. If you’re going to go through the hassle of ordering expensive glassware from Japan, you might as well get something you’ll use all the time. I love these as my everyday water glass, but they’re also the perfect vessel for a whiskey highball, French 75 or even just a beer.