Guide to Cocktail Glasses

Kathleen Esposito

Match Drinks and Glasses

Any bartender can read and follow a drink recipe, but true mixologists also have all the appropriate glassware. Matching the barware to the drink makes for the ultimate in flavor and presentation.


The snifter (also called the balloon) has a short stem and a bulbous top. The standard size for the snifter is six to eight ounces. It is designed to capture the aroma of brandy or cognac using its wide bowl and narrow mouth to seal it in. It is also useful for a smooth pour, since you can tip the glass to its side without the liquid spilling out.


The flute (or trumpet glass) has a lean, tall shape makes it perfect for champagne and sparkling wine. It allows for small sips and helps retain the carbonation. The average glass holds six ounces.

Highball Glass

The highball is tall, cylindrical and sturdy, holding between eight and 12 ounces. It is best for cocktails that contain both carbonation and ice. Popular drinks served in this glass include the gin and tonic and 7 and 7, as well as the ever-popular rum and Coke.

Collins Glass

The collins glass is a little taller and a little more tapered than the highball, but they are often interchangeable. Like the highball, it holds eight to 12 ounces. This glass is ideal for sodas, mixed drinks like the Mai Tai and Long Island iced tea and, of course, the Tom Collins.

Rocks Glass

This short, thick, and hardy glass is for liquor served "on the rocks", which means over ice, especially whiskeys. It's also used for martini-type cocktails when the patron requests ice. Also called an old fashioned glass, it holds eight ounces of liquid.

Martini Glass

Used for martinis, cosmopolitans, and other "straight up" cocktails, or cocktails without ice, this glass (also called a cocktail glass) is the picture of sophistication. The inverted cone bowl allows plenty of room for garnishes and the long stem makes it easy to hold between the fingers. Common sizes are six to 12 ounces.

Absinthe Glass

The absinthe glass helps bartenders easily measure this strong distilled spirit. The tulip bowl with a short stem shape is designed to hold between an ounce and an ounce and a half with clearly defined pour lines. It is rare to use this glass with any other type of alcohol.

Margarita Glass

This glass has a broad rim, allowing for the sugar or salt garnish popular with margaritas and daiquiris. The bowl tapers into the stem to allow patrons to easily hold the glass without feeling a chill on their fingers. Most hold nine ounces of liquid. They can also be used to hold appetizers, such as cocktail

Cordial Glass

The sweetness of cordials begs for small portions. This glass (also called a sherry glass) allows the bartender to deliver. Cordial glasses can vary in shape and may or may not have stems. Common features are that they hold between one and two ounces and are more rounded in shape than the shot glass. Often, they have decorative etching on the outside.

Hurricane Glass

This hourglass-shaped tumbler with a squat stem is for mixed drinks that typically contain larger servings. The glass holds 20 ounces and is perfect for not only hurricanes but also Singapore slings, piña coladas and blue Hawaiians.

Shot Glass

This glass holds exactly 1.5 ounces of liquor, and its tapered shape allows for easy pour to multiple glasses at the same time. It's also a hardy glass made to withstand quick and vigorous use and reuse. Shot glasses come in a huge variety of colors and styles. Many are novelty items.

Start using your glassware to create a good presentation once you know how to match the glasses with the drinks. Start with a layered Jello shot, which looks exceptional when using three different flavors in the same glass.

Kathleen Esposito
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Guide to Cocktail Glasses