Secrets of the Cocktail Glass: A Beginner’s Guide




Essential Ingredients for Low ABV Cocktails

Cocktails are about much more than just tasty mixed drinks – the glassware plays an integral role in the experience. The shape, size, and material of cocktail glasses impact everything from maintaining chill and carbonation to concentrating aromas for appreciation.

Yet with so many options, glassware for cocktails can be confusing. Coupes, highballs, hurricane glasses – how do you know which to use? Whether you’re looking to elevate your home bar or brush up on proper glass pairings, this article will overview the basics.

We’ll explore the most common cocktail glasses, from Martini and Collins to rocks and highball options. You’ll learn the defining characteristics of each glass and which classic cocktails they complement best. With the foundation covered, advancing your mixology repertoire with the ideal vessels will be easy.

Secrets of the Cocktail Glass: A Beginner's Guide
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Understanding cocktail glassware helps present drinks properly and creates an elevated sipping experience. Follow along as we break down the essential glasses and when to use them so you can drink your cocktails the right way. Let’s get shaken or stirred with smart glassware selections!

Old Fashioned Glass

Secrets of the Cocktail Glass: A Beginner's Guide
Secrets of the Cocktail Glass: A Beginner’s Guide 6

The Old Fashioned glass is short, thick walled glass with a heavy bottom and wide brim. It typically holds between 8-12 ounces.

The Old Fashioned glass shows off the rich color of darker spirits like whiskey, bourbon, and rum while minimizing dilution as ice melts. Its wide brim allows for festive garnishes like citrus wheels or cherries.

This glass feels substantial and balanced in the hand, ideal for sipping spirit-forward cocktails slowly. Its low profile shape brings out the complex flavors and aromas of aged brown liquors.

Some classic cocktails served in the Old Fashioned glass include:

  • Old Fashioned – Typically made with bourbon, sugar, bitters and garnished with an orange slice and cherry. The Old Fashioned glass was named after this cocktail.
  • Whiskey Sour – A sour cocktail made with whiskey, lemon juice, sugar and egg white to create a foamy head when shaken.
  • Boulevardier – Similar to a Manhattan but with gin instead of vermouth.
  • Vieux Carré – Made with rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine liqueur and bitters.

In summary, the Old Fashioned glass’ sturdy profile is ideal for serving rich, spirit-forward cocktails that are perfected when sipped slowly and enjoyed straight up.

Collins Glass

Secrets of the Cocktail Glass: A Beginner's Guide
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The Collins glass is tall and slender, usually holding between 10-14 ounces. It has a narrow diameter and is often used for drinks containing both spirits and mixers, like the Tom Collins.

Its tall profile shows off the vibrant color of sparkling, crisp cocktails. The Collins glass maintains carbonation and chill while leaving room for plenty of ice cubes and a generous pour of a fizzy mixer.

The slim silhouette helps highlight the bubbles and color of ingredients like citrus juices, sodas, and ginger beer. The Collins is perfect for refreshing, summery cocktails.

Some classic cocktails served in the Collins glass:

  • Tom Collins – The namesake drink featuring gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda. Garnished with a cherry and orange slice.
  • Mojito – White rum, mint, lime juice, sugar and soda water combine to make this Cuban classic.
  • Gin Fizz – A refreshing mix of gin, lemon juice, sugar and soda water. Variations include the Ramos Gin Fizz.
  • Paloma – Tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice and soda make this Mexican cocktail.
  • Greyhound – Vodka, grapefruit juice and optional simple syrup make this drink reminiscent of a grapefruit soda.

In summary, the tall slender Collins glass keeps drinks cold while showcasing refreshing, crisp cocktails where color, carbonation and chill are key.

Martini Glass

The conical, triangular-shaped Martini glass has a long, graceful stem and inverted cone bowl. It typically holds 5-8 ounces.

The angled bowl shape helps concentrate the aromas of spirit-forward cocktails like the Martini and Manhattan. The chilled stem keeps drinks cold.

The Martini glass’s sleek silhouette suits dry, strong cocktails that are served straight up without ice. Its conical bowl allows botanical aromas to permeate the surface area exposed.

Some classic cocktails served in a Martini glass include:

  • Martini – Gin or vodka mixed with dry vermouth in differing ratios depending on preferred dryness. Often garnished with an olive or twist.
  • Manhattan – Sweet vermouth and rye whiskey or bourbon, flavored with bitters. Garnished with a cherry.
  • Cosmopolitan – Blend of vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and citrus.
  • French 75 – Elegant mix of gin, champagne, lemon juice and simple syrup. Garnished with a lemon twist.
  • Vesper Martini – Famously ordered by James Bond, this Martini mixes gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc.

In summary, the iconic Martini glass is designed to highlight botanical aromas and flavors of crisp, clean cocktails served perfectly chilled and straight up.

Highball Glass

The Highball glass is tall and slender, usually holding between 8-12 ounces. It is often used for cocktails containing a spirit mixed with a larger proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer.

The tall height allows plenty of room for ice cubes and a generous pour of something fizzy like soda or tonic water. The slim profile highlights the bubbles and vibrant color of the cocktail.

The Highball glass maintains carbonation in drinks with citrus juices, ginger beer, sodas, and other sparkling mixers. The slender shape also keeps drinks chilled.

Some classic Highball cocktails include:

  • Tom Collins – Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, club soda.
  • Gin and Tonic – The simple 2 ingredient mixer of gin and tonic water. Wedges of lime to garnish.
  • Mojito – White rum, mint, lime juice, sugar, and soda water.
  • Tequila Sunrise – Tequila, orange juice, and grenadine syrup to create colorful layers.
  • Paloma – Tequila, grapefruit soda, lime juice, and a salted rim.

In summary, the tall Highball glass allows for sparkling, refreshing cocktails where the non-alcoholic ingredients shine through just as much as the spirit.

Hurricane Glass

The Hurricane glass has a bulbous, rounded bowl that flares out towards the rim. It generally holds around 14-22 ounces.

The distinctive shape helps trap the aroma of rum-based tropical cocktails and keeps them cold with plenty of ice cubes. The flared lip allows for festive garnishes.

The Hurricane glass showcases the vivid colors of fruit juices and liqueurs used in tiki drinks. Its curves lend a touch of island escapism.

Some classic cocktails served in a Hurricane glass include:

  • Hurricane – The namesake drink features rum, passionfruit and orange juice, lime, and grenadine.
  • Mai Tai – Light and dark rum, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, lime juice and simple syrup.
  • Blue Hawaii – A tropical mix of rum, blue curaçao, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and lemon juice.
  • Planter’s Punch – Spiced and dark rum, orange and pineapple juice, grenadine, lemon juice, and Angostura bitters.
  • Zombie – A super-sized blend of multiple rums, fruit juices, liqueurs and tropical syrups.
  • Painkiller – A Caribbean favorite with rum, pineapple and orange juice, coconut cream, and nutmeg.

In summary, the Hurricane glass suits potent, island-inspired rum cocktails loaded with fresh fruit flavors and brightly hued syrups or liqueurs that are perfect for poolside sipping.

Margarita Glass

The Margarita glass has a wide, bowl-shaped rim that narrows into a stem. It typically holds around 12-14 ounces.

The wide brim is ideal for coating the rim in salt or sugar. The bowl shape shows off the brilliant color and clarity of margaritas and similar cocktails. The stemmed base helps keep drinks cold.

Margarita glasses are well-suited for shaken, blended or stirred cocktails featuring tequila or other clear spirits. The wide opening allows you to take in the aromas.

Classic cocktails served in a Margarita glass include:

  • Margarita – Tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice make this quintessential tequila cocktail. It can be served frozen or on the rocks.
  • Paloma – Tequila, grapefruit soda, lime juice, and a salted rim create this Mexican favorite.

In summary, the Margarita glass suits tequila cocktails and other shaken/blended clear spirit creations where salt, sugar or fruit flavors shine through.

Brandy Snifter

The brandy snifter is a short-stemmed, bowl-shaped glass with a wide bottom that tapers towards the top. It typically holds 6-10 ounces.

The indented bottom allows brandy to be warmed by the hand to bring out the aromas and flavors. The tapered rim concentrates the bouquets to maximize the nosing experience.

Brandy snifters are designed specifically for enjoying aged, brown spirits like brandy, cognac, and whiskies. The shape is optimized for swirling, sniffing, and sipping.

Some classic brandy cocktails served in a snifter include:

  • Sidecar – Brandy, orange liqueur, and lemon juice shaken and strained into the glass.
  • Vieux Carré – Rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine liqueur and bitters.
  • Millionaire Cocktail – Cognac, sloe gin, apricot liqueur, and lime juice.
  • Metropolitan – An elegant blend of brandy, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters.
  • Between the Sheets – Brandy, rum, triple sec, lemon juice and sugar.

In summary, the brandy snifter’s unique bowl shape brings out the complex aromas and flavors of aged brandies, whiskies, and cognacs for a refined drinking experience focused on nosing and sipping.

Moscow Mule Mug

The Moscow Mule mug is a copper mug with a handle, typically holding 12-16 ounces. It helps keep Moscow Mules and other cocktails well-chilled.

The copper conducts the cold efficiently to maintain the icy temperature of drinks. The metal also reacts with the ingredients to enhance flavors.

The handle makes the mug easy to grip with a full cocktail inside. The weighty feel and metallic shine give off an artisanal vibe.

Some cocktails commonly served in a Moscow Mule mug include:

  • Moscow Mule – The original cocktail of vodka, spicy ginger beer, and lime that popularized the copper mug.
  • Dark ‘n’ Stormy – Spiced rum and ginger beer served over ice with a lime wedge.
  • Kentucky Mule – A whiskey-based spin using bourbon, ginger beer, and bitters.
  • Mexican Mule – With tequila, ginger beer, lime, and a salted rim instead of vodka.
  • London Mule – Gin, ginger beer, lime juice and bitters make this British version.
  • Cranberry Mule – Vodka, cranberry juice and ginger beer create this fall twist.

In summary, the Moscow Mule mug’s unique copper material keeps drinks ice-cold while adding flair, making it ideal for Moscow Mules and ginger beer-based cocktails.

Shot Glass

The shot glass is a small, thick-bottomed glass designed to hold a single serving of spirits, typically 1-2 ounces.

The petite size and sturdy shape of the shot glass make it perfect for tossing back full-proof liquors like vodka, tequila, rum, and whiskey.

Shot glasses keep portions controlled for high-proof spirits. Their thick rims and bases withstand slamming down on bars.

Some classic cocktails served as shots include:

  • Tequila shot – Served straight, this is a quick way to take tequila. May be accompanied by salt and lime.
  • Vodka shot – Vodka shots provide fast alcohol delivery. They may come straight or chilled, flavored or in combinations like the lemon drop.
  • Jägerbomb – A shot of Jägermeister dropped into an energy drink like Red Bull.
  • Irish Car Bomb – A mix of Irish cream and Irish whiskey dropped into stout beer to chug.
  • Springbokkie – A colorful layered shot of creme de menthe, amaretto and Irish cream.
  • B-52 – Kahlua, Baileys and Grand Marnier liqueurs floated to create a colorful shot.

In summary, the diminutive shot glass serves up concentrated doses of high-proof liquors and liqueurs, often tossed back quickly or mixed as bomb-style combinations.

Cordial Glass

The Cordial glass is a miniature glass that usually holds 1-2 ounces. It is designed for serving concentrated liqueurs after dinner.

The small size highlights the viscosity and intense syrupy sweetness of after-dinner cordials and liqueurs. The petite portions also control serving sizes.

Cordial glasses allow for slowly sipping and savoring the complex flavors as they coat the palate. Their dainty scale feels elegant in the hand.

Some classic cordials and liqueurs served in a Cordial glass include:

  • Sambuca – This anise-flavored Italian liqueur is served neat or flamed with coffee beans floating on top.
  • Drambuie – A scotch-based liqueur with honey, herbs and spice flavors.
  • Chartreuse – An herbal French liqueur available in green and yellow versions.
  • Frangelico – A hazelnut liqueur from Italy with creamy nutty tones.
  • Licor 43 – A Spanish liqueur with citrus and vanilla notes.
  • Benedictine – An herbal French liqueur with cinnamon and clove hints.

In summary, the petite Cordial glass provides an elegant vessel for rich, after-dinner liqueurs, perfectly sized for slow sipping and appreciating complex syrupy sweet spirits.

Julep Glass

The Julep glass is a short, stout cup made of metal or glass, typically holding 8-12 ounces. It flares out slightly from the base to the brim.

The cup shape contains crushed ice well to create a frost on the outside for chilling drinks. The flared lip allows you to sip easily without hitting your nose on the rim.

Julep cups highlight mint and fruit garnishes in cocktails. Their sturdy shape feels substantial for holding spirits-based drinks over ice.

Some classic cocktails served in a Julep glass include:

  • Mint Julep – The quintessential cocktail featuring Kentucky bourbon, mint, and sugar syrup or simple syrup.
  • Mojito – White rum, lime, mint leaves, sugar and soda water muddled and poured over crushed ice.
  • Southside – Gin, mint, lime juice, and simple syrup shaken and strained into crushed ice.
  • Smash – Bourbon, lemon juice, sugar, and mint leaves muddled and served over crushed ice.
  • Derby – Bourbon, peach liqueur, mint, and muddled strawberries create this fruity julep.
  • Sangria Julep – Red wine, brandy, orange liqueur, lemon, and mint make a wine-based julep.

In summary, the Julep glass’ unique shape shines when used to serve crushed ice cocktails highlighting fresh mint and fruit accents.

Sling Glass

The Sling glass is a small tumbler that usually holds 6-8 ounces. It has a flat bottom and sides that slope outwards slightly to the brim.

The squat shape keeps drinks chilled over ice cubes without numbing the fingers from cold glass. The sloped sides allow aromas to concentrate for nosing.

Slings showcase spirits, citrus, sugar, and water. The compact glass feels balanced for holding the sweet and sour ingredients.

Some classic sling cocktails served in a Sling glass:

  • Gin Sling – Gin, lemon juice, sugar, and soda water. Often garnished with a lemon wheel.
  • Singapore Sling – Gin, cherry liqueur, Benedictine, grenadine, citrus juices and club soda.
  • Whiskey Sling – Whiskey, lemon juice, sugar, and water or club soda.
  • Santa Cruz Sling – Rum, curaçao, lime juice, pineapple juice and Angostura bitters.
  • Applejack Sling – Apple brandy, lemon juice, sugar and club soda.

In summary, the compact Sling glass suits chilled cocktails containing citrus, sweeteners, and soda water, allowing you to nose the aromas of slings.

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