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Cocktail Glasses

Updated on September 18, 2013

For those of you who just love to entertain, a good set of cocktail glasses is a must have item. Nothing says good cheer and happy times like a martini served cold or a glass of really good scotch or bourbon. A glass of red or white wine is great before, during, or after dinner, though you might want to pair the right wine with your drink, depending on if you're having a wonderful lobster dish or have prepared some new grilled chicken recipes. For those really special occasions, you will want to break out the champagne.

All of these drinks are usually best served in the glasses that were made especially for them. This is not only due to tradition but also because brandy tastes best in a brand snifter and white wine tastes the best in a white wine glass. Not only does a comprehensive set of cocktail glasses demonstrate your taste and sophistication, owning one makes good practical sense as well.

Cocktail Glasses come in many different forms - find the right one for your drink!
Cocktail Glasses come in many different forms - find the right one for your drink!

The Types of Cocktail Glasses

Before you start shopping for cocktail glasses, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the various kinds of glasses used for the various drinks. This way, you can choose those types of cocktail glasses that you will likely use the most, depending on your and your guests’ favorite drinks.

First up in any good set of cocktail glasses is the highball glass. These glasses are tall and thin and are sometimes called a Slim Jim glass or Collins glass. Highball glasses usually hold about 12 to 14 ounces, including ice. The most popular drinks served in highball glasses are Bloody Marys, Harvey Wallbangers, and gin and tonics.

The lowball glass is a shorter, wider version of the highball. These cocktail glasses can contain around 9 to 11 ounces of liquor. The most likely use of lowball glasses are drinks that contain scotch or whisky, such as a whisky sour. Sometimes scotch or whisky with ice, or “on the rocks,” will be served in a lowball glass.

Martini glasses have triangular shaped bowls attached to long-stemmed handle and a wide base. Because martinis are served chilled but without ice, holding the drink by the stem of the martini glass helps to keep it from being warmed by the heat of your hand. In addition to martinis, these glasses are also good for Manhattans and cosmopolitans.

Similar to the martini glass but with a wider rim are the margarita glasses. The wider rim is used to press the glass into salt. Although margarita glasses can hold the same amount of liquid as martini glasses, approximately 8 ounces, some of these glasses come in larger volumes for more generous portions.

A popular style of cocktail glass for people who have visited New Orleans is the hurricane glass. These tall, thin cocktail glasses are pinched in the middle, something like the shape of a lantern. This type of glassware is often used for drinks containing tropical fruit juices or for frozen cocktails.

The brandy snifter is a fairly low, squat glass with a short stem. Although the main bowl of the brandy snifter is wide, it narrows considerably at the top. This allows the brandy fumes to build at the center of the glass but become concentrated near the nose as you sip the brandy. For brandy aficionados, the aroma of the drink is as important as its taste.

Wine and Champagne Glasses

The glasses that hold red and white wines are typically different in shape. Glasses for red wine are taller and wider so that the aromas of the wine collect in the bowl and then rise to the nose. On the contrary, white wine glasses are smaller and thinner. Because white wine is served chilled, the smaller portions served in white wine glasses can be drank before the wine warms up.

Champagne glasses, or champagne flutes, are tall and slender. This height in the glass helps to prevent the champagne from going flat as you drink it. The champagne bubbles also collect readily along the tall sides for a beautiful visual effect.

Mixing It Up

As you can see, there are some pretty specific rules about which drinks to serve in which type of glassware. This is in many instances a matter of presenting the drink in the cocktail glass it will taste best in. However, in contemporary times, it is often quite acceptable to mix things up a bit and pour your drinks into nontraditional types of cocktail glasses. This can be fun and entertaining for your guests. Next time you have a party, how about margaritas in pint beer glasses or a lowball Bloody Mary? The point, after all, is fun, right?


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