What you drink spirits in largely depends on what you’re drinking spirits for. If you’re going for a mixed drink, you might get a Martini glass, a coupe, or a Rocks glass. If you’re tasting Single Malt Scotch, you may be using a Glencairn. If you want something hot, fast, and now, it’ll be a shot glass.
The world of spirits and cocktail glassware is pretty varied, kind of like the worlds of beer and wine glassware. As with beer and wine, there’s a certain purposefulness to each glass. But unlike beer and wine glasses, there’s so much variety in shape here, it’s less likely you’ll confuse them.
As for buying glassware, it’s only a concern if you’re building a home bar or drink spirits or cocktails regularly. If you want to start a small stock of glassware for your home collection, think about what spirits you want to drink, and how, and start from there. Here’s a list of some basic spirits and cocktail glassware to get you started:
- Cordial: The main thing about cordial glasses is their size—they’re small, stemmed glasses designed to hold just a bit of your favorite cordial or liqueur (sweetened, often flavored, spirits-based drink). Usually 1.5 to 2 ounces.
- Brandy Snifter: These are the big balloon glasses you see arch-villains and masterminds drinking from in spy thrillers. Shape is king here, wide and bulbous at the base with a narrowed opening, designed to collect all the rich aromatics. (Some brandy snifters are tulip-shaped, with an opening at the top; Grappa glasses are like this and tend to be more narrow with a distinctive bulb at the bottom.)
- Tumbler: Basically a flat-bottomed glass with a wide body and a typically simpler shape that opens up. Short tumblers can be 5 to 6 ounces and tall ones 10 to 12 ounces.
- Rocks/Old Fashioned/Lowball: Like a shorter tumbler, straight and wide, with variations in curvature but nothing dramatic. Good for any drink with ice cubes (hence “rocks”). A classic vessel for the Old Fashioned, but also good for the Sazerac, Negroni, or a small pour of straight spirit. The Old Fashioned is 6 to 8 glasses. The Double Old Fashioned glass is 12 to 14 ounces.
- Highball: A tall tumbler, 8 to 12 ounces, shorter than a Collins glass but taller than an Old Fashioned glass. With a taller flute-like body, it promotes bubble retention, so it’s good for soda water, and has more room for drinks over ice.
- Collins: Basically a taller Highball, named for the cocktail that technically goes in it—but you can drink anything (typically a mixed drink) that needs 12 to 16 ounces of space like a Mojito or, yes, a Tom Collins.
- Martini: A classic cocktail glass shape, with a long stem and an inverted cone shape that tends to hold stuff like the classic Martini or the Cosmopolitan. No ice, no room.
- Margarita: Margaritas can really be served in various kinds of glasses, but frozen Margaritas especially might be served in this—like a wide bowl with a little bulb at the bottom. Salt rim optional.
- Coupe: This is the kind of glass you’d see Flappers drinking Champagne out of in between Charleston sessions, a stemmed glass with a moderately wide, flat bowl shaped cup. Good for strained (no ice) cocktails with some acidity and supposedly (though not really likely) shaped after Marie Antoinette’s, um, upper body part…
- Hurricane: If your drink comes in this glass, you’re on vacation, or else you’re drinking like you are. A taller, pear-shaped glass with a wide bowl and an open mouth, ideal for holding tropical garnishes and various paper umbrellas for your liquid vacation.
- Shot: Exactly what it sounds like, this is the vessel your round of shots will come in—a simple, short glass cylinder that holds 1.5 to 2 ounces.
- Spirits Tasting Glasses: The Glencairn and Copita are all variations on the same principle—creating a relatively small vessel ideal for expressing the aromatics of a single spirit. A tulip shaped bowl gathers the spirit and the narrow opening keeps the aromatics contained.