Highball? Rocks? Choosing a cocktail glass

Sure, you can drink your cocktail out of any old glass...

But I wouldn’t recommend it.

You want to drink from a glass that’s the right size. If your cocktail has ice, you need a glass big enough to accommodate it. At the same time, if you pour a liquor-based drink into too big of a glass, you could lose some freshness by the end of the drink.

The right glass completes your cocktail. If you’re willing to make the effort to mix yourself a drink, wouldn’t you want the right finishing touch?

There are only four kinds of cocktail glasses you need for your home bar. There are many more types than that, and endless choices in terms of size, shape, design, and more. A lot of drinkers enjoy collecting glassware, but these are the basics to start with.

There are four main types of cocktail glasses.

highball and collins glasses

Highball and collins glasses are both are tall and cylindrical. The highball is a little taller and narrower, while the collins is a little shorter and wider. A highball glass is more classic, but you can use a collins to serve any drink calling for a highball.

These glasses are good for tall drinks that are mixed straight in the glass with lots of ice.

Old-fashioned glasses

These short tumblers are also known as lowball or rocks glasses. They hold small to medium-sized pours, while double old-fashioned glasses can hold large drinks.

These glasses are well suited for serving mixed drinks or straight liquor with ice.

martini (cocktail) glasses

This cone shaped glass is associated with martinis, but is well suited to serve plenty of other cocktails too. These are good for small to medium sized drinks, served up. Drinks served in these glasses tend to be made primarily from liquor.

Stemless cocktail glasses are relatively common these days, but a stem helps you hold the glass without your hands changing the temperature of your drink.

shot glasses

These tiny glasses are present – and easily recognizable – at virtually every bar. Most hold an ounce and a half of liquor, though some hold one or two ounces.

Some shot glasses are short and stout, which make them ideal for straight liquor or shots that are shaken and strained. Other glasses are longer and thinner – perfect for showing off a colorful and/or layered shot.

Regardless of the shape, shot glasses are usually made of thick glass. At the very least, the base should be. This helps prevent shattering if you slam your glass on the bar after taking a shot.

bonus: margarita glasses

A margarita fits in a standard cocktail glass, but somehow ended up with its own glass. This one is flatter than a cocktail glass, and often bigger due to the extra bulb. They come in a variety of sizes ranging from small to large. 

Like the traditional cocktail glass, margarita glasses work well for other drinks too. The size of the glass will help determine what will work.

Of course, the glass alone isn't all you need to enjoy your cocktail. Click here for the other tools you'll want to make part of your home cocktail bar.