Lesson 07 – Difficulty: Easy
The term cocktail glasses has been muddled over the years (pun). When someone asks for cocktail glasses we assume they want the cocktail glasses used for a gin martini, martinez or a manhattan cocktail recipe. However, there are a good dozen unique glass styles that are used for making a cocktail. The traditional cocktail glasses or, martini glasses, are used for cocktails served ‘up’ (with no ice).
A cocktail glass, as we define it, is the glass called for by a cocktail recipe that presents the recipe as the designer envisioned. Furthermore, some cocktail recipes are accented by the glass design itself–the aroma may be light and require a bit more direct nose attention for instance. Some cocktails utilize layering which may look better in a tall chimney style glass (usually called a collins glass).
Cocktail Glasses (served ‘up’)
Out of all the glass designs we suggest as a startup home bartender, the ones that stand out hit a wide array of cocktail recipe designs. The first category is designed for those that like spirit-forward cocktails (that usually lack juice or contain very little juice). These glasses are best used in cocktails served without ice because they are smaller in capacity. You do not need a huge glass for a cocktail recipe that contains no ice (pretty much any stirred drinks).
The Coupe Glass
Coupe glasses are usually short and squat. The coupe glass was also used for champagne prior to modern champagne flutes becoming the rage. This coupe style glass is flexible for many cocktails served without ice. I prefer a coupe glass to the standard martini / cocktail glass because it allows for less mess; a coupe glass does not spill as easily because the edges are not flared out. A coupe glass is usually around 3-4 ounces but can be even as large as 8 ounces of capacity.
Nick & Nora Glass
The Nick & Nora Glass looks much like a miniature wine glass, holding 6 ounces of cocktail. You will find a wide variety of glasses called Nick & Nora but the original style (based on the Thin Man series that started Nick and Nora Charles) should look much like a dainty wine glass. This is the style we’ve come to love and we favor the Nick & Nora glass over almost all other styles. We even tend to create a cocktail that often calls for ice without ice in a Nick & Nora because it’s just so sexy and versatile.
The martini glass also designated a true cocktail glass is the upside down triangle-shaped cone glass design. The martini glass is probably one of the most inefficient uses of glassware ever invented. Said to be invented around the 1880’s or so, this glass has carried through history as the glass to serve the gin martini. However, it spills easy, doesn’t capture aroma to the nose as easily (which is probably good for “boozy” cocktails) and just doesn’t really impress people as it once did. Don’t get me wrong, this glass is still popular at restaurants and bars but many higher end classic craft bars lean more towards a coupe.
Tall Cocktail Glasses / Long Drinks
A popular breed of cocktail glasses are those tall glasses or what has generally been labeled the “highball.” However, you’ll also find the collins glasses aka chimney glass aka zombie glass…take your naming pick. If you have a cocktail that’s more juice-forward in flavor or has a balanced ratio of juices to spirits, the taller glasses are your go-to solution.
These long drinks almost always call for ice and the tall cocktail glasses have ample space for ice cubes.
When we speak of a “highball,” this is typically a 12 ounce glass or larger that’s relatively tall. A highball glass can also be used as a water glass, ice tea, and serve as any standard drinking tumbler. Highball glasses often used for cocktails have a thicker bottom (weighted a bit) and tend to be very sturdy and upright. The diameter of the mouth is usually wider than that of a collins glass. You’ll find some highball glasses are actually taller than a collins, making categorizing them very confusing.
Collins Glasses / Chimney Glasses
The Collins glass, also called a chimney glass or, in some circles, a zombie, is tall and thin. It can be very hard to tell the difference between a highball glass and a collins glass. In general, you can note any tall glass as a collins or highball and nobody is going to look at you differently. The beauty of the collins glass is its ability to layer colors such as those often found in a tequila sunrise. Grenadine tends to sink and look visibly impressive in taller slender glassware.
Short Cocktail Glasses / Old Fashioned / Rocks
Perhaps the glass you see the most in classic movies containing hard spirits is that of the Old Fashioned glass. The old fashioned glass is simply a wide mouthed short glass. Imagine a highball glass that was shopped in half and you’ve got your standard old fashioned. These old fashioned style glasses range in capacity from 3 ounces to 12 ounces. A high capacity old fashioned is often simply called a double old fashioned.
You may find some people call this style of glass a “rocks glass.” The rocks got its name because most of the cocktails built in them are poured “on the rocks” (where “rocks” are ice). Much like a highball, the old fashioned glass usually has a thick bottom. Of course, the most popular reason why an old fashioned has its name is due to the cocktail recipe The Old Fashioned. Of course, an old fashioned cocktail is made and served in an old fashioned glass!
Speciality Cocktail Glasses
You can find other glassware that fits specific styles of drinks, but they are not entirely essential to the cocktail making process. In most cases, those special glasses can be substituted out with the glassware we have discussed. A few key notable glasses for cocktails:
- The Margarita Glass: A flared out glass with a deep center bottom. Used mainly for serving a margarita (tequila based drink).
- The Champagne Flute / Wine Glass: Primarily used as a vessel for wine or champagne. The one key notable difference would be the Champagne Cocktail recipe or perhaps a Mimosa cocktail.
- The Shot Glass: For consuming alcohol often irresponsibly. Neat idea, but usually not something we bother worrying about as we get into the taste and flavor of a craft cocktail.
- The Hurricane Glass: These are glasses designed to resemble old hurricane lanterns. Most often used for serving Hurricane cocktails (thanks Pat ‘o Brian!) or other larger blended drinks. A short squat looking hurricane glass is usually called a Parfait Glass and is one of the preferred glasses for blended Piña Colada cocktails or similar drinks.