Cocktail glasses and home bar glassware of different sizes filled with fruity drinks.

Home Bar Glassware Essentials

PUBLISHED FEB 14, 2020 7 mins read

Home Bar Glassware Essentials

PUBLISHED FEB 14, 2020 7 mins read

How to assemble the ultimate home bar glassware set

There’s more to building the perfect home bar than stocking it with uncommon craft spirits from independent distilleries. After all, unless you plan on sipping straight from the bottle, you’re going to need a glass.

How a cocktail gets served is as important as the ingredients that go inside it.

Glassware contributes to how we enjoy what we’re drinking in a big way. But understanding what home bar glassware you’re going to need to make and serve all your favorite cocktails can get confusing.

Can you drink your Manhattan from a coupe glass? Who the heck is this Tom Collins guy? And what’s up with all those little copper mugs?

The answers to all these questions and more await you. This is Spirit Hub’s guide to Home Bar Glassware Essentials.

The rocks glass

Rocks glass filled with a brown liquor-based cocktail.
The rocks glass is commonly used for drinks that are super sweet, or might otherwise be considered overwhelming by some.

With their wide brims, straight sides and thick bases, the rocks glass is a distinguishable piece of classical bar glass.

Also called a lowball glass or an old fashioned glass, this short tumbler-style glass is used for serving spirits neat or “on the rocks” with ice cubes. Hence its name.

The rocks glass is a true utility player. They don’t spill easily. They feel good in the hand. And they’re perfect for mixing cocktails.

Holds 6 - 10 US fl oz.

Use for:

The highball glass

Bloody Mary cocktail served in a highball glass.
Fernand Petiot invented the Bloody Mary in the early 1920s while working at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.

The classic mixed drink glass. The highball glass is a taller version of the rocks glass, and popular for cocktails that have a higher ratio of mixer to spirit.

Perfect for cold and refreshing drinks served over lots of ice, the chimney-shaped highball glass is iconic and instantly recognizable.

Holds 8 - 12 US fl oz.

Use for:

The Collins glass

Two Tom Collins cocktails garnished with lemon slices.

Tall and skinny, the Collins glass takes its name from the Tom Collins cocktail. But where did the Tom Collins cocktail get its name?

If you believe the story, it all came as the clever result to running gag going around New York and Philadelphia known as, “The Great Tom Collins Hoax Of 1874.”

The joke went like this:

One man would approach another and ask, "Have you seen Tom Collins?"

"Why, no!" the second man would reply. "I have never made his acquaintance."

"Perhaps you had better do so, and as quick as you can, for he is talking about you in a very rough manner — calling you hard names, and convincing people there is nothing you wouldn't steal short of a red-hot stove."

This would clearly upset the second man, who would then take off in a huff to go and find this Tom Collins character to confront him.

Trouble was, the Tom Collins in question didn’t exist.

It didn’t take long for one plucky bartender to quickly invent a new cocktail and give it the name of Tom Collins. So, that when one of these men came storming into this establishment, thirsty for revenge and screaming for a Tom Collins, he was served a tall gin drink instead.

Two years later, the Tom Collins recipe first appeared in the 1876 edition of Bar-Tender’s Guide by Jerry Thomas, who is considered the “father of American mixology”.

But it can’t be said for certain that he was its intrepid inventor.

Similar to a standard highball glass, the Collins glass is also a type of tumbler, only slightly taller and more narrow.

Which comes in handy towards the end of finishing up your cocktail. Since ice is less likely to spill out when you’re tipping your head all the way back.

Holds 10 -14 US fl oz.

Use for:

The coupe glass

Red cocktail served in a coupe glass and garnished with raspberries.

In addition to having an absolutely classic look, the coupe glass is one of the most versatile pieces of home bar glassware you can own.

This stemmed, saucer-shaped glass is a favorite of bartenders who love using them to create “up” drinks; any shaken or stirred cocktails that aren’t served with ice.

The coupe glasses stem allows you to easily hold it evenly, but keep your hand from warming up the liquid inside too quickly.

The distinctly curved shape of the coupe glass also helps protect your cocktail from spilling.

Holds 4 -8 US fl oz.

Use for:

The martini glass and the cocktail glass

Two cocktails served in cocktail glasses and garnished with lemon slices.

Similar, but not identical. Even though many professional bartenders use them interchangeably as a vessel for many “up” cocktail recipes.

Both are long stemmed, to keep their chilled contents cold for as long as possible.

But it was the cocktail glass that came first. It’s smaller, rounder and with a rim more narrow than the martini glass.

The martini glass features a more conical shape to the cocktail glass, with a rim that gets wider closer to the top.

But don’t worry! Any cocktail that you can enjoy in one is equally good prepared in the other.

Holds 3 - 10 US fl oz.

Use for:

The snifter

Snifter glass containing a brown craft spirit.

If you’re a fan of aged, brown craft spirits like whiskey and bourbon, then you’ll want to invest in a nice set of snifters.

Unlike the coupe glass, a snifter glass features a very short stem. Because this glass is meant to be cradled in the palm of the hand to help gently warm the spirits inside.

The snifter is designed to have a wide bowl and short mouth. The larger bowl makes it possible to still give your spirits a good swirl, while the shorter mouth is able to keep aromas front and center as your sip.

Holds 6 -8 US fl oz.

Use for:

The absinthe glass

Absinthe glass with an absinthe spoon balanced across its mouth.

Absinthe might just be the most misunderstood type of craft spirit in the world. There’s a mystique surrounding it. And a lot of that can be attributed to the absinthiana, or trappings associated with absinthe and the way it is prepared.

If you’re keen to give this curious, anise-flavored craft spirit a go, don’t worry about needing to invest in heavy-duty accoutrements like an absinthe fountain or brouilleur.

A nice set of absinthe glasses will do the trick just fine. With those, an absinthe spoon, and a few cubes of sugar, you’ll be able to prepare and enjoy absinthe in the classic way.

Depending on the absinthe home bar set you find, there will either be lines or etchings just above each glass’ short, thick stem. These indicate the levels for a proper pour, which is typically around one ounce.

Once the absinthe spoon is laid across the top of the glass with the sugar cube in place, cold, distilled water is carefully poured over the sugar cube. Slowly at first. Just enough to saturate it.

Once the cube starts to dissolve, water continues to get added until you’re at a ratio of three-to-five parts water to one part absinthe.

Absinth recommendations:

The copper mug

A pair of Moscow mule cocktails served inside of copper mugs.

OK, ok. The copper mug isn’t technically home bar glassware. But these days, with mule drinks more popular than ever before, having a few of these available as part of your home bar set is highly recommended.

For one, copper is an exceptional thermal conductor. Which means whatever you have floating inside of it is going to stay warm, or stay cold longer. Perfect for hot days when you want to take your time and enjoy a cocktail without having to worry about your ice melting too quickly.

In the case of mule drinks in particular, the copper intensifies that delicious fizzy carbonation, boosting the bold flavors of the spicy ginger beer and tart, citrus lime.

Not to mention, it’s said the first Moscow mules, created in 1941, were originally served these copper mugs. So, they’re a piece of cocktail history too!

Home bar glasses and craft cocktail culture

There are no right or wrong ways to enjoy your craft spirits. Or the cocktails they help contribute to.

In fact, we wouldn’t have this brilliant, modern-day craft spirit industry that we do if not for progressive distillers, willing to take risks, think differently and run with new ideas that just feel right.

By having a home bar supplied with a variety of different home bar glassware, you’re able to experiment with flavor; blending this and that with a splash of who-knows-what.

Maybe you’ll be the one to invent the world’s next great cocktail. And maybe you’ll be able to do it because you had the right home bar set.

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Raymond Bunk is a police commander, retired firefighter and United States serviceman. He’s also one of the owner/operators at Nightside Distillery
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