Glass Etiquette: Which Glass Goes with Which Cocktail

Each piece of glassware has a special purpose. When you go to a bar and order a drink, your bartender knows glass etiquette and exactly which glass to use. Likewise, when you make cocktails at home, they’ll taste, smell, and look better if you use the right glass.

When it comes to serving mixed drinks, the glass plays a part in the drinker’s visual appeal, taste, and comfort. While this may seem arbitrary, it’s anything but. Let’s look at glass etiquette and which glass goes with which cocktail, so you’ll never wonder again if you’re drinking from the “right” glass. 

Highball Glass

One of the most recognizable glasses, you use a highball for tall mixed drinks that are served over ice. This might be a Rum and Coke, Gin and Tonic, or even a Mojito. 

The highball glass usually holds 10-12 ounces. It is tall and narrow. Bartenders use this glass to create the drink and layer flavors right in the glass. They then vigorously shake the cocktail and pour it over ice. 

The highball is tall and skinny to help the drinks stay cold and retain their carbonation. 

Collins Glass Etiquette

This glass is usually larger than a highball, and you can fill it with 12-14 ounces. It may also be a bit taller and narrower and may be called the cooler glass. Many people use the Collins glass and the highball glass interchangeably. 

This cocktail glass got its name from the Tom Collins cocktail. It’s the classic gin cocktail created in the 1800s that includes gin, simple syrup, club soda, and lemon juice served over ice. 

While the cocktail glass generally holds the Tom Collins, you can use it with cocktails served over ice, such as the Mojito or Paloma. 

Rocks Glass Etiquette

Another highly recognizable cocktail glass is the rocks glass, often called the Old Fashioned or lowball glass. Bartenders make drinks in this glass, such as the Old Fashioned (bourbon whiskey with a dash of Angostura bitters) or the Negroni (gin, red vermouth, Campari, and a twist of orange). 

You can use this glass for any straight liquor served on the rocks or for serving whiskey neat with no ice. The rocks glass is short and broad. It’s often a heavy, sturdy glass that is best used with liquor in small amounts. Generally, the rocks glass is found in a six to eight-ounce size (single) or a 10-14 ounce size (double). 

Drinks served in the rocks glass are created right in the glass to layer the ice and liquor for better flavor. This cocktail glass isn’t for mixed drinks, just spirits. Because of the stature of this glass, you can muddle (mix/stir) the ingredients by stirring and adding one or two large cubes of ice. 

Martini Glass

This distinguished cocktail glass serves the ever-popular Martini and Cosmopolitan.

People love to hold the Martini glass because not only is it comfortable, but it looks sophisticated when they hold it. The “v” shaped bowl design requires finesse when drinking – sipping is the preferred method, and the long stem is elegant. Martini glasses are great for strained cocktails or those with very few mixers. 

The martini glass isn’t usually used for drinks with ice, and the drinks are best served “up,” meaning without ice. The long stem helps keep the drink cold because the drinker holds the stem, not the bowl. You also usually find drinks served with a skewer of fruit, olives, or other garnishes. 

Finally, you hold this glass properly from the stem with your other hand cupped underneath the bottom to prevent spills.

Coupe Glass

Like the martini glass, this one was first used for champagne. People didn’t like to drink champagne from these glasses, though, because drinks don’t retain their carbonation for very long because there is a large surface area in the glass. 

Today people serve drinks such as the Manhattan and the Gimlet in this glass. Another sophisticated glass, your drink stays colder longer because of the long stem. 

This cocktail glass has a round bowl, while the martini glass has a “v” shaped bowl. 

Nick and Nora Glass

This glass is a combination of the martini and coupe glasses. You’ll usually find straight-up cocktails in this stemmed glass. It has a long stem, narrow mouth, and a bell-shaped bowl. It has a small capacity of about five ounces. This is an elegant cocktail glass found in upscale bars. 

The Nick and Nora glass came about in the late 1980s when a bartender had some made for the Rainbow Room restaurant in New York City. The idea came from a 1930s catalog where it showed a “little martini” glass, and characters Nick and Nora drank out of these glasses in the 1934 mystery film, The Thin Man.

Serve shaken or stirred drinks in the Nick and Nora cocktail glass or any drinks that might be served in a martini glass. Pros recommend you chill this glass before you pour anything in and never serve drinks in it on the rocks. 

Margarita Glass

Nearly everyone loves a good margarita, and you’ll find this cocktail glass in many different styles and colors. It has a big round bowl with a strong stem that is easy to hold. It’s a thick glass with a sturdy, broad rim that can be garnished with salt, sugar, or other flavors. 

People blend fruity concoctions in this glass. The style of this glass allows drinkers to enjoy not only the flavors but the lovely smell of the drink. 

In this cocktail glass, you might enjoy a frozen margarita, margarita on the rocks, daiquiri, or frozen daiquiri. 

Hurricane Glass

This casual cocktail glass is tall, big (holding 20 ounces), and tulip shaped. The rim is flared, and it has a short stem. You’ll most often find the hurricane filled with tropical drinks with multiple ingredients and mixers. 

This glass holds the ultimate party drink, such as the Hurricane (made up of two types of rum, lime juice, orange juice, passion fruit puree, simple syrup, and grenadine). Other drinks served in the hurricane cocktail glass include the pina colada and the Singapore sling.

The lip on this drink is flared, so drinkers can enjoy not only the sweet, fruity flavor, but they can smell them as well. Plus, this glass has plenty of room to hold garnishes. 

Copper Mug

The copper mug is perfect for the Moscow mule (a blend of vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer) because the copper is an amazing conduit. When you put the ice-cold Moscow mule in the mug, it takes on the cold temperature and keeps your drink colder, longer. 

The best part about the copper mug is that it turns cold when cold liquid is added and stays that way, insulating your drink. 

Some even think the copper makes the drinks taste better. Other drinks served in this mug include the mint julep and the greyhound. 

Do hold this cocktail glass by the handle, so you don’t risk warming your drink. 


This glass is often called the brandy snifter or the cognac glass. It is a very short-stemmed glass, and the bottom is wide and round while the top is narrow. 

It is most proper to hold this drink by the bowl and not the stem. The short stem allows drinkers to hold the whole glass, which warms the liquor a bit because these drinks are best served at room temperature. The narrow top keeps the aromatic smell of the liquor in the glass so you can savor your drink. 

You will only find aged brown liquor such as bourbon, whiskey, cognac, scotch, rum, and brandy served in this cocktail glass

The snifter holds about six-eight ounces, and drinkers are meant to swirl and sniff their drink. Only fill sniffers a little bit, as they aren’t meant to be filled to the brim. 

Glencairn Whiskey Glass

A newcomer to the world of the cocktail glass, the Glencairn is now considered the official whiskey glass by many. This is because the glass allows you to savor the taste and complexity of your chosen liquor. 

The tulip-shaped bowl stands atop a very sturdy base. This helps enhance the aroma of the liquor and bring it right to the drinker’s nose. You’ll find this six-ounce glass made from lead crystal, lead-free crystal, and soda-lime. 

Shot Glass

Another highly recognizable glass, the shot glass is short, narrow, and small compared to other cocktail glasses. The purpose of the shot glass is to quickly consume liquor. 

Sometimes people will drop a shot glass into a cocktail for an added flair. Adventurous bartenders may use a slightly taller shot glass to create their own unique shots of layered colors and flavors. 

Irish Coffee Mug

Use the Irish coffee mug when creating cocktails that are best served hot. This mug is made of glass and actually sits on a stem. It has a sturdy base and generally a narrow bowl. 

The rim of this glass flares so that any toppings you add, such as whipped cream or foam, stay right where you want them. 

These mugs are for Irish coffee, hot toddies, and hot chocolate with liquor. Best served on cold days, the Irish coffee mug only sometimes has a handle. 

Wine and Champagne Glass Etiquette

When it comes to wine glasses, there are reasons for each shape and style. This is dictated by the particular wine and what it needs for flavor enhancement. Here are a few tips for recognizing the proper glass etiquette

  • White wine glasses are taller and narrower than red wine glasses.
  • The red wine glass is large and has a bowl-like shape. This glass is great for sangria, too.
  • The Grappa glass has a long-footed stem and a slender bowl with a narrow rim to prevent heat transfer.
  • Champagne flutes are tall, slender, and straight, with a narrow bowl on a long stem. This maintains champagne’s carbonation, allowing the bubbles to travel to the top of the glass.
  • Champagne tulip glasses are a hybrid (champagne flute, coupe glass, and white wine glass combo). It has a wider bowl than a flute and lets the aroma of the champagne mingle while you sip. Champagne cocktails and juleps are often served in this glass.

To Conclude Glass Etiquette Tips

When making your very own signature cocktails at home, consider carefully the glass you are going to use. 

The most popular cocktail glass are the highball, rocks glass, and martini or coupe glass, but there is a place for all of these glasses in your home bar. 

When ordering in a bar, you are now well-equipped to recognize the drinks by the glasses they are served in. 

Finally, the cocktail glass you choose for your drinks does follow rules of etiquette, but remember that the glass is part of the actual drink. It should not only enhance the look of the drink, but it should enhance the flavor. There are strict reasons some drinks are served in tall, straight glasses, while others are served in short glasses, and those with stems. 

Now that you know the proper glass etiquette, you are ready to enjoy the best cocktails.

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