A Bartender’s Guide to Glassware: Choosing the Right Glass for Each Drink


As new bartenders or bar owners, you might be tempted to throw on an old red Solo cup for every cocktail…please don’t!

As a bartender or bar owner, you know that presentation is key. Pouring your drinks into the wrong glass can quickly take away from your guest experience and make them feel like they’re not getting their money’s worth.

Here are the basics of glassware so you can be sure that you are using the correct glasses for each kind of drink.

Let’s take away any awkward moments where customers feel like they’re not with the professional bartender we know you are/can be! Pour drinks into the right glasses! Brush up on our crash course in glassware to get it just right.

Why Glassware Matters

As a new bartender, you might think the most important thing to get right is the recipe of your cocktails but when it comes to presentation subjectivity plays a large role.

But when new bartenders are learning about the plethora of glassware options out there, I hear a common question.

“It’s just a glass–why is it so important when you’re serving cocktails?”

If you’re serving specialty cocktails, remember that as a newbie you’re being judged on presentation first and foremost – and unfortunately for us newbies, proper glassware is what can make or break us.

Choosing the correct drinkware can help enhance and release the aromas your cocktail has to offer.

The size of the glass’s mouth plays a pivotal role in releasing aromas that excite taste buds and tantalize drinkers.

Plus, in order to maintain the drink at its intended temperature, you must use the correct type of glassware: take stemmed wine glasses, for example—not only does it look more aesthetically pleasing, but having a stem keeps those warm human hands down and away from the liquid! (Would zombies have all stemless ware? I’m truly curious…)

This way, the wine stays cool and maintains its naturally-intended flavor.

Keeping all these points in mind, glassware should not be taken lightly as it can definitely make or break your mixology masterpiece.


A Real-Life Bartender Story

I had been working at the upscale restaurant for a few months now, and so far it had been going pretty smoothly. We specialized in craft cocktails using fresh ingredients with unique glassware to match each drink. But I was about to have my first encounter with one of our more picky customers.

He walked up to the bar and asked for a Green Tea shot with tequila as a cocktail. I was taken aback– this wasn’t something we often made– but I went ahead and poured it into a coupe glass like usual. The customer seemed unimpressed though, complaining that he felt like “a bitch” drinking out of that type of glass. So I poured it again into a rocks glass instead, which he accepted grudgingly.

When he actually wanted a shot later on, however, things got even worse! All we had were these fancy stemmed shot glasses, which apparently weren’t good enough for him either! He started ranting about how ridiculous they looked and what kind of place served shots in such an unconventional manner? And all I could do was laugh nervously and explain that those were the only shot glasses we had available at the moment!

After his rant ended and he finally left the bar area, my coworkers all turned to me incredulously asking: “Does glassware really matter that much?!”

The moral of the story is, yes glassware matters. But to some, it really, really matters.

Tell Us! How often have you had a guest complain about the type of glassware you used for a cocktail?

First, Learn the Essentials


Coupe Glass

Coupe glasses are short stemmed glasses with a wide bowl at the top — think of it as an upside-down champagne flute. They are traditionally used to serve cocktails such as Martinis, Margaritas, and Manhattans. The wide brim allows aromas to develop in the drink while still keeping it cold, making this a great option for drinks served ‘up’ (without ice).

So if you’re after drinks with alluring scents yet aren’t one for serving lukewarm beverages (which by the way, you should not be!), go timelessly cool by opting for these classic glasses!

Not only do they look cool—they let your guest enjoy every last drop of your delicious concoction too!


The Collins Glass

The Collins glass is tall and skinny, perfect for those who like their drinks to be refreshing and light. This glass is typically used for drinks like gin and tonics, as well as cocktails like the Mojito.

Its signature cylinder shape helps keep drinks carbonated longer by creating less surface area. Perfect for classic cocktails like Tom Collins or John Collins, the versatile glasses range from 10-14 US fl oz. 


The Highball Glass

The highball glass is also tall and skinny, but it is slightly wider than the Collins glass. This glass is typically used for drinks that are high in alcohol content, such as whiskey neat or on the rocks.

The highball glass is a bartender’s go-to for serving all sorts of cocktails, from scotch and soda to gin and tonics.

It typically measures 7 cm in diameter and 15 cm in height, able to contain 8 to 12 US fl oz of liquid. The highball glass is a unique item, standing taller than the old-fashioned lowball and shorter and wider than a Collins glass.

This versatile shape makes it suitable for serving many different drinks – long drinks like spritzers or whiskey sours and short drinks like a Cosmopolitan or Margarita.

No bar or restaurant can be without a good collection of highball glasses!


Rocks Glass

Commonly known as an old-fashioned tumbler or lowball glass, these small thick glasses typically hold 6–8 ounces of liquid. These glasses are perfect for serving spirits on their own — neat or over ice — as well as most whiskey-based cocktails such as an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

Rocks and lowball glasses are bartender staples that have been used for centuries, originating from England in the late 18th or 19th century. 

These wide-brim glasses usually contain between 6-10 US fl. oz, with a double old-fashioned glass featuring 12-16 US fl. oz. They are traditionally used to serve whisky neat or “on the rocks” as well as classic cocktails. The wide mouth and thick base allow you, as a mixologist, to use the muddler in order to mash the non-liquid ingredients of a cocktail prior to adding the other liquids into the mix.

This piece of essential glassware has come a long way over the years and continues to be used in many bars worldwide!



Brandy snifters have wider rims that trap aromas and help to bring out more flavors in the spirit being sipped through its smaller opening at the top of the glass. Brandy snifters work best with Cognac and other aged spirits where taste is just as important as smell in appreciating its complexity and character.

This glass is used for brandy and other spirits that are meant to be sipped slowly



Flutes have a longer stem than coupes which makes them easier to hold without warming up your champagne or sparkling wine too quickly with body heat from your hands. This long stem also serves another purpose; it’s designed to create bubbles when pouring into the flute which helps maintain carbonation levels making sure your guests can truly enjoy their bubbly drink!

Wine Glasses: Explained

Wine Glasses: Explained

The white wine glass is taller than it is wide, with a slightly tapered top. This glass is used for lighter-bodied white wines, such as Riesling and Pinot Grigio.

Red Wine Glass

The red wine glass is shorter than the white wine glass and has a wider bowl. This glass is used for fuller-bodied red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Balloon Wine Glasses

These large (typically 14-16 ounce) stemmed glasses feature a bulbous shape at the top that helps concentrate aromas while also allowing plenty of room for swirling around red wines before drinking them.

It’s important to fill these glasses no more than one-third full so that there is enough air left inside to allow those wonderful aromas to develop!


Another bartender staple, the pint glass is a versatile and popular form of drinkware.

It’s designed to hold between 16-20 ounces of liquid, making it an ideal vessel for beer and cider.

Perfectly suited for everyday use in pubs and restaurants, this glassware also remains a favorite at parties and other social gatherings.

Its unassuming appearance belies its versatility, allowing bartenders to maintain the look of their establishment while still serving traditional Guinness or locally made craft beers. Whether you’re stocking your new bar or hosting an event, having a pint glass is essential.

The classic British pint design features a heavy base which gives stability when balancing on surfaces like tabletops or bar counters.

These versatile vessels can be used for anything from beer pints to gin & tonics served along with plenty of ice & garnishes—plus don’t forget about those creamy creations like Pina Coladas or Mudslides!


The Old-Fashioned Glass

The old-fashioned glass was mentioned earlier, but here it is again!

Why? Because the old-fashioned glass is a bartender’s dream.

It is short, wide and features a heavy base, making it easy for bartenders to pour because of the stability during pouring.

This type of glassware is most often used for drinks that require ice – like an old fashioned, whiskey sour or Manhattan – but can also be used for martinis and other drinks.

With its versatility, low profile and classic look, this glass is sure to remain popular amongst both bartenders and drinkers alike for years to come.


The Sherry Glass

The sherry glass is small and wide, usually with a short stem. This glass is used for fortified wines, such as sherry, port, and Madeira.


The Yard Glass

There is no bartender head-turner quite like a bartender pouring a beer into a yard of ale.

Standing almost a yard tall and designed with an impressive bulb-shaped base followed by a widening shaft, the yard glass is revered for its bold design and also for being used in traditional pub games focused on drinking as quickly as possible.

Originating from 17th century England, this type of glassware was also be known as a “long glass”, “Cambridge yard” and an “ell glass”.

Its reputation has reached worldwide levels, where it is enjoyed in pubs around the world for both its aesthetics and grandeur.


The Chalice

The chalice is a large, goblet-like glass that is often used for ceremonial purposes. Chalices are said to date back to the Middle Ages, when they were used by monks and priests during religious ceremonies.

Master Your Glassware Crash Course and Become a Bartending Pro, with Local Bartending School’s Online Classes!

We want to make sure your customers only have pleasant experiences at the bar and avoid any awkward moments.

With that in mind, memorize our crash course in glassware, so you can be sure to avoid any missteps when pouring a drink.

Once you master it, you’ll make customers feel like they’re ready for an A-list kind of night out! Of course, if you need a refresher, or if you’re looking to take your bartending career to the next level, Local Bartending School has online classes available. It’s the perfect way to gain skills that will serve both yourself and your customers.

So, why not brush up on your bar knowledge today? After all, life is too short for mediocre glassware and drinks, right? Let’s get mixing!

Carrie Jean Lipe

Carrie Lipe has been writing creatively since childhood but jump-started her professional writing after college. She's an Indiana native, Ball State Hospitality graduate, and a bartender with over 10+ years in the industry. You can find her making basil Moscow mules when she's not writing. Follow her professional journey on Instagram! @contentbycarriejean