There is some difference between the glassware used in a public bar verses the glassware you might use at home. Public bars go through lots of glassware due to the high volume there is more glass breakage. So typically a public bar will carry thicker less expensive glassware that will hold up and is easily replaced. At home however breaking a glass should be a rarity. So you can use thinner more expensive glassware for the home.
A thinner piece of glass at the rim where you drink is desirable to permit the cocktail to flow smoothly onto the tongue. A thicker rounded glass rim can promote a harshness that is less desirable. The bottom of the glass should be thick, sturdy, and of significant weight to help keep the chill in the glass and to make the glass less fragile.
Glassware can actually give you a much better cocktail experience. Using the right glass for the right drink can accentuate the smell, texture, and flavor of the cocktail. For example, in the use of a Collins glass for a Tom Collins. The Collins glass is a tall skinny glass and when serving a Tom Collins in it and drinking from a straw your nose is closer to the garnish as you drink. The flavor and smell come together to make a different drink. The Gin Fizz has the exact same ingredients except it is served in a Highball glass, but it tastes different due to the garnish and glass.
One of the biggest problems you will run into concerning glassware is storage space. You can really go wild with all the different glass types available for cocktails. You will want to have a decent amount of any one type you decide to carry. So be careful on how many different types you choose.
So let’s now go through the different types of glassware. I will try to put them in the order of usefulness and versatility.
Rocks – also known as lowball and old fashioned glass. This is an extremely versatile glass and is a must have in a bar. In fact I have seen some bars that only carry Rocks and Highballs. Most commonly you will find Double Rocks glasses in public bars, which holds 8 to 10 ounces. I would recommend the use of the traditional Rocks glass size of 5 or 6 ounces at home and use the Highball glass for the taller drinks.
Highball – this essential piece of glassware looks like a taller version of the Rocks glass. This glass is used for most of your tall drinks that use juices and mixers. It is typically between 8 to 12 ounces.
White Wine – the white wine glass is actually a very versatile piece of glass. In a pinch it can used in place of the Cocktail, Cordial, Shot, Red Wine, Flute, Sour, and Snifter. There is a wide variety of sizes in this glass, but I recommend a smaller size.
Cocktail – is the icon glass of mixed drinks. (THIS IS NOT A MARTINI GLASS. There is no such glass called a Martini glass. The Martini is a drink with Gin and Dry Vermouth not a glass.) …sorry had to get that out of my system. The Cocktail glass can not really be used in place of any other glass, but many, many drinks are served in it. The straight v-shape of the glass also is the bane of all waiters and waitresses existence. Serving a full Cocktail glass to a guest can be a tricky proposition. So when pouring into a Cocktail glass don’t fill it to the top. Leave about a quarter to a third of the glass exposed. There is a large range of sizes in this glass. Most restaurant bars serve in gigantic Cocktail glasses. I hate this. You pay a ton of money for it and by the time you get halfway done your drink is warm. A 6 ounce Cocktail glass is the perfect size.
Cordial – think shot glass with a stem. I put the Cordial higher on the list because it can be used as a shot glass rather easily. Just don’t get those really frilly looking ones that are multi-colors and multi-sizes. A Cordial glass is about 1.5 to 2 ounces in size.
Beer Mug – the typical mug with a handle can be used for beer, all beer based cocktails, most frozen cocktails, and coffee based cocktails. Beer Mugs usually hold about 12 to 16 ounces.
Shot – the shooter is a popular drink type and the Shot glass is made for it. The Shot glass can be short and squat or taller and skinny, but at most it holds about 2 ounces. Mostly straight liquors or liqueurs are served in it.
Red Wine – the larger bowl allows red wine to breathe more and express its aroma. In a pinch the Red Wine glass can be used in the same way as the White Wine glass. This glass also comes in many different sizes. I would recommend a slightly larger size than your White Wine glass.
Sour – now we are starting to get into the specialty glassware. The Sour glass is a shorter more pointed shaped White Wine glass. This glass is specifically used for the Sours family of cocktails (Whisky Sour, Amaretto Sour, etc…). In a pinch this glass can be used in the same way as the White Wine glass.
Snifter – the Snifter, sometimes called a Brandy Snifter, has a very large bowl and is a fairly short glass. This glass is used for sipping aged liquor. The large bowl allows the liquor to breathe, but then it’s smaller at the top to concentrate the aroma to the nose when you are sipping. Only a small amount of liquor is poured into a Snifter. Because they are all different sizes the best way to fill a Snifter is to lay it on its side and pour the liquor in until it is just about to spill out of the glass. Once you set it straight you will have the perfect amount poured. The Snifter can also be used to serve some dessert cocktails. This glass is a pain to store and an even bigger pain to clean.
Margarita – the concoction that goes in this type of glass is obvious. It has a festive style curve to it that just screams tequila. Beyond the Margarita this glass can be used for just about any frozen cocktail.
Hurricane – this specialty glass was put into popular use by Pat O’Brian’s in New Orleans serving up their Hurricane cocktail of the same name. As the story goes the owner of the bar was given a case or two of these very strange glasses and he challenged his bartenders to develop a drink to serve in it. As it turned out the drink and the glass were a hit. Any frozen or tropical cocktail can be served in this glass but it does hold quite a lot of liquid.
Collins – is the slender cousin to the Highball glass. If you have Highball glasses the only reason to get this particular glass is to be able to serve authentic Tom Collins or other Collins cocktails. As described earlier whatever beverage is served in this glass is intended to have a straw in it with aromatic garnishes. It is popular to serve the Mojito in this glass as well.
Flute – is for the bubbly. The slender shape is intended to concentrate the bubbles that come from Champagne. This glass is good for any Champagne based cocktail, but not much else.
Parfait/Pousse-Café – these two glasses look fairly similar and are used for layered cocktails and dessert cocktails. These glasses have square bases, short stems and a narrow bowl.
Coffee – is not a coffee cup. This glass looks similar to a Parfait or Pousse-Café but it has a handle on it as well. As you can imagine this glass is used for coffee based cocktails.
Pilsner – is basically a large glass specifically used to hold beer. It has a very short stem and a v-shaped bowl that is very tall. If you plan on serving higher quality lagers or ales you may want to invest in a set of these. Otherwise don’t bother.
Okay there you have it. There are other types of glasses that I didn’t list here but this will cover 99.99% of all cocktail needs. Be sure you plan out what types of cocktails you plan to serve before you start buying glassware. Glassware can be expensive and takes up a good bit of space.
If I were to choose 5 must have glasses I would go with Rocks, Highball, White Wine, Cocktail, and Beer Mug. If you have room get some of the others.
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