Differences Between Glasses

Some people choose their bar glasses simply because they’re pretty but the real reason behind the differences between glasses is that each style of glass was developed with a different purpose in mind.

The most-often used bar glass is the cocktail, or martini, glass. This holds about three standard jiggers of beverage served chilled without ice. The long stem facilitates holding it without the warmth of the hand warming the beverage in the bowl.

Tumblers are sometimes called old-fashioned or rocks glasses because they are ideal for serving short drinks served on the rocks, such as the old-fashioned, sours, and Manhattans. They hold about 8 ounces.

Collins, or high ball, glasses are tall, straight-sided tumblers that hold about 12 ounces. They’re most often used to serve drinks made from fruit juices and those finished off with a carbonated beverage, such as a screwdriver or Tom Collins.

A stemmed poco, or large cocktail, glass usually has an outward-turning rim to hold extravagant garnishes. These glasses come in many sizes and shapes and work nicely for fruity or frothy drinks, over ice or frozen. The hurricane glass, made famous by Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans, is one of the most famous poco glasses and resembles the glass of a hurricane lantern so important where tropical storms are prevalent.

A shot glass holds only about 2 ounces and is ideal for straight shots of liquor or shooters. Slightly taller than a shot glass is the pousse-café used to make attractive layered drinks such as a B-52.

Brandy snifters, or balloons, should be filled only to the widest part of the glass, leaving most of the bowl available for swirling, which releases the aromas that waft upward through the inwardly tapering rim. The bowl is wide and the stem short so the hand can cup the bottom of the bowl to allow its warmth to intensify the brandy’s aromas.

Brandy snifters are also very popular when filled to the rim with fruity, tropical cocktails served over ice with flamboyant garnishes, such as pina coladas, mai tais, and Colorado bulldogs.

Red wine glasses are taller, elongated versions of brandy snifters to capture aromas released by swirling the glass. A proper red wine pour fills only about one-third of the bowl, to its widest point, leaving plenty of bowl room to swirl the wine effectively.

White wine glasses have longer stems but smaller bowls than red wine glasses. The longer stem makes it easier to hold the glass without touching the bowl, which would warm the chilled wine undesirably.

The smallest stemmed glasses are liqueur or cordial glasses, meant to hold only a small amount of highly flavored, very potent liqueurs served straight, without mixers or ice.

Larger than cordial glasses but smaller than white wine glasses are sherry glasses, used to serve chilled fortified wines such as sherry, port, or Madeira. When served over ice, fortified wines are best served in short tumblers.

Tall, skinny, stemmed champagne glasses, flutes, have long bowls and narrow openings to preserve the bubbles and direct them to the nose when drinking. Flutes are best when premium-quality champagnes or sparkling wines are served.

The shorter, wide-bowled champagne, or saucer, glasses allow bubbles to dissipate quickly and are not favored by champagne snobs today but they became quite the rage after they first appeared. A French glassmaker, enamored by Marie Antoinette, is said to have invented this glass in tribute, as it represents the exact size and shape of her lovely breast.

Saucer glasses are great for serving many slushy cocktails and are especially popular for frozen margaritas.

The differences between glasses don’t stop here. The variations within each type is unending. Clear glasses are popular so the color of the beverage can be admired, especially important for wines and brandies, but color, size, and shape are all a matter of personal preference. What’s most important is to enjoy the party.