Happy Hour: Which Glass To Use For Which Drink And Why

You're going to have some friends over for a cocktail housewarming party. No problem, you think to yourself, I'll just pick up some glassware at Crate & Barrel. You get there and panic sets in. It's an absurd, transparent cornucopia of tumblers and flutes and who knows what else, in every conceivable shape and size. You weren't prepared. Pay attention now, and you will be.

It's time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo's weekend booze column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science and alcohol. Yippitydoo, let's get drunk. Why is my glass shaped like a boot?

For a breakdown on different glasses, we headed over to Franny's in Brooklyn and spoke to Jillian, one of their bartenders, who has been featured in the restaurant's cookbooks. In the video above, she gives us the skinny on the most commonly used glasses, but here's a basic summary for those who are stuck at work and can't click play.

Standard Wine Glass

Obviously, there are hundreds of variations within this group, but your standard wine glass has a stem. Holding the glass by the stem transfers less heat to the wine, so your hand isn't warming it up as fast. Aroma is one of the most important elements with wine, which is why your wine glass should have a large opening. If you can't fit your nose in it while you're drinking, you need yourself some new glasses.

Yes there are different size wine glasses. Basic rule of thumb: broader openings for reds, narrower for whites. That should get you through most situations just fine.

Picture: Shutterstock/ gresei

Tumbler Glass

This is often considered an all-purpose glass. At Franny's they use it for their table wine. That wine comes in temperature controlled, and because it's served at a table, it will spend more time sitting there than it will in your hand, so the stem isn't necessary for heat control.

Technically, a tumbler is any flat-bottomed glass; we get into more specific variations below. The specific glass shown here, though, is wide enough for your nose to take in the aromatics of your drink (probably wine), it's just not curved around to trap in the vapors like a standard wine glass.

Picture: Shutterstock/violetkaipa

Martini Glass

Again, we've got stemware here to control the temperature of your alcohol. Why? Because drinks served in this glass will not have ice in them. They will be shaken or stirred with ice first, and then strained into it. That's what ordering a drink "up" means. It's chilled and up in that tall glass (don't confuse it with "neat"). The cone shape serves to help maintain temperature, keep the ingredients pushed together (olives, spirits of different specific gravities, etc), and it provides a nice large surface area for the aroma, since you're typically drinking gin (or a Manhattan) and aroma is 90 per cent of flavour.

Picture: Shutterstock/Yuri Samsonov


Mainly for champagne and other sparkling wines, the goal is to make the bubble last for as long as possible. There's often a bead etched at the bottom in an attempt to give the bubbles a single point of nucleation. Aroma isn't as important with these wines as they would be a red wine, so the opening is smaller in an attempt to minimize the exposure to air.

Picture: Shutterstock/Evgeny Karandaev

Rocks Glass (a.k.a. the Old-Fashioned Glass)

Want your drink on the rocks? This is probably the glass you want. It's especially good for cocktails. The glass can accommodate large cubes of ice and they're still plenty of room to stir within the glass. It's also got a nice big opening so you can really smell the aromatics in your cocktail.

Picture: Shutterstock/Alexey Lysenko

Collins Glass

Typically for fizzes or collins drinks, this glass is similar to the flute in that it promotes bubble retention (they often have some soda water in them). They're still big enough to accommodate ice, so you'll often see drinks served in these that are a little bit sweeter but where aromatics aren't quite as important, like a mojito.

Picture: Shutterstock/objectsforall

Dessert Wine Glass

These guys are petite, because the dessert wine is typically very sweet and you don't want a lot of it. Again, it's stemware to keep the temperature controlled. It has a smaller opening because sweetness is perceived more on the tongue than in the nose, so aroma isn't as important.

Picture: Shutterstock/Evgeny Karandaev

Grappa Glass

Small, because that stuff will knock you on your arse. Stemware once again to keep it cool, and it also has a bulb shape at the bottom because spheres are very good at maintaining temperature. From there it flares upward to give you a little bit of that aroma.

Naturally, there are tons of other glasses. Shot glasses for went you want shots, margarita glasses for margaritas, dram glasses for sipping Scotch, snifters for when you want to snift things. The list goes on and on, but these are the basics that will help you pretend you're classy. Yeah, you can drink any of these things out of a coffee mug, but having the right tool for the job generally adds to the experience.

Got a favourite glass we didn't cover? Add it in the comments below and tell us why it's so great, then come on back next week for another Happy Hour.

Picture: Shutterstock/Oliver Hoffmann

Big thank you to Jillian and to Franny's in Brooklyn for making this happen. Very tasty stuff happening over there.


    Just serve any drink up to me in a jam jar. When I drink, I drink to get drunk. If I want a drink that tastes nice and don't want to get drunk, I drink coke. All alcohol tastes pretty bad, even wine so don't give a damn what's it's served in.

      Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

      Last edited 22/07/13 7:59 am

      Perhaps because you haven't invested in a good bottle of anything. A drink with quality ingredients ands well mixed will have a complexity of flavor that is really hard to find in non alcoholic beverages. I always drink for flavor, try it sometime! I do agree though, coke is delicious.

        I'm 50 and I have drunk a wide variety of different drinks. Even stuff worth 500 dollars a bottle. Sorry, but for me, it's all tastes meh. About the only drink I do like is one quarter Tia Maria, one quarter kahlua, one half milk and heaps of crushed ice. Usual drink is beer, but it's too bitter to the taste to say I like it. Jim beam and coke is another usual. None of it, is anything I would drink if I just wanted something nice to drink.

      are you like.....16 years old? Such joys can be gained from the near perfect cocktail.

        Coke? Delicious?

        You guys are weird.

        But, a good wine, craft beer, scotch, tequilla and so on, they can all taste great, and even better from a good glass.

        50 actually, and yes I've tried all the cocktails. Maybe at times, a shot of black Galliano is ok. I just don't LIKE the taste of alcohol, I drink it, but I don't like the taste, don't hate it, but straight coke on ice is far far better taste wise.

      you don't drink at my local do you? they serve jam jar drinks....

      YOU TAKE THAT BACK RIGHT NOW! How dare you claim all alcohol tastes bad! Honestly... This is why we can't have nice things!

    The Glencairn whisky glass is what I drink my single malts from. The official whisky glass of the Scotch Whisky Association.


    Who would have thought that the kind of glass you use would impact your experience so much more?! It is very cool though looking into all the possibilities of whiskey glasses. They can be beautiful pieces of art. http://scotchwhiskyglass.com/glassware.htm

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