The Types of Cocktail Glasses You Actually Need, According to Bartenders

No, you probably don’t need a brandy snifter.

A picture shows a glass of Single Malt whisky produced at the Auchentoshan Distillery, a Single Malt whisky distillery, on the outskirts of Glasgow on December 12, 2016.

If you’ve ever tried to stock a bar cart or set up a home bar, you’ve probably been confused by all of the different types of cocktail glasses, wondering if there’s any difference between a highball glass and a Collins glass or figuring out if those V-shaped Martini glasses are actually a reasonable thing to own. The good news is that buying the best cocktail glasses doesn’t have to be all that complicated—or expensive. According to owner Matt Piacentini, the team at the Up & Up, his cocktail bar in the West Village, uses just five different types of cocktail glasses to make most of the drinks on their menu. Joaquín Simó, partner at Pouring Ribbons and Tales of the Cocktail’s American Bartender of the Year in 2012, makes it even simpler. “You can make 90 percent of drinks in a rocks, a Collins, and a good all-purpose cocktail glass.”

That’s why here, we’re diving deep into only the most versatile cocktail glass types for entertaining and drinking at home, rather than those one-offs like copper mugs for Moscow mules, margarita glasses, or brandy snifters. And to figure out where you should splurge, where you should save, and what types of cocktail glasses you really need at home, I spoke with professional bartenders and boozehounds about their go-to pieces of cocktail glassware, then picked out some of the best cocktail glasses for each category, based on their advice.

Highball Glass and Collins Glass

There is technically a difference between a highball and a Collins glass. “Highball is a tall, skinny glass. A Collins is just a taller glass,” Piacentini says. Collins glasses are usually a couple of ounces larger than a highball, but only due to the additional height. But there’s really no need to get into the weeds on this one. All three bartenders I spoke with generally agreed that highball and Collins glasses are used pretty interchangeably, so you don’t really need to get both for your home.

These tall, chimney-shaped glasses are good for gin-and-tonics, vodka and club sodas, and whiskey and gingers—but also can be repurposed for tiki drinks made with crushed ice. As far as size is concerned, bigger isn’t necessarily better. “You don’t want a 16-ounce Collins glass because you’re going to be hammered after your second Tom Collins,” says Simó. “Get about a 12-ounce highball or a Collins glass, and you’ll be fine.” If you’re still unsure, go for the highball. “As a bartender, I would say 90 percent of my drinks were poured in a highball glass,” estimates John Sergentakis, regional sales manager for Nolet’s Gin.

Luigi Bormioli Classico SON.hyx Highball Glass.

This is the classic, chimney-shaped highball glass with few frills, from one of the Strategist’s favorite glassware brands Bormioli.

BUY: Luigi Bormioli Classico CON.hyx Highball Glass (Set of 4)
$30, Amazon

Luigi Bormioli Strauss SON.hyx Square Highball Glasses.

At only nine ounces, these highball glasses are on the smaller side, but the square base is a nice detail that differentiates them from the standard, round shape.

BUY: Luigi Bormioli Strauss SON.hyx Square Highball Glasses (Set of 6)
$45, Amazon

Nude Highball Glasses.

A slightly splurgy but chic set of minimalist highball glasses.

BUY: Nude Highball Glass — Set of Four
$49, The Line

Juliska Hugo Highball Glass.

The shape of this highball glass is fairly straightforward, but the interest comes from the crackled texture.

BUY: Juliska Hugo Highball Glass
$29, Amazon

Reed & Barton Soho Highball Glass.

These highball glasses have vintage-inspired detailing, but the gray tone makes them feel more modern.

BUY: Reed & Barton Soho Highball Glasses (Set of 4)
$65, Amazon

Viski by True Fabrications Set of 2 Highball Glasses.

This duo of crystal-like patterned highball glasses look more expensive than they really are.

BUY: Viski by True Fabrications Set of 2 Highball Glasses
$25, Amazon

Waterford Lismore Diamond 12-Ounce Highball Glasses.

You could also really splurge on actual crystal highball glasses.

BUY: Waterford Lismore Diamond 12-Ounce Highball Glasses (Set of 2)
$120, Amazon

Coupe Glass

In most modern cocktail bars, the coupe glass has dethroned the V-shaped Martini glass as the go-to cocktail glass, in part because those Martini glasses are “pretty terrible, actually. They spill all over the place. God forbid if you try to swirl anything in one of those,” says Piacentini. The coupe glass, on the other hand, is a bit more forgiving and generally smaller, about six ounces, which means you’re drinking what Piacentini calls a “civilized” amount of booze. (Though if you want your glassware to be even more forgiving of spills, go for a coupe that’s seven or eight ounces, so the drink won’t come right up to the top edge.)

These coupe glasses are good for cocktails served “up,” meaning it’s been shaken or stirred with ice and then served chilled, without ice—like a Martini. The stem means you don’t heat up the cocktail with your hand as you sip it. And though you can spend hundreds of dollars on a set of coupe glasses, this probably isn’t where you want to be spending the bulk of your glassware budget. “A superexpensive up glass is just going to be really thin and delicate,” says Piacentini, meaning it’s more likely to break, and these up drinks aren’t the ones that you’re going to savor.

Luminarc N2642 Assorted Craft Brew Bar Coupe Martini Glass.

This set of four coupes costs less than $25 and is an ideal starting point for those looking to get into craft cocktails.

BUY: Luminarc N2642 Assorted Craft Brew Bar Coupe Martini Glass, 5.5 oz, Clear
$24, Amazon

Qualia Scandal Champagne Glass.

A traditionally styled Champagne coupe, if you’re looking for something that’s more delicate-looking but still affordable.

BUY: Qualia Scandal Champagne Glasses (Set of 4)
$50, Bed Bath & Beyond

Luigi Bormioli Sublime Coupe Champagne Glass.

These coupes from Bormioli have a slightly more modern look.

BUY: Luigi Bormioli Sublime Coupe Champagne Glasses (Set of 4)
$34, Amazon

Schott Zwiesel Tritan Bar Special Champagne Saucer.

This set of six coupe glasses are made of Tritan crystal.

BUY: Schott Zweisel Tritan Bar Special Champagne Saucers (Set of 6)
$60, Amazon

Lenox Tuscany Classics Champagne Saucer.

This coupe glass can hold up to 10 ounces and is slightly fluted at the stem, rather than a straight U-shape, so it’s especially forgiving for the accident-prone.

BUY: Lenox Tuscany Classics Champagne Saucers (Set of 6)
$40, Bed Bath and Beyond

Orrefors Avantgarde Cocktail Glass.

An even more bell-shaped take on a coupe glass, making it a solid choice for those who are afraid of spills.

BUY: Orrefors Avantgarde Cocktail Glasses (Set of 4)
$55, Amazon

Kate Spade New York Rosy Glow Champagne Saucer.

This pair of coupe glasses is a bit pricey, but it has some sweet pink glass detailing.

BUY: Kate Spade New York Rosy Glow Champagne Saucers (Set of 2)
$85, Bed Bath and Beyond

Nick and Nora Glass

If you want to be ahead of the curve in terms of bartending trends, get a few Nick and Nora glasses. They’re starting to become as common in craft cocktail bars as coupes. “Nick and Noras are the more bell-shaped, in between a coupe glass and a very small wine glass,” says Piacentini. “In a perfect world, I love Nick and Nora glasses for stirred up drinks and coupe glasses for shaken up drinks,” because the smaller Nick and Nora glasses fit three to four ounces of liquid perfectly. Though if you are looking to keep your glassware to a minimum, there’s nothing you would serve in a Nick and Nora glass that you couldn’t also serve in a nice coupe. Nick and Noras are also generally a little bit more specialized and therefore harder to source.

Nick and Nora Glass.

This set of six Nick and Nora glasses comes from Cocktail Kingdom, a go-to shop for glassware and bar kits among professional bartenders.

BUY: Nick and Nora Glass — 5oz (150ml) / 6 Pack
$40, Amazon

Nick and Nora Glass.

If you just want a couple of Nick and Nora glasses, the ones from Crate & Barrel are the right size and are fairly affordable.

BUY: Nick and Nora Glass
$8, Crate & Barrel

Single Rocks Glass

A single rocks glass is “going to be for anything neat, any spirit on the rocks,” explains Piacentini, though you could also use it for stirred, chilled, spirituous cocktails served “down,” meaning it’s served chilled, but in a glass without a stem. One such example is a Negroni, points out Sergentakis, made with gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Piacentini also prefers these rocks glasses to snifters for brandy, since you’re able to more easily smell the aromas.

The ideal single rocks glass is “somewhere between eight and ten ounces,” says Simó. “That’s enough where you could put a decent-size chunk of ice in there if you like making the fancy ice.” And if you’re going to splash out on one part of your glassware setup, make it the rocks glasses. “Those are the glasses where you’re most likely to have the drink that’ll take you the longest to drink,” says Piacentini. “You don’t sit back in a comfy leather chair with an up drink and sit there for 45 minutes with it, but you will if it’s something nice and stirred on a big piece of ice. It’ll last for that long.” So it’s worthwhile to splurge on a heavy-bottomed rocks glass that feels balanced and good in your hand.

Libbey Glass 4-Piece Perfect Bourbon Set.

An affordable entry point for those who aren’t quite sure that they like drinking bourbon or whiskey neat, without sacrificing quality, heft, or style.

BUY: Libbey Glass 4-Piece Perfect Bourbon Set
$20, Amazon

Libbey Glass 4-Piece Perfect Rye Se.

Same goes for this set of four single rocks glasses, though with a more crystal-like design.

BUY: Libbey Glass 4-Piece Perfect Rye Set
$19, Amazon

Match Pewter Crystal Rocks Glass.

This six-ounce single rocks glass is made of crystal and has a solid pewter base, meaning it’s not going anywhere.

BUY: Match Pewter Crystal Rocks Glass
$70, Goop

Waterford ‘Lismore’ Lead Crystal Straight Sided Tumblers.

These heavy, lead-free crystal tumblers with wedge cuts will turn sipping on your neat Scotch into an event.

BUY: Waterford ‘Lismore’ Lead Crystal Straight Sided Tumblers
$260, Amazon

Double Rocks Glass

A double rocks glass, also sometimes called a double Old Fashioned, should only be about two ounces bigger than a single rocks glass, not twice the size. And though you could serve a neat pour of whiskey in a double rocks glass, it’s going to look a little sad and out of proportion. Instead, you want to use a double rocks glass for cocktails with ice. “We would do a julep in those, crushed ice all the way. Just when you need a little more room or you’ve got a drink, like an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan on the rocks,” says Piacentini. You could also put margaritas in these glasses, instead of getting a dedicated margarita glass. That’s why, if you’re only going to get one type of rocks glass, the double rocks glass is generally more versatile—as long as you know there are plenty of cases where you’ll never fill it to the very top.

Dailyware Double Old Fashioned Glass.

A no-frills set of double Old Fashioned glasses for $20.

BUY: Dailyware Double Old Fashioned Glasses (Set of 4)
$19, Amazon

Libbey Glass 12-Ounce 4-Piece Perfect Scotch Set.

The diamond detailing on these glasses make them look more expensive than they really are.

BUY: Libbey Glass 12-Ounce 4-Piece Perfect Scotch Set
$15, Amazon

Luigi Bormioli Bach SON.hyx Double Old-Fashioned Glasses.

The ridges give these glasses from Libbey a vintage feel.

BUY: Luigi Bormioli Bach SON.hyx Double Old-Fashioned Glasses (Set of 4)
$45, Amazon

Admiral Set of 2 Double Old-Fashioned Glasses.

Crystal-cut glassware at an affordable price.

BUY: Admiral Set of 2 Double Old-Fashioned Glasses
$13, Amazon

Luigi Bormioli Prestige SON.hyx Whiskey Glass.

These more bell-shaped glasses look like wine glasses, but that also means it’ll be easier to smell the aromas from your drink.

BUY: Luigi Bormioli Prestige SON.hyx Whiskey Glasses (Set of 4)
$30, Bed Bath and Beyond

Luigi Bormioli Top Class Double Old Fashioned Glass.

If you’re looking for a simple set of double Old Fashioned glasses without a heavy bottom.

BUY: Luigi Bormioli Top Class Double Old Fashioned Glasses (Set of 4)
$35, Amazon

Zodax Artu Set of 4 Double Old Fashioned Glasses.

These crystal glasses feature gold bands at the bottom for some subtle flexing.

BUY: Zodax Artu Set of 4 Double Old Fashioned Glasses
$94, Nordstrom

Shot Glass

“It’s a little up to personal taste,” says Piacentini, who doesn’t like “that traditional shot glass that’s stubby and wide and has the line around it.” Sergentakis like any style, as long as it’s glass. What both Piacentini and Sergentakis agree on is that a shot glass should never really be filled all the way to the top, and it should be big enough so that you don’t spill. “If you get an ounce shot glass, it gets messy,” notes Sergentakis. “Ounce-and-a-half shot glass, and I’d recommend pour an ounce in it, so you’ve got a little room to cheers.”

Luigi Bormioli Strauss SON.hyx Shot Glasses.

Each of these square-bottomed shot glasses holds two ounces of liquid, so don’t feel obligated to fill them to the brim.

BUY: Luigi Bormioli Strauss SON.hyx Shot Glasses (Set of 6)
$45, Amazon

Bormioli Rocco Sorgente Shot Glass.

A more unique style are these two-ounce shot glasses from Bormioli that look like they’re melting—in a nice way.

BUY: Bormioli Rocco Sorgente Shot Glasses (Set of 6)
$17, Amazon

Rosanna Monte Carlo Set of 4 Shot Glasses.

These yellow-and-black printed shot glasses are a slightly more elevated take on the ones you may have collected from tourist shops over the years.

BUY: Rosanna Monte Carlo Set of 4 Shot Glasses
$50, Amazon

Zodax Fiesta Set of 6 Shot Glasses.

The line at the top is both a nice, decorative detail and can also help you eyeball the same amount of liquor for each person.

BUY: Zodax Fiesta Set of 6 Shot Glasses
$120, Amazon