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Sometimes it seems like drinking wine or cocktails is a big list of things you should or shouldn’t do!  But in reality, there can be reasons behind the ideas about which glass works best with which drinks that make sense when you know them.  And besides, it always looks good when you have the drink in the perfect glass, even if I am never really sure why!

Wine glasses

There are three main glasses that are recommended for different wines – the red wine, white wine and sparkling wine glasses.  The red wine glass is one that has a bigger and more rounded bowl to it – this lets you give the wine a bit of a swirl around the glass and aerate it (in other words, lets the air circulate through the wine and adds to the flavour of the drink).

White wine glasses are the slightly narrower shape because white wine doesn’t need aeration in the way that red wine does.  If too much air gets into some white wines, it can actually spoil the taste a little so the narrower glass is ideal.

The champagne flute is perfect for sparkling wines because it helps keep the bubbles in the drink – and of course it looks the part too!  This same glass is used for champagne cocktails for the same reason.

White and red wine glasses

Cocktail basics

The three most commonly used glasses for cocktails are the lowball, highball and the cocktail glass.  The traditional cocktail glass is a cone shape that holds anywhere from three to six ounces and is used mostly in cocktail that are served without ice.  The shape of the sharp edges came from the interesting aromas involved in the drinks as it allowed people to both smell and drink at the same time!

The highball is the tall glass used in long cocktails or those that have a mixer in them such as lemonade or tonic water.  It is sometimes known as a Collins glass, though the traditional highball is a little shorter and wider.

The lowball is also known as the old fashioned or the rocks glass and is the smaller version of the highball that holds 6 to 8 ounces.  It is used for drinks such as the Old Fashioned or the White Russian that are muddled as well as for straight drinks.

Cocktail and highball glass

Other cocktail glasses

The Martini glass is a version of the cocktail glass that has a larger bowl and a conical bottom that is used in the martini drinks as well as other favourites such as the Cosmopolitan.  The Margarita cocktails are another that have led to a glass of their own, another variation of the martini glass with a stepped design.  They aren’t seen in many homes or bars and can be substituted for double old fashioned glasses instead.

The champagne coupe started as a variation of the glass for champagne and is a shallow and broad bowled glass with a stem.  It holds four to eight ounces and became fashionable for the drinking of champagne in the 1660’s.  Now it is more commonly used for drinks such as the daiquiris.

Another specialist shape glass is the hurricane glass, designed particularly for the Hurricane cocktail, invented in the 1940s by New Orleans tavern owner Pat O’Brien.  It came from the original serving glass of the drink – a hurricane lamp!


Whiskey is another that has its very own glass with the Glencairn whiskey glass, a style created by Glencairn Crystal specifically for drinking whiskey and was designed with input from master whiskey blenders from five of the biggest names in Scotland.  It is around 4.5 inches high and holds around 6 ounces.

The Irish coffee glass is ideally suited to the warm drinks such as the hot toddy or the Irish coffee because it has a small handle attached that means the hands don’t touch the actual glass area.

The sniffer glass has a large bowl and a short stem with the idea being the drink is cradled in the hand and this warms the contents.  It also lets the drink be swirled around to bring out its flavours while the narrow mouth of the glass keeps the aromas inside to enjoy when sipping.  It is also known as a brandy glass as this is one popular spirit to use the glass.

Choosing which glass you need for your drink may not seem a big decision. But the type of glass can have an effect on the drink and can make it better - or worse! Click to find out which glass you need for your favourite drink.

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