When and How to Use Every Type of Cocktail Glass

AS photo studio / Shutterstock
AS photo studio / Shutterstock

Every cocktail glass was designed with a specific purpose (and drink) in mind. For example, you wouldn’t grab a highball glass for a Sazerac (unless you’re making one seriously giant Sazerac, in which case, can we be friends?) Highball glasses are for long, tall drinks like Gin & Tonics or Screwdrivers. Sazeracs, and other stirred and strained drinks, belong in lowballs or coupes. If that’s news to you, then you should probably consult this handy guide for when and how to use 13 of the most popular types of cocktail glasses.

Shot Glass

Used for “shooting” a drink, the shot glass typically holds 1.5-2 ounces of liquid. You can take a straight pour of a spirit with this glass, or use it to hold smaller cocktails like the Kamikaze.

Cordial Glass

Not just a cutesy little glass in your grandmother’s liquor cabinet, the cordial glass has many uses behind the bar. Use it to hold a cordial (aka a liqueur), vermouth or amari. The cordial glass can also be used for mini drinks like the Snaquiri (a tiny, divided Daiquiri commonly drunk by bartenders) or even in lieu of a typical shot glass.

Old-Fashioned Glass (or Rocks Glass or Lowball Glass)

The old-fashioned glass is a short tumbler with a wide base and top, typically associated with whiskey and the cocktail that bares its name. The glass was designed to withstand muddling and hold large cubes of ice (at the time of its creation, ice was typically cut from a block). Use it for any stirred cocktail that’s strained over a giant cube of ice (hi, Negroni!) or for a slug of whiskey.

Coupe Glass

Rumoured to be designed after the shape of Marie Antoinette’s breast, the coupe is a broad-bowled, saucer-shaped stemmed glass once used to serve Champagne. While the glass is still occasionally used for the effervescent wine, it is now most commonly used in place of the cumbersome Martini glass. Use it for up-drinks that are served without ice like the Gimlet or the Manhattan.

Champagne Glass (or Flute)

This glass’s slender design not only retains Champagne's carbonation (by reducing the surface area at the top of the glass), it also optimizes the visual effect of bubbles rising to the top. A Champagne glass can be used for any cocktail that features bubbly, like the French 75 or a Bellini.

Highball Glass

The highball is used for long drinks and cocktails that contain cubed ice. Often, these drinks come with a topping of soda water (or sweetened sodas), like a Dark and Stormy or a Cuba Libre. Like the Champagne flute, a highball’s slender frame and tall height helps guide bubbles up to the top. Although they are similar in shape and size (and often used interchangeably in recipes) the highball and the Collins glass are slightly different than one another; typically the Collins glass is taller and narrower than the highball.

Punch Bowl

Before single-serving cocktails were all the rage, these large format bowls reigned supreme. If you’re wondering when to use a punch bowl, just look at the name. Punch bowls are used to hold punches, like the Fish House Punch, or more modern large format cocktails like this one.

Scorpion Bowl

Unlike the punch bowl, this vessel does not announce its purpose in its name. It is not used to hold your scorpions. This traditional ceramic tiki glass is used to hold the classic Polynesian beverage, the Scorpion Bowl. Typically painted with hula girls and punctuated with a volcano shot glass (which is filled with overproof rum and set ablaze), this large format cocktail vessel is perfect for getting an entire room full of people lit.

Tiki Mug

Anytime you have a funky-fresh tiki libation mixed up—like the Fogcutter or Grog—use this kitschy ceramic mug. Originating in the 1960s, these wacky mugs often depict Polynesian gods, island motifs, or skulls and are the only way to enjoy the tiki cocktail staples.

Hurricane Glass

Use this lampshade-shaped glass for long, tropical drinks like the Hurricane (of course) and the Singapore Sling. The glass allows the crushed ice to melt as you drink, typically lowering the proof and increasing the slushie nature of the cocktail.


If you have a brown spirit such as scotch, bourbon, rum or Cognac, pour it in a snifter. As you cup the snifter in the palm of your hand, your body heat warms the glass and the liquor inside it, causing it to evaporate. Due to the narrowing top, the vapors are trapped in the glass, which enhances your aromatic experience of the spirit.

Copper Mug

Pseudoscience tells us that these metallic mugs will help keep your cocktails cold, but the truth is they’re more aesthetically pleasing than actually useful. The mug quickly takes on the cocktail’s icy temperature, fooling drinkers into believing that the mug is keeping their drink cold when really it’s not. That said, it’s not a real Moscow Mule unless it comes in its signature mug.

Cocktail Glass (or Martini Glass)

The cocktail glass meant well. Originally much smaller with an inverted triangular shape intended to enhance aromatics, the now massive glasses have become top-heavy and unwieldy. Go ahead and use these glasses for nostalgic purposes like ‘90s throwback parties, but in general, your bar is better off without them.