Bar Glassware Made Easy

I just bought my first house, and it has a built-in bar – Woohoo! Yeah, the house has some other nice perks too, like a back yard for my dog, room for a full sized washer and dryer, and stuff like that. But right now, I’m totally excited about the bar, and can’t wait to start entertaining.

But after moving in, I realized that even though the bar looked super chic with its retro woodwork and tile backsplash, it wasn’t functional – because I had nothing to stock it! I had a bottle of Belvedere, and a bottle of Malibu, and they looked really lonely. Luckily, there are two liquor stores within a mile of the house (another great perk), so it was easy enough to stock up on alcohol and mixers. But then I realized that I had nothing nice to serve cocktails in. I had juice glasses, coffee mugs, some hurricane glasses from a cruise… definitely nothing cocktail party-worthy.

So, I went to a department store, and then to a home store, but the choice of glassware was overwhelming. At the home store, there were 14 types of cocktail glasses on the top shelf alone. They all looked similar, and I had no idea where to start. And the salesperson was no help at all. (To be fair, she appeared to be underage, so maybe that was forgivable.)

I ended up calling a couple of friends, and doing a little research online, and as it turns out, it isn’t all that complicated, and you can build a set of glassware for your bar pretty easily. There are just three glass types that can be used for most of the drinks you’ll serve at home: Lowball, Highball, and Cocktail glasses. But I also came up with a memory aide to keep things straight when I’m at the store (especially the store with 14 kinds of glasses on the first shelf). I now think of the three main glass types as: “Short”, “Tall”, and “Stem”. Let’s go over these in more detail, to make it a little clearer:

    Lowball glasses –

    Or, glasses that are “short” – are used for drinks that are assembled and stirred in the glass itself and served with ice (and usually not with bubbly mixers), and also for liquor served neat (i.e., all by itself). For example:

      • Old Fashioned
      • Black Russian
      • Amaretto on the rocks

      Lowball glasses are sometimes called Rocks glasses, or Old Fashioned glasses, and the traditional size is 6-8 ounces, but they also come in a “double” size, which holds around 12-14 ounces. Whatever their name, and whether they’re classified as singles or doubles, just keep in mind that you’re looking for short glasses that you can use to serve small-ish drinks with ice, or for a quick pour of liquor “neat” (that is, all by itself).

      Highball glasses –

      Or, the ones that look “tall” and are shaped like a chimney (leading to their other nickname, Chimney glasses) – are used for larger drinks served over a lot of ice, or with bubbly mixers, like these:

        • Gin & Tonic
        • Bloody Mary
        • Screwdriver

        Highballs usually hold around 8-12 ounces. Another glass that’s close to the Highball is the “Collins” glass – it’s a little taller and narrower, and holds a little more (12-16 ounces). But from what my friends described, Highball and Collins glasses are sometimes substituted for each other, so I guess if you find both types, just pick the one that you like better. The Highball might be better because it’s a little wider, but the main goal here is to complement your short glasses with tall glasses.

        Cocktail glasses –

        The name sounds a little generic... I mean, aren’t all of the drinks we’ve talked about considered cocktails? But as I learned, the formal Cocktail glass title usually refers to glasses with a “stem”, like the iconic V-shaped martini glass. You can use these to serve all kinds of drinks, like:

          • Martini
          • Cosmopolitan
          • Daiquiri
          • Even margaritas…

          And that’s it! These three types of glasses – Lowball, Highball, and Cocktail – or, as I like to call them, Short, Tall, and Stem – will cover most of your everyday cocktailing needs. 

          If you, too, need to stock your bar, hopefully these guidelines will be clear as glass (haha). But really, the best tip I picked up along the way is that you don’t have to fret too much about the details and the zillion choices – just make sure you have a few options for serving the main types of drinks, and make sure you pick glassware that you enjoy drinking from. Cheers!

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