Whether one favors wine, beer, whiskey, or any of the myriad of alcoholic enjoyments that can be found on liquor store shelves or made into cocktails, any drinker knows the importance of proper home bar glassware. At some point in your adult life, you’ve likely had a craft beer aficionado expound on the importance of pouring your beer into a frosted glass, a bourbon– or Scotch-loving friend explain to you what a “Glencairn” is, or a wino you know rattle off all the different varieties of wine glasses from memory.
Simply put: When it comes to alcohol, glassware is kind of a big deal. The size and shape of a glass affect everything from the temperature and aeration to the aroma and the taste of its contents (and in fact, all of these things are related). A properly designed glass won’t make bad alcohol taste good, but it will help to bring out the best of a good beverage; the flip side of this coin is that an improper glass will inhibit your enjoyment of a quality spirit, by, for instance, over-aerating it or allowing too much of the aroma and flavor to escape.
Don’t take our word for it. You can test this yourself right at home by drinking the same beer, wine, or liquor side by side from two different glasses. Even an untrained palate will pick up some subtle differences. That’s why, whether you’re just looking to upgrade your evening drinking or you’re building a full-on home bar, you need some good glasses. We’ve got you covered: Below, we’ve picked out the best home bar glassware for the most common types of drinks and cocktails to help you get the most out of your booze.
Any beer lover will be glad to tell you that the type of glass you drink from depends on the brew you’re imbibing, and there are enough styles of beer glasses to make this a complete topic all on its own. But whether you favor crisp and bitter IPAs or rich and malty porters, everyone needs a few classic pint glasses in their rotation, and this American-made glassware from Libbey is just about perfect.
An English pint is 14.9 ounces, while an American pint (that is to say, a proper pint) is a full 16 ounces and many American craft breweries offer their beers in oversized 16-ounce cans. The Libbey Craft Brews pub glass actually holds 20 ounces, obviously to make room for the foamy head of the beer that’s poured into it, and its design is an attractive departure from the typical straight-sided pint glasses. It’s cheap, too, at just $18 for a set of four. If you want some variety,is a great option that includes several different beer glasses along with the pub glass.
When you think of “whiskey glass,” you probably imagine Don Draper sipping bourbon or rye on ice from a rocks glass. Times have changed in more ways than one, and if you enjoy sipping whiskey (or “whisky,” if Scotch is more your thing) neat – that is, without water or ice – then the Glencairn glass is what you need. This tulip-shaped vessel was developed by world-renowned distillers and whisky experts and is designed to direct the aroma of your liquor to your nose, fully bringing out the subtle notes that are lost with traditional wide-mouthed tumblers.
It might sound like a gimmick, but it absolutely works and does indeed enhance the drinking experience. We challenge you to do a side by side taste test with a Glencairn and a standard rocks glass to see for yourself. Chances are good that you’ll start appreciating your favorite bourbon even more. At around six or seven bucks a pop, whiskey doesn’t get much better than this, so grab or and sip those oaky barrel-aged liquors the right way.
A rocks glass, also commonly called an Old Fashioned glass (after the iconic cocktail), is typically associated with whiskey. Although we think the Glencairn is far and away the top choice for drinking whiskey neat, this set of six German-made Schott Zwiesel Convention Old Fashioned glasses is still a must-have for cocktails such as, well, an Old Fashioned, or anything else you’re going to enjoy “on the rocks.”
The wider base gives you room for ice (the “rocks” from which these are named) and for mixing cocktails right inside the glass, which is the traditional way to make drinks like the Old Fashioned. The Schott Zwiesel Convention Old Fashioned glass is also crafted of gorgeous and substantial lead-free Tritan glass, a hefty crystal-like material with a thick base that gives it a wonderfully weighty feel in your hand.
The aptly named highball glass is a classic standby that’s used for all sorts of cocktails, particularly tall, cold drinks (of the type that you often fill with ice) that are popular in the dog days of summer when you want to stay cool and slake your thirst with something more refreshing than whiskey or brandy. We suggest keeping the style simple with a highball, and these fine Italian-made glasses – another offering from Paksh – fit the bill beautifully.
There’s also the “Collins” glass (named after the Tom Collins cocktail), which is similar to the highball but taller and narrower. Sometimes “highball” and “Collins” are used interchangeably even though they’re different, and the Collins glass could really be considered a type of highball. If you only get one, however, the regular highball is the more versatile of the two and is also perfect as a “normal” drinking glass for non-alcoholic iced drinks like tea.
Ditch the triangle-shaped martini glasses and jump on board with the new hotness: the coupe glass. This style of up glass (so called for cocktails served “up”) is basically a cross between a martini glass and a margarita glass, and it’s a great way to serve and enjoy martinis, margaritas, Manhattans, and other cocktails that start with “M.” Better still, unlike a traditional martini glass, the awesomely Prohibition-era-styled Libbey Capone Speakeasy Coupe Glass is a lot less likely to slosh its contents over the rim and onto the bar or the floor after you’ve had a few.
Coupe glasses also allow you to swirl drinks in them if you’re so inclined – although that’s obviously not something you’re going to attempt with a drink that comes to the brim. They’re also becoming a popular alternative to tall flute-style glasses for sipping champagne, which makes the Libbey couple glasses even more versatile than the triangular up glasses of yesteryear.
The brandy snifter is basically a chubbier, shorter wine glass, but it’s essential for getting the most out of this unique spirit. Brandy is, after all, made from wine. It’s actually wine that’s been distilled and is sometimes aged in barrels; the name “brandy” comes from “brandywine” which is derived from the Dutch word for “burnt wine” (as in, “branded wine”). The Schott Zwiesel Mondial snifter has a short stem and wide base because you’re supposed to hold it by the glass rather than the stem, while the large 17-ounce bowl lets you swirl it around inside the glass.
Wrapping your hand underneath the snifter’s bulb warms the drink with your body heat to best bring out that unique combination of winey and oaky flavors and aromas. The Mondial brandy snifters can also pull double duty for rich beers like porters, barrel-aged releases, and strong ales (barleywine, Scotch ale, and so forth), so these pair nicely with the Libbey pint glasses as part of your beer-quaffing loadout – but if you drink a lot of those, we still recommend getting some proper.
If you’re the fun-loving party type or if you just prefer a quick stiff drink to cradle a whiskey glass after a long day, then the iconic shot glass is a must-have. Typical shot glasses hold 1.5 to two ounces of liquor and are made with a thick base (no doubt to withstand drinkers slamming them down on the bar after downing the contents). Shot glasses are also useful for times where you might want to only sample small amounts of something, such as for taste tests or whiskey flights.
Most shot glasses basically look like tiny pint glasses, but we like these taller two-ounce Gmark shot glasses for the simple reason that (aside from being more attractive) they can also be used as cordial glasses for aperitif and digestif liqueurs while still serving perfectly as a regular glass for straight shots and mixed shooters. The taller design is also great for showing off your own layered shots.
Just as with beer glasses, the wide range of wine glass styles is a whole topic all its own, but this Italian-made set from Paksh Novelty covers the basics very nicely. You’ve got the choice between larger 18-ounce glasses for red wines or for whites. The bulb of the glasses also has a nice subtle styling that sets these apart from typical wine glasses without being too garish or odd-looking.
Stemless wine glasses are a bit of a fad now, but we suggest sticking with the classic stemmed design (it’s still the best way to enjoy wine) and simply washing by hand – which is actually good practice for all of your home bar glassware unless you’re frequently hosting large drinking parties. At $25 for a set of four, the Paksh Novelty wine glasses offer a lot of value for Italian-made drinkware that’s head and shoulders above the stuff you’re likely to find in most stores.
Glassware doesn’t always have to be purely functional. Sometimes, you just want to drink in style, and the Bormioli Rocco Capitol decanter set looks as good on your home bar as it does in your study or office. Admittedly, a decanter doesn’t do anything to improve aged spirits like whiskey, and some aficionados argue it’s actually a bad thing to pour liquor from one container to another as it may over-aerate the contents. You’ll have to decide (and taste) for yourself if your favorite pour has a place in a decanter.
At the very least, though, the Capitol decanter set is a fine way to show off your “cheap-but-good” stuff, and if you have friends who frequently pilfer your liquor cabinet, filling this and putting it out might draw their dirty peasant hands away from your expensive booze. It’s affordable, too, but comes with a much better stopper than other decanters in this price bracket.
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