To have a good glass of whiskey (or rum, or tequila, or, or, or, …), you need two things: the spirit of your choice and an actual glass. Yes, you could drink from the bottle, but sometimes that doesn’t go over well with the other four people who are planning to have a drink too.
And while you could just invest in red Solo cups the rest of your life, think about that. Do you really want to be known as that guy? No. No, you don’t. Solo Cup Steve is not a becoming nickname for anyone. That’s why it’s important to invest in some decent bar glassware for the next time you want to drink something.
As far as how many, think about your own entertaining. Is it normally you and a partner? Are you inviting your guy friends over? At least two is good, but think about what you need and make a guess from there.
If you’re going to drink beer, you’re going to want pint glasses. While you can drink straight out of a bottle or can and while, in the past few years, there have been a variety of glasses designed for specific types of beer, having a couple pint glasses around are a solid option for just about any beer.
Red, White, and Sparkling
Another staple, wine glasses come in two general shapes: one made for white wine (a little taller) and one made for red wine (more balloon-shaped). You can also choose from several different sizes (ranging from around eight ounces up to as many as twenty) and styles (stemless, for instance), but having a couple wine glasses for each kind will really help when you’re trying to get the most out of your vino. In addition, sparkling wine glasses are handy as they are designed to get the most out of your bubbly.
A multi-purpose glass, the shot glass is good for everything from measuring for cocktails to pouring one out when you plan on slamming it down. Need we say more?
Old Fashioned (Rocks) Glass
A gold standard for whiskey folks. Whether you want it neat, in an Old Fashioned, or you want something else entirely, the Old Fashioned (or rocks) glass is essential to a successful home back.
Named for its original function as the vessel for a Tom Collins (or John Collins) cocktail, the Collins glass is tall and narrow and is great for a wide variety of cocktails.
While the highball glass may look similar to the Collins glass, it is shorter and wider. Made for — you guessed it — highballs, this glass typically holds between eight to 12 ounces, making it perfect for two ounces of liquor, a few ounces of your chosen mixer, and ice. You could use this interchangeably with a Collins glass if you had to, but it’d be good to have one or two of each on hand just in case.
An open-mouthed, shallow cocktail glass, the coupe glass is great not only for cocktails but for drinking Champagne. The glass was modeled on the breast of King Louis XV’s mistress. We’re not kidding.
Cocktail (or Martini) Glass
Call it a cocktail glass or call it a Martini glass, just don’t call it late for happy hour. Kidding. The cocktail glass works for a number of cocktails that are chilled and served up.
If you’ve ever been to a whisky tasting, chances are you’ve used a Glencairn glass. They look like what would happen if a shot glass and a brandy snifter had a night of fun together, and they are great for drinking whiskey of all sorts. The design allows you to nose your whiskey in the proper way while still holding a healthy dram worth of the good stuff.
Sherry glasses usually hold three or four ounces and are ideal for aperitifs, digestifs, and cordials. In addition, obviously, they are intended to hold sherries and other fortified wines, such as ports.
Cordial glasses, also known as liqueur glasses, are one-ounce in sized and come in a variety of shapes, almost all usually featuring long stems. They are used to serve, as you’ve probably already guessed, cordials and liqueurs.
Nick & Nora Glass
Named for Nick & Nora Charles, the main characters in Dashiell Hammet’s The Thin Man (which was made into a film starring William Powell and Myrna Loy), the Nick & Nora cocktail glass does many of the same things as a coupe or a martini glass, but is smaller in size and is more spill-proof, making it slightly more versatile. The Renaissance of these glasses started in the mid-2000s, but during their first run, characters like Nick & Nora Charles drank out of them constantly.
A commanding presence on any shelf of glassware, a brandy snifter is designed so that your hand can warm the brandy inside. The rim of the glass is narrower than the bowl so that the aromas released by the slight warming stay trapped in the glass. This is also a great option for serving whiskies and other high-end spirits.
A cocktail glass on steroids, the hurricane glass usually fits up to 20 ounces of sweet, sweet liquor. Named for the Hurricane cocktail, a rum drink created at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans, scores of other large cocktails have been created to fit the size of the year. If you’re planning a Tiki party or want to have one hell of a backyard barbecue, these will come in very handy.
Irish Coffee Mug
Ever plan to make hot cocktails? If so, the Irish coffee mug should be your go-to. With a stem and a handle, not only do these have a classic look, but the clear glass allows you to see the beautiful concoction inside. Named for the drink, they work well with any hot cocktail, thanks to the thickness of the glass.
Copper Mule Mug
If you’ve had a cocktail in your life, you know what this is for: mules. Moscow, Kentucky — it doesn’t matter where the mule is coming from, this mug has pretty much one purpose other than looking nice.
A creation of Kentucky silversmiths in the 1800s as a sign of prestige, the julep cup serves one main purpose: to help keep mint juleps ice cold during the Kentucky Derby. Made of silver or pewter, these cups aren’t as versatile as others on the list, but they do look awesome, so they get points for that.