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The first drinking vessels were made of pottery, leather, wood, metals—or in a pinch—objects such as cracked coconut shells, animal horns, etc. The first “glass” was made naturally from black volcanic glass. It is believed that starting around 2000 BCE, the people of Mesopotamia (now Northern Syria and Iraq) would melt volcanic glass, and then pour it into molds to make objects such as bowls and beads. The Romans improved on this idea around 50 BCE by sticking a molten glob on the end of a hollow tube and then blowing it into a shape. By the 1400s, glassmaking techniques greatly advanced. In the 1600s, and especially the 1700s, elegant glassware was found in most homes.
In the early 1800s, barkeeps only had about five types of bar glasses. By the end of the century, the first-rate bars had a glass for everything, sometimes totaling twenty-five types of bar glasses.
Basic Cocktail Glassware
A glass is the first thing you or a bartender will grab before making a cocktail. Now, of course, you can drink a Mai Tai from a recycled pickle jar, but if you live in the civilized world, you will want to drink cocktails in their proper glassware. At home, you can get away with delicate cocktail glassware, but in most bars you will find more durable glassware for obvious reasons.
Seven to nine ounces. Most bars do not stock real highball glasses and just use short Old-Fashioned glasses, calling them highballs. Vintage films from the 1930s through the 1950s often show what is considered a highball glass.
Around five to eight ounces and used for shooters and, of course, drinks on the rocks such as one-spirit (normally whiskey) or two-spirit drinks like a Rusty Nail or Black Russian. A five-ounce rocks glass is perfect for shooters. Shooters have a non-alcoholic mix to them so they require more room than a shot glass. Examples of shooters include Kamikaze, Lemondrops, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Red Headed Slut, etc.
A nine-to-twelve-ounce, short, stocky glass, making it perfect for a highball such as a Scotch & Water, Gin & Tonic or—of course—an Old-Fashioned. Sometimes it is called a lowball glass.
A twelve-to-fourteen-ounce, short, sturdy glass that is a little bigger than an Old-Fashioned glass. People who do not like the awkwardness of a tall glass will like these. It is also called a bucket glass.
A ten-to-twelve-ounce glass (also called a chimney glass) that is tall and thin with straight sides.
One-and-a-half-to-two-ounce short glass designed for shots of liquor. Shots are all spirit. Examples include B-52, Buttery Nipple, Tequila, Fireball, whiskey, etc.
Snifters can be found in sizes five to twenty-four ounces. They are used for brandy or Cognac; however, many spirits can be served in a snifter, including Sambuca (don’t forget the three coffee beans), Grand Marnier, a fine tequila, a single malt scotch, etc. Some bars like to use snifters for Brandy Alexanders and Milk Punches.
This will be a six-ounce glass (for a five-ounce pour) for champagne and champagne drinks.
A six-ounce glass for champagne and champagne drinks.
A six-ounce glass for champagne and champagne drinks that is a type of flute. It is tall and V-shaped like a trumpet.
A six-ounce glass for champagne and champagne drinks that is a type of a flute. It has a curvy shape.
Cocktail coupes can range from five to ten ounces in size. Vintage coupes are on the small side, while modern coupes will be a little larger.
Cocktail Glass / Conical
These conical-shaped cocktail glasses are often referred to as a Martini glass. They range in sizes six to twelve ounces. Large Martini glasses are meant for cocktails that have mixers added to them.
A cordial glass will be a small glass holding up to two ounces.
A twelve-to-twenty-two-ounce hurricane lamp–shaped glass that is used for tropical drinks.
A seven-to-ten-ounce glass mug used for hot drinks, or the traditional version, which is a stemmed glass without a handle (the latter is used at the Buena Vista Cafe where they make 2,000 Irish Coffees a day). If you use a larger mug at home, you will need to double up the booze to compensate for the extra size.
A Margarita glass has a sombrero-shaped coupe and is between fourteen and sixteen ounces. There are other Margarita glasses with green cactus stems and glasses made of thick, bubbled Mexican glass. Some bars will just use a generic glass such as a double old-fashioned or pint glass. I've also seen bars using Poco Grande glasses.
A Poco Grande glass is a short version of a Hurricane glass. It will be around fourteen ounces, and some bars will use this glass for all their tropical drinks, including Margaritas.
A punch cup will be around six to eight ounces because punch is meant to be strong and served without ice in the cup.
A four-to-five-ounce glass used for sherry and ports. A proper serving is three ounces.
Wineglasses can be seven to twenty-four ounces. Most bars carry one all-purpose wine glass used for both red and white wines, but “wine bars” will generally use large bowl glasses for reds and slender glasses for white. A proper pour of wine is six ounces; however, some bars will pour five ounces because they want to get five glasses out of a bottle.
The best way to make coconut cups for glassware is to use a band saw to saw off the top quarter part of the coconut and leave in the coconut meat.
Cut the top part of a pineapple off, then hull out the meat. To make hulling easier, invest in a pineapple corer.
Tiki mugs come in a variety of shapes and size up to twenty-four ounces.
The novelty category is unlimited to your imagination.
Fun Cocktail Glassware Facts
In 1884, the G. Winter Brewing Company in New York published a bartender guide listing over twenty-five types of glassware that first-rate saloons should have.
It has been said that the stemmed coupe glass was modeled after Marie Antoinette’s bosom; however, this cannot be true because the glass was invented almost one hundred years before she was born.
The twelve-ounce conical Martini glass was not created until the late 1990s when the flavored Martini craze happened. Glass producers had to make them larger so the added mixers could fit in the glass.
The sixteen-ounce pint glass is the most popular all-purpose glass because it can be used for beer, a mixing glass, water, the second half of a Boston shaker, and tall (and double tall) drinks such as Long Island Iced Teas, lemonades, tropical drinks, Bloody Mary, and many more.
On January 25, 2008, the world’s largest champagne fountain was created with 43,680 glasses at the Shopping Center Wijnegem in Belgium.