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A guide to bar glassware

19 Sep 2019, 5:22 PM

A guide to
bar glassware

Bar glasses come in as much variety as the drinks they hold. From dark and mysterious red wines, wizened old single malts, all the way to bright and colourful trays of shots… there is a drink for every occasion and a glass for every drink. Similarly, subtle differences and quirks can elevate a drink to legendary status or reduce it to a cautionary tale, but choosing the right glass for the right drink allows the beverage to be the best it possibly can.

It should come as no surprise that choosing the right glass is important but with so many glasses to choose from and so much information to sift through, it can be difficult to find a clear answer. That’s why we have put together this guide to glassware: a deep dive into the wonderful world of drinking glasses.

First, let’s look at the different types of glass most commonly used in bar glassware.

Types of Glass

Soda-lime glass

The most common type of glass, known for its strength and durability. It’s inexpensive, safe for dishwashers and durable enough for the busiest restaurants. Soda glass is thicker than the finer glass types and it does not refract light as brightly.

However, its strong and sturdy structure makes it ideal for busy bars that turn a lot of volume, needing glassware that doesn’t break easily and can be put in the dishwasher in bulk.

Suitable for

Pint glasses, shot glasses, cocktails and hiballs.


Crystal works for both the everyday and for special occasions. It is not as durable as soda-lime glassware but is better suited for finer dining and drinks that are ideally sipped. For glass to be classified as Crystal, it needs to contain at least 10% lead oxide which is a compound that contributes to the sparkle crystal glassware is known for. The higher the amount of lead oxide, the more sparkle. Crystal is slightly heavier than soda glassware with a structure that allows for a finer and thinner glass.

Suitable for

Wine glasses, Martini glasses, specialty cocktails, champagne flutes, snifters and tumblers

Lead crystal

The finest iteration of crystal, lead crystal contains a much higher amount of lead-oxide ion its structure, which increases the sparkle in the glass and allows for an even finer and brighter structure, best reserved for fine dining experiences. Lead crystal is ideal for drinks that are to be slowly savoured and enjoyed with care.

Suitable for

Any fine dining, wine glasses, champagne flutes, snifters and tumblers.

Types of Wine Glasses

White wine

White wine glasses tend to have a smaller base and a thinner overall bowl than red or sweet wine glasses. They are traditionally shorter and smaller in order to keep the wine fresh and chilled longer, as white wine is best served chilled.

The narrow mouth of a white wine glass minimises oxidation and helps to retain aromas, accentuating the sharp, clean and crisp notes that white wine is known for.

Red Wine

Red wine glasses are stouter and more bulbous than white wine glasses. They traditionally have a wide base, perched atop a long stem, that tapers upward into a slightly smaller mouth. This shape allows the wine to breathe, calling attention to the deep and rich flavours red wine drinkers know and love. Bordeaux glasses have a taller bowl in order to direct the wine to the back of the mouth while Burgundy glasses are stouter, directing the wine to the tip of the tongue.

Champagne flute

Champagne flutes are tall and thin in order to keep the fizz as long as possible and to direct the drink to the tip of your tongue, combining taste with sensation in a perfect union. The unique shape of champagne flutes is instantly recognisable as a clue there’s something special going on.

Sweet wine

A small, almost dainty design that is traditionally tall and narrow in order to direct the wine to the back of the mouth, which tames the sweetness of the wine so it is not too overpowering. These glasses are ideal for after-dinner drinks like ice wines and fortified wines; drinks that are incredibly complex, deep and bursting with flavour.

Types of Cocktail Glasses

Long cocktails

Commonly known as hi ball glasses, they tend to be tall and narrow glasses for drinks that have more mixture than alcohol. These glasses are ideal for drinks with ice and are versatile enough to serve non-alcoholic drinks as well.

Short cocktails

These stout, wide-based glasses are ideal for cocktails served “on the rocks”, with a little more strength and play between the ingredients. Short cocktail glasses don’t need much in them to make a statement, allowing a little bit to go a long way.

Martini glass

One of the most iconic glasses there is. These embodiments of class are in the distinctive shape of an inverted cone atop a thin glass stem, encouraging the drink’s unique aromas to rise while keeping the drink quite cool. If your bar serves any sort of martini, it needs martini glasses, full-stop.

Balloon glass

These glasses have become increasingly popular with the rise of gin & tonics and other gin-based cocktails. G&Ts used to be widely served in long cocktail glasses but the balloon glass lets the fresh ingredients and poignant flavours really swim together to make a drink that’s as fun to look at as it is to consume.

Margarita glass

Margarita glasses are the perfect mixture of fun and practicality. With the playfully wide rim that lets the zesty and sharp smells dance across the palette while keeping the crushed ice cool in the smaller base that rests on top of a thick stem. Margaritas are served with a salted or sugared rim so keep this in mind when you’re considering the type of glass to use.

Hurricane glass

The long curves of the hurricane glass are unmistakable and more often than not, people will want to know what drink is inside. Hurricane glasses are perfect for creative cocktails with a fruit-based mix. They make drinks look like desserts and can be deceptively strong.

The sheer variety of cocktails is staggering, with a number of standard cocktails and new takes on old classics springing up every day. This allows for some real creativity when it comes to choosing the right glass.

Sure, some cocktail glasses should not be tampered with, like the Martini and Margarita glass, but for the less iconic and more creative cocktails it is all about the presentation and wow-factor. This is where your bar-staff can really shine. It is best to stock your bar with as many different types of cocktail glasses as possible for when inspiration strikes.

Types of Spirit Glasses

Shot Glass

A bar essential. These tiny glasses are used for drinking and for measuring, making sure your bar staff are not under or over-pouring but most importantly, making sure your customers can see. Shot glasses are a standard for any bar and while they are very small, they should not be overlooked.

Snifter glass

Most commonly used as a brandy glass, snifter glasses have a short stem supporting a wide base that curves upwards into a slightly smaller mouth. The narrow mouth helps to trap the aromas within the glass while the short stem lets the drinker warm what’s inside as they hold it. Snifters are best used for finer brown spirits such as cognac or brandy.


A short glass with a wide base, no stem and straight walls that form a mouth that is the same size as the base. Tumblers are best used for spirits served neat or on the rocks, like scotch or finer vodka. Tumblers are seldom filled past halfway, making them better suited for a splash at the bottom of the glass that is best when sipped.

Types of Beer Glasses

Lager Glass

Glasses best suited for lagers are tall and slender with a slight flare near the mouth of the glass. This shape helps create a nice, thick head and is tall enough to hold the volume of a full pint.

Stout Glass

Stout glasses are wider and shorter than lager glasses and tend to have a slight bulge near the top of the glass, making it easier to hold. These are the most commonly used beer glasses in bars and pubs.


Continental glasses are stemmed glasses with a bulbous base that tapers inward toward a smaller mouth, traditionally used when pouring half-pints and ideal for most Belgian beers. The unique shape of the glass accentuates a beer’s floral notes and makes even the most lowly lager seem fit for a king!


Also known as a German pint glass, tankards are an alternative to the typical stout glass. These hefty glasses tend to be heavier, made of thicker glass and come with a handle. Tankards can be wide-bottomed and squat or a little taller for added volume.

A well-stocked bar is in itself a cause for celebration. For all your glassware needs, visit Restaurant Supply Store online for an amazing selection of bar glass supplies.

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