Stocking the Perfect Bar,Part 3 “Drinkware”

My previous two posts covered equipment and ingredients for making a wide range of drinks.  But now that you’ve shaken or stirred the perfect cocktail, what will you pour your creation into?  Your choice of glassware may not seem all that important.  But serving your drinks in the right type of glass actually makes a big difference, both in presentation and enjoyment.

Consider this:  Would you want to be served a martini in a juice glass?  Hmm, not me.  Martinis are meant to be served “up” (as opposed to “on the rocks”) so that the flavor of the drink doesn’t change, due to melting ice, once it’s in your glass.  The long stem of a martini glass is purposefully designed to preserve the chill of your cocktail, by isolating it from the warmth of your fingers, for the 5-10 minutes it takes you to savor it.  And besides, nobody can deny how positively cool and iconic a martini glass looks.

On the flip side, many popular drinks do indeed benefit from being served on the rocks, where they can mingle with the slowly melting ice while being enjoyed.  So, yes, the juice glass could indeed work here.  But unless you’re into a kitschy retro theme where you’re drinking out of glasses salvaged in the 60’s from jars of Kraft pimento cheese spread, I highly recommend investing in some great-looking glasses for your on-the-rocks drinks.

So where to start?  It’s fun to have fancy, trendy, and/or unusual glasses on hand.  But those can get expensive and you may not want to use them every time you entertain, so it’s good to have a set of basic, inexpensive glasses to fall back on.  Our rule of thumb in selecting drinkware is, “Will we care when one of our guests breaks one?”  (Note that I didn’t say “if”).  If the answer is yes, you really do need to own some basic glassware for everyday use, and save the fancy stuff for special occasions.

Here are the drinkware basics that the Hostess and I have found to work well.  I recommend owning at least four of each of these, and up to eight if you have the space:


  • Martini glasses.  Select glasses that hold 7 ounces or less.  Any larger and even a double martini will appear tiny in the glass, and you’ll be tempted to pour larger portions to fill them up.  This can lead to warm drinks, or inadvertent overconsumption.
  • Old Fashioned or “rocks” glasses.  These are generally short and wide with a heavy base, with a capacity of around 10 ounces.  Great for serving liquors straight up or on the rocks.
  • Highball glasses.  Like an Old Fashioned glass but taller and narrower, with a capacity of around 12 ounces.  Perfect for well drinks like gin and tonic.
  • Wine glasses.  You may subscribe to the idea that every wine varietal needs its own style of glass, but for your basic collection you really just need a set of long-stemmed glasses with rounded bowls of about 16 ounces or so.


  • Cordials.  These are small glasses typically used for serving after-dinner drinks; they often look like tiny wine glasses.  Fancy shot glasses also work.
  • Margarita glasses.  If you serve your margaritas on the rocks, an Old Fashioned glass will work great.  But if you’re partial to blending your margarita, you’ll want to have margarita-specific glasses on hand.
  • Beer glasses.  The craft-brew zealots will insist that these are must-haves, and it does show a touch of class to offer your beer-drinking guest a glass, but you can certainly get by without these if space or budget don’t permit.
  • Cocktail picks.  These are actually a personal must-have.  A nice cocktail pick really dresses up a martini, and even long wooden toothpicks will do in a pinch.

Once your bar is stocked with the basics, your ability to add to your drinkware collection is only limited by your storage space and your budget.  Among our favorite places to shop for glassware are Crate&Barrel and the Macy’s “For the Home” department.  While we don’t receive any compensation from those stores, nor do we endorse them, we’ve found them to have excellent selections at reasonable prices.

Share this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Visit Entertaining Couple's profile on Pinterest