• Stacey del Fabbro

A Frugal Woman's Guide to Buying Bar Glasses

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

Bartenders will pull the perfect glass for every drink poured but do you need to? I mean, if you drink whiskey twice a year when your brother comes to town, can you use a couple of wine glasses? Likely not, but a pint sized mason jar might do the trick.

If you want to aim a little higher there is good news. You don't need six of every glass style to serve great drinks at home. If you want to impress your guests, add a dash of eloquence to your dinner table or up the ante to drinks at home, you can add a small selection, as long as you’re smart about it. Did you know that glass styles are designed to bring out the best aromas and flavours of the drinks they contain.

Let’s look at the basics and see what you really need. To confidently serve any type of drink, there are a few are key styles. The rest are “bar toys”.

Wine Glasses

Wine glasses come in different shapes and sizes but the important part is the “bowl”. Generally, wine glasses are stemmed. The stem is so you don’t heat up the wine when holding the glass. Of course there are stemless wine glasses but they are generally use in more informal settings and for cocktails.

There are two basic wine glasses.

White wine is served in a glass with a more narrow bowl and is more open at the rim. Red wine glasses are narrower at the top with a wide bowl. This allows the wine to develop a bouquet and aerate before you begin drinking. Last comment is glass size. They can hold from between 6 to 24 ounces. Never fill a wine glass to the rim or even near it. Five to six ounces is a standard serving.

Well, let’s be honest. Ladies, we enjoy a glass now and then. Girls night in? Not driving? It feels more extravagant to hold a bigger glass. That's where goblets come in. Splurge and have a nine oz. serving. Red wine? Remember the larger the bowl, the better the aeration, the better the flavour. And I like more than one use. So serve punches, non alcoholic drinks and sangria in them as well. Float some flowers and candles for a quick centerpieces. In a pinch, use one for a fish bowl.

Picture this.

You enter the room in head to toe navy blue, the tall thin glass sparkles almost as much as your eyes. The strawberry floating in the pale, golden liquid bounces on the bubbles with each step you take. You see the long awaited moment there across from you and you slide down to greet it. Does anything feel better than being in your favourite pajamas on the sofa? Nothing. Except maybe, the bubbly earned from your promotion.

Hey. I can dream with the best of them.

Let’s talk Champagne Glasses.

A tall slender flute is the popular choice for showing the sparkling effervescence of Champagne or sparkling wines. You may remember the wide champagne “cups” our

parents used. They might hold a romantic charm but they aren’t a great choice if you spill drinks as easily as I. Remember the stemmed glass theory? It shows it’s head here as well. The stems prevent heat from your hand from reaching the champagne. The fluted shape slows the loss of bubbles. (going flat)

Shot Glasses

Generally, a shot glass is made of thick glass at the base. It’s designed to prevent it from shattering hat way so it won’t break when the drinker slams the glass down. I kid you not. Think back on early Western movies. How many cowboys slammed their glasses down. Now, how many do you remember shattering? Exactly.

Tall, thin shot glasses are perfect for layered shots like Kamikazes. (Am I giving my age away?)They are good for straight shots. A shot glass should never be filled all the way to the top, and it should be big enough so that you don’t spill. If you are a purist, here is a shot glass made just for Tequila.

Even if you don’t serve shots, the glasses are perfect for measuring how much alcohol to put in mixed drinks. Shot glass sizes can be deceiving, especially those with thick bottoms. It is not uncommon for a shot glass to look bigger but hold the same amount as a smaller shot glass. That thickness is also common among beer mugs. Some bars reduce pour costs and serve less alcohol to unknowing drinkers.

Beer Glasses

There’s an old joke, ” My grandma is ninety three and doesn’t need glasses. She drinks from the bottle.” Ya, it wasn’t funny then. Many beer drinkers will say something like, “I don’t care, I’ll use any glass”.

Like wine, there are specific glasses for every kind of beer. Connoisseurs of ales, pales and and darks will tell you every shape affects the pleasure and experience of the drink. In Europe it would almost be unheard of to be served in the wrong glass. Luckily, in North America, our tastes aren’t yet as developed. Fair warning, we are getting there. For now we can get away with a few styles, depending on our tastes.



are one of the popular choices on this side of the pond. Holding an average of ten to fourteen ounces, it’s a tall glass, thin, wider at the rim. You’ve likely seen them if you’ve purchased a draft or lager (lighter coloured beer).

Pint Glasses

They hold a full bottle of beer leaving room for the head. Often, they are kept in the freezer until needed, instantly cooling the amber to dark coloured liquid. Bonus is that they can be used for soft drinks, and other mixed drinks.

Both styles allow room for the infamous head and show off gorgeous color, while the shape captures the aroma.

Mugs or Steins

Mugs are another option. Like it’s stem cousin, the handle let’s you hold the beer without warming it with your hands. Like the pint glass, mugs are often kept in the freezer and are used for a variety of beer choices. Thinking back on the thick bottomed shot glasses, beer mugs are designed in a similar fashion however the amount held within is NOT the same in all styles. There can be as much as a four ounce difference. Often you will see mugs with a thick base in bars as they hold less allowing the bars a smaller pour per serving.


Highball and Collins Glasses

While technically there is a difference,

for the frugal minded, there isn’t enough

of one to care about. For information lovers

A “highball” is a tall skinny glass. A “Collins” is a taller skinny glass. Nearly identical in shape, it’s hard to tell them apart.

There. That was easy.

Ok, I will indulge a bit further. A highball is generally a 12 ounce vessel. Perfect for mixed drinks, such as say a gin and tonic. They work equally well for for alcoholic smoothies like sodas and others non alcoholic drinks like tomato juice and lemonades. At that size they are perfectly fine for a Tom Collins. A high majority of bar drinks are perfectly suited to using a highball glass so run with it.

A tall glass is as essential in the bar setting as it is in the kitchen. Here’s a tip.

Contrary to popular belief, adding more ice doesn’t dilute a drink. The more ice you add, the slower it will melt. Your drink actually stays in it’s original state longer.

Rocks, Old Fashioned or Low Tumbler

Not too many call it an old fashioned anymore. The new fashion is a “rocks” glass and the perfect one is about eight to ten ounces. The design is usually short, squarish with the many times mentioned thick bottom. ( just how many people slam their drinks down?” and used for drinks such as rye and ginger, or seven and seven. As the name implies, it’s the go to glass for “on the rocks” drinks. You know the kind. You sit back and linger over some heady conversation, casually sipping for dramatic pause. Think whiskey, scotch etc. Perfect for “neat” but with a big “rock” in it, it’ll stay cool for a while, allowing for time. As it does tend to be with you for a while, spend an extra dollar, maybe two, to buy something that feels good in your hand.

Martini Glasses

One of the most easily identifiable glasses and the favorite of Carrie, “I’ll have a Cosmo, from Sex in the City, and martini glasses are used to serve a bevy of cocktails including the martini. The wide, triangular glass is versatile and has been recreated in so many ways. The traditional wide topped narrow bottom design is a timeless classic and should be a part of every home bar. Did you know they first appeared in the early 1900’s? This star of the shelf is the go to for drinks between 3 and 6 ounces and served with little to no ice. and they look great in hand.

Margarita Glasses

The margarita glass is most often used for margaritas and daiquiris and any kind of frozen drink. The kind of looks like a kiddie pool sitting on top of a ball on a stem. Perhaps an upside down hat. is a better description. All I can say is once you see one you won’t forget it. They have a nice big rim around the “pool “”part, perfect for adding salt or sugar too. While it might not be a necessary glass for the home bar, it’s shape immediately connotes fun, fiesta and southern vacays where what happens there, well you know the rest. They go so well with Mexican food that is would be a shame not to have them on hand.

margarita glasses come in small, medium and large ounce sizes but those serious party revelers know it also comes in super size, coming in at 60 ozs. While absolutely a frivolity, stopping by a second hand store to pick one up isn’t against the rules. Make sure you share your drink with many friends, preferably at a table and with many straws.

Brandy Snifter

A brandy snifter is a short glass with a wide bowl and a short stem.Unlike all the other stemmed glasses aforementioned in this article, brandy glasses are meant to be hold, bowl in hand to gentle warm the liquid. No surprise.This glass is used for brandy, straight. Independent of size, the standard serving size is only 2 ozs. The snifter allows the drinker to watch the liquid gold swirl inside, notice the color, and partake in the magnificent scents caught in the bowl. Then and only then take a sip and savour the flavour. The snifter is also used for a few simple drinks, but has also become a catcher of after dinner liqueurs as well. To save room purchase small brandy glasses.

They look the same as the larger counter parts taking nothing away from the enjoyment.

So what to buy?


  • the types of drinks you are most likely to drink yourself

  • what you might be most likely to offer guests,the various times of year, the celebrations, holiday gatherings etc.

  • then contemplate the maximum and minimum number of people you expect to serve on a regular basis. Remember, rentals of glass ware is a great option for larger than normal gatherings. Bonus, you don't have to clean up, they take them away dirty.

Personally, I like to have an extra two of each style in case of breakage, but you know you and your guests.

Then look at the bare minimum you can live with, and the added luxuries you can't live without.

My List would be some thing like this.

To save money choose a wine glass that can be used for both red and white. Something that doesn't have have an oversized bowl, nor too narrow a top.

A highball and a "rocks" choice are necessary and do more than double duty. Remember they can be used for water, soda, mixed and straight combos as well as on the rocks and "neats".

I love my Sangria and Strawberry margaritas so I would have at least 2 wine goblets and two margarita glasses, one for me and one for my gal pal.

Martini glasses are perfect for most cocktails and yes- dessert cups.

A few brandy glasses for after dinner drinks and brandy on Christmas eve &

a couple of shot glasses for good measure.

Don't feel the pressure to take it all on at once. Pick up different styles throughout the year so you won't feel the pinch of the cost. It doesn't take much to live a life of luxury. Love, laughter, wine, song and the perfect glass.

And don't forget

All drinks taste better when taken from a painted glass.

I should tell you that every link highlighted leads to a recipe page. I would like to thank both the Tipsy Bartender and the Spruce Eats pages for allowing me to link to them.

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