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Your Guide to Understanding Glassware

Glasses are like soul mates for drinks – there’s a match for each one! This guide will highlight the most popular glassware used in bars and food service establishments.

When Glassware isn’t Glass

Glassware is a misnomer, an inaccurate name, since all glasses are not made out of glass. There are a variety of materials used for glassware such as:

  • Annealed Glass, non-hardened glassware, breaks more easily than other materials, but is a great option when handled with care due to its initial low cost.
  • TemperedGlassware is a harder material than annealed glass, and is more durable due to the strengthening process it goes through. Some glassware producers offer rim-tempered glasses which reduce the danger when a glass breaks, but doesn’t have the upfront cost of a fully tempered piece.
  • Crystal includes a minimum of 10% lead to help create maintain a crystalline structure, giving it a higher clarity than glass. Crystal is often formed into delicate, thin, and highly valued stemware.
  • Ceramic or glass-ceramic is a durable type of glassware material formed from clay. Often found in mugs, tea cups, and steins it better maintains the temperature of its contents. The added benefit of dispersing heat or cold, means that drinkers using ceramic glassware don’t have to worry about the outside of their glass being too hot or cold to touch.
  • Porcelain glassware is a subtype of ceramic with an added layer of fragility due to the often thin nature of its design. Porcelain will have a white glass like finish due to the high temperature of its baking process.
  • Plastic Glassware is a common material used in casual dining establishments where customers may include families, and children. This type of material is the safest to avoid the hazard of broken glass, and is the most common glassware used on outdoor patios. These glasses are typically constructed out of polycarbonate or SAN plastic.
  • Sturdy varieties of silicone are used for also glassware. Silicone is a recent addition to the glassware material family. Its durability makes it an interesting addition, and it is also extremely resistant to heat and cold.

Tip: There are several ways to determine if a glass is made of crystal. When viewing light through crystal you should see rainbows because crystal acts like a prism, diffracting light.  It will also produce a musical ring if tapped and a clear, consistent tone if you run your finger around the rim of the container.

Types of Glassware

Types of Glassware

Bar & Cocktail Glasses

Walk into almost any thriving nightclub or chic bar and you will see cocktails being served. Cocktails are great for parties and night out celebrations, and as the American cocktail Renaissance continues, it has become evident that bars need to have a variety of glassware to keep up. While there are countless numbers of styles and varieties, here are a few examples of the standard cocktail glasses.

The Martini Glass or cocktail glass is a pillar of cocktail glassware. The cone shape is intended to open up the aromatic qualities of each cocktail, be it a martini, a Manhattan, or something else, and the stem keeps the drink cold by giving the drinker a different way to hold the glass. Standard martini glasses hold 3 -5 ounces of liquid, and oversize martini glasses can hold up to 16 oz.

Hurricane Glasses are specifically designed to hold Hurricanes, tropical drinks, and frozen cocktails. It has an elegant shape, and a stem to prevent beverages from warming up or melting in a drinker’s hand. A hurricane glass typically contains 12 to 20 fluid ounces.

Highball Glasses are a shorter, stouter variety of Collins glass; a glass named after the popular gin cocktail. Often, the drinks served in highball glasses are refreshing carbonated drinks that are served over plenty of ice. Highball glasses hold 8 – 12 fluid ounces.

Old Fashioned Glasses are perfect for spirits or boozier cocktails like negronis or pure spirits like scotch served on the rocks. With a slightly lower holding capacity than the highball glass, Old Fashioned glasses hold 6 -8 ounces of alcohol, and a double can hold 12-14.

A Shot Glass is a small glass that holds or measures liquor. Shot glasses hold 1.5 ounces of alcohol and are really only used for straight or mixed shots of highly alcoholic beverages.

A Snifter is a stemmed glass shaped similarly to a tear drop. They have a large basin for liquid, however are typically only filled part of the way. The large bowl is used to swirl high end spirits such as brandy or cognac to open up the flavors of the spirit. Standard snifters have a narrower opening that base to focus the aromas of the spirit to the nose.

Beer Glassware

Beer has a long standing history in America. George Washington had his own brew house on the grounds of Mount Vernon, and with the craft beer movement erupting, there are breweries popping up in every city in the country. From the looks of things, the popularity of this favorite man-made beverage won’t slow up anytime soon. With people taking beer more seriously as a beverage, and with restaurants beginning to pair beer with food, it is important to have proper glassware if you are expanding your beer offerings.

Beer Mugs, also known as steins, are sturdy, handled glasses that hold a large volume of beer. These are often made out of stone, porcelain, or crystal glass. Beer mugs are also sold as a collectable item because of their decorative appearance. Standard beer mugs are about 11ounces for lagers and ales, however, they are known to occasionally exceed 32 ounces. They hold temperature well because they are lifted by the handle, and often, are frosted before being filled.

Pilsner Glasses are tall and skinny, and are typically around 10-12 ounces, with some larger styles holding up to 24 ounces. The shape is tapered to highlight the hues and clarity of the brew, and to allow drinkers to examine the concentration of carbonation. With a larger top to facilitate a great head, the glasses are open at the top to enhance aromas.

Pilsner glasses are available in flared, hour glass, heavy base, and footed varieties. Use a pilsner glass to also serve your customers an American, German, Czech, or Baltic pilsners, or light lagers.

Weizen Glasses are also used for wheat beers, and are often confused with Pilsners. However, these glasses are slightly thinner, taller, and feature a rounded taper.

Pint Glasses are arguably the most common glass used for beer. Unlike other beer glasses, the pint glass isn’t purposed for a particular type of beer. Instead it is affordable, practical, and most versatile for a variety of beer choices.  Pint glasses hold 16 fluid ounces (a pint), though there are some variations in the 11-12 ounce range.

Mason Jars were previously used to mainly in food preservation but have become a trending type of glassware in many locations for both bar and non-alcoholic drinks. The resurfacing popularity of these jars makes them a hot commodity in trendy and hip establishments. With a holding capacity ranging from 12 – 24 oz., there is a lot you can do with these.The basic pint glass has a large opening and tapers down evenly to the base. There are a number of other styles of pint glasses that are used, the most common being the “Nonic” (“no-nick”) pint glass. These are often found in British style pubs, and feature a bit of a bulge just under the large opening. This bulge aids in stacking and preventing damage to glasses.

Beer Sniftersare much like regular snifters, however, with one major difference. Most beer snifters normally have a bit of an hour glass shape with a wide opening. This wider opening allows the beer to be poured with an adequate head and opens up the aromas of hops in the beers. Beer snifters are often reserved for heavily hopped beers, like Belgian dubbels, double-IPA’s, or beers with complex flavors such as imperial stouts or sours. The foot on the glass allows for the consumer to enjoy the beer without touching the bowl, maintaining the proper serving temperature for a longer period of time.

Wine Glasses

Did you know that the type of glass wine is served in actually affects its tastes? Specific glass varieties can open up flavors in wines that may otherwise not be accessible to olfactory sensors, so choosing the proper wine glass is essential to giving your customers the best tasting experience. The main categories for wine glasses are red wine glasses, white wine glasses, and sparkling wine glasses.  Wine glasses are available in a variety of shapes:

Red wine glasses, available in 5 – 12 oz sizes, have a shorter stem and a wider bowl for more surface area. The wider bowl allows the wine to breath and opens up the bouquet and aroma, leading to a more flavorful mouthful. The white wine glass has a taller stem, with a narrow bowl. The tall stem minimizes heat transfer from the hand to the bowl to retain the wine’s chilled temperature. White wine glasses are available in 8 to 12 ounces.

Sparkling wine glasses, also known as a flute, is a very narrow glass with a long stem. These glasses are what spring to mind for toasting in the New Year and morning mimosas. The narrowness of this wine glass gives consumers and bartenders a clear look at the clarity of the wine, as well as the level of carbonation.

Stemless wine glasses have a sleek and chic design that is popular in contemporary bars, and are perfect for parties and wine tastings. Red wines served at room temperature are the most popular wine served in these glasses. They are made of a variety of materials ranging from glass to flexible plastic to silicone.

Drinking Glasses

Drinking glasses are extremely versatile and allow you to prepare refreshing drinks for your thirsty patrons. Drinks served in regular drinking glasses are usually non alcoholic.

Ice Tea Glasses are not only limited to tea, but are often used as water glasses and for soft drinks. Many restaurant and food service establishments have ice tea glasses, but these also have a home in your bar for serving non-alcoholic drinks are often used as an all purpose glass. They can be very similar to a pint glass or ornate like a goblet.

Tumbler Glasses are often used as an all purpose glass. These can also be made of plastic and are available in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and designs.

Goblets , sometimes called Chalices, are another multipurpose glass that you may see in fine dining establishments. They are generally thicker glasses to provide insulation for the warm or cool, thick beverages that are served in them. A goblet can be used for water and tea. There is a variety of goblets with handles that are often called “coffee glasses” and are used to serve Irish coffee or more desert like beverages.

Coffee Mugs are standard in nearly every restaurant, bar, or banquet facility in the country. These little porcelain wonders are typically only for coffee and tea, but have a place in every operation.


Choosing glassware for an operation can be an adventure. These are some of the most common types of glassware. There is an entire realm of specific glassware including some that are specific to brands of beer or obscure cocktails. Luckily, most glassware companies offer lines or series to make purchasing for a single establishment as seamless as possible.

We recommend stopping by to take a look at our in stock glassware and our extensive glassware catalog to find the perfect option for you!

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