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Building the Bar: Casey’s Favorite Glassware

One of the goals Dan and I set when we bought the house almost (gulp) five years ago was to finally have a fully stocked bar—and to do it like adults, not college kids keeping a stash of Goldschlager and Bacardi 151 under the bed and shot glasses from every spring break destination stacked high on IKEA shelves.

It’s been a work in progress, both aided and impeded by my impulse purchases of esoteric liqueurs (Root, in particular, is one of my favorite splurge buys) and more glassware than I can fit into our cabinets, not to mention a few too many cocktail-based cookbooks. But after almost two full decades of acquisition and experimentation, I’ve got a slew of experience and feel it would be selfish to keep it all to myself.

Today marks the first in a series on building your home bar. I won’t be sharing construction blueprints (and if you’ve ever tried to work with me on a home improvement project, you’ll know why—I’ve accidentally drilled holes into the adjacent room before), but I’ll cover almost everything else, from liquors and house wines to bar hardware and accessories while continuing our database of cocktail recipes. Some of these are tried-and-true classics, and some are my personal and slightly off-kilter favorites. For those of you building your registry (congratulations Irene, Christine, and Garrett!), feel free to play along at home.

Herewith, a brief breakdown of the glasses I keep in my cabinets, and why each is crucial to a well-stocked bar.

Highball Glass

Tall and slightly flared, the highball is the glass of choice for most mixed bar drinks served over ice. For pure aesthetics, I prefer the highball’s more slender sibling, the Collins glass: so named for its role holding Tom Collins and other drinks from the family. Whichever glass you choose, the glassware’s slim shape works well for cocktails that aren’t shaken, but stirred with a swizzle stick, like vodka- or gin-and-tonics, Greyhounds, Bloody Marys, and Pimm’s Cups.

Old Fashioned or Lowball Glass

This short, squat glassware is equal to or just behind the highball as the bartender’s cocktail glass of choice for its sheer versatility. Also known as a rocks glass, it holds the same drinks you’d either want “up” (in a martini glass, see below) or “on the rocks”—i.e., over ice. Everything from the eponymous Old Fashioned to Manhattans to Negronis to gimlets to your local mixologist’s artisanal seasonal specialty can find a home in this glass.

Martini Glass

Despite the rash of -tini-suffixed cocktails that just. won’t. stop. proliferating on cocktail menus across the country, the glass was designed for the simple gin martinis that flourished in the early 20th century. Though it’s a pain to carry across a crowded bar, the wide triangular shape has two distinct purposes: to keep the icy cold gin, shaken with ice and strained into the glass, from warming up in your hand, and to keep the contents of the drink from separating.


The classic rounded bowl of the coupe brings to mind sequined flappers cutting a rug in a speakeasy, or Gatsby and Daisy elegantly carousing in Art Deco splendor. Though it doesn’t maintain carbonation in sparkling wine as well as its modern cousin, the flute (see below), the coupe reigns supreme for sheer retro chic. Use it for your bubbly or in place of a martini glass for shaken cocktails served “up.”

Champagne Flute

Like a tulip rising toward the sun, the sleek Champagne flute is designed to showcase and gently but constantly coax the carbonation in sparkling wine toward the mouth of the bowl. Absolutely necessary for a Champagne cocktail, as the sugar cube nestles oh so perfectly in its base, but you’ll probably down a mimosa or two—or even ciders and lambics.

Pint Glass

Your basic beer delivery vehicle of choice, bringing 16 (American) ounces of pure malted yeasty goodness to your mouth with every sip. Likely you’ve already got some of these in your cabinet from your collegiate klepto days—or is that just me? I admit nothing! These glasses work fine for every kind of beer, from I.C. Light to Guinness.

Pilsner Glass

Slightly fluted with an elongated tulip or cone shape, this fancier beer glass is designed for lighter beers like (duh) Pilsners, pale ales and IPAs, or unfiltered wheat/white beers like hefeweizens and wittes.

Red and White Wine Glasses

Yes, it does matter whether or not you use different shapes and sizes of wine glasses for your reds and your whites—see my “Ask Casey” post on the subject for more elaboration. Whether you love the stemmed or (dishwasher-safe) stemless versions is your call!

Other fun (but not absolutely necessary barware):

Margarita Glasses

With a wide, sombrero-like brim that’s perfectly shaped for rimming with a layer of salt, ‘rita fiends find these indispensable. If you’re not ready to add another oddly-shaped glass to your collection, substitute a basic highball or coupe. But don’t tell the Parrotheads I suggested that.

Brandy Snifter

Unlike the martini glass and stemmed wine glasses, the brandy snifter is shaped to use the heat of your hand to the alcohol’s advantage. The deep goblet is meant to be held in your palm, warming the brandy and helping its natural aromas rise to the mouth of the glass.

Cordial Glasses

Whether stemmed or shot glass-style, these miniature glasses holding 4 oz. or less are what you’ll want for sipping your after-dinner liqueurs like samba, grappa, ouzo, or limoncello. Yeah, blame it on the Europeans and their crazy strong liquor.

Sherry or Port Glasses

SImilar in shape to a basic wine glass but more petite, this glassware is designed for the smaller servings of sweet and fortified wines. Don’t worry, you can refill it if you want more.

Hurricane Glasses

Only if you’re running a tiki or Mardi Gras-themed bar out of your basement.

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  1. I love this. I have a collection of random glasses, but I often feel the need to get rid of a few I see as unnecessary or add a few that I never seem to have enough of. I will admit, I did a freelance project on hurricane drinks for Mardi Gras, and now I own four lampshade glasses, if you ever want to have a tiki party, come on over.

    1. I admit to having a soft spot for tiki drinks because of the kitsch factor, so maybe I WILL come over!

  2. Boy, how the world has changed. I can remember when one glass worked for everything. Of course, back then, it was basically just beer.

  3. Wow, how fortunate [or unfortunate, as the case may be], but I have multiples of every type of glass you have illustrated. I also have 3 types of glasses for red wine and 2 types for white wine. But, I usually only use my red wine glasses [yes, all 3 types], since that is about all I drink now.

  4. Now that’s one I don’t have—a coupe! Alas, like you, my cupboards are bulging at the seams with glassware. So much so that I recently gave a vintage shaker and Bar-O-Matic to some burgeoning hipsters. I figured at this point they would appreciate it much more than me.

    1. Sarah, I REALLY hope those hipsters appreciate the Bar-O-Matic. Those things are so awesomely retro. I’m gathering tools for my bar hardware post as we speak…

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