Have you ever wondered why there are so many different types of glassware? A bit of variety may look pretty in your kitchen cupboard, but does it really matter which type of glass you use?
In fact, choosing the right glass can help to enhance your enjoyment of your favourite drink. Different drinks require different conditions to keep them at their best. Some may need to be kept chilled, while others should be kept warm, to give just one example. Specialist glassware is designed to create the best possible conditions for a specific type of drink, keeping it at the correct temperature for longer and enhancing its flavour to its best advantage.
If you want to find out how to release the aromas of your favourite red, or how to keep your champagne bubbling for longer, take a look at our guide to some of the more popular types of glassware, and how they work.
Most people will be familiar with the classic champagne flute, with its long stem and narrow, tulip-shaped bowl. The long stem keeps your hands away from the liquid, so you don’t warm it up with your body heat, while the narrow bowl and tapered top stops the liquid from going flat. A flute is the best glass for champagne, champagne cocktails, or any other type of sparkling wine.
Red wine glass
Red wine should be well aerated to enhance both flavour and aroma. Red wine glasses have a full bowl so you can swirl plenty of air into the liquid without spilling anything, with a slightly tapered rim to trap all those aromas at the top of the glass, so you can smell and taste the wine even before you drink it.
Wine glasses are not one size fits all, however, and there are specific glasses designed for individual wines. For more information, take a look at our guide to different types of wine glasses, or read on to find out more about some of the more popular red wine glasses.
Cabernet glasses are designed to enhance and focus the aroma of the wine. The bowl is quite tall for a red wine glass, very wide at the bottom to allow plenty of air inside, tapering up to a narrow rim to concentrate all those delicious aromas right under your nose. Aeration is key here, so be careful not to overfill the glass.
Burgundy has a complex, subtle flavour, and its glass is designed to enhance all of those nuances. It has a very wide bowl, and a wide rim to direct the wine to the tip of the tongue, which is more sensitive to subtle flavours.
Bordeaux glasses, by contrast, are taller and more narrow than other red wine glasses. They are perfect for full-bodied or younger wines, as they direct the wine to the back of the tongue, where its flavour is not too overpowering
Zinfandel glasses are a little shorter than the Bordeaux glass, with a slightly wider rim to enhance the aroma and taste, but the fluted shape still directs the wine away from the tip of the tongue so the spicy flavours of Zinfandel don’t overwhelm the palate.
Pinot noir is a light-bodied red with complex flavours. Its glass has a super wide bowl to get as much air into the wine as possible, and a slightly flared lip to direct the flavours and aromas straight to your nose and mouth.
Rosé glasses have extra long stems to ensure the wine stays nicely chilled. There are two different types of rosé glass. One has a flared lip which directs the wine to your sweet taste buds, making it better-suited to younger, more acidic rosés. The other was a slightly fluted rim, and is best for older, sweeter rosés.
White wine glass
There are also several different types of white wine glass, but in general they tend to be wider than a flute, but narrower than a red wine glass, as white wine still needs to be aerated, but too much oxidation can destroy certain subtleties of flavour.
Chardonnay glasses are similar in shape to a Pinot Noir glass, but with a slightly shorter bowl and wider rim. Their shape directs the wine to the tip and sides of your tongue, which enhances the sweetness of the wine while helping you to enjoy all the subtleties of its flavour.
Viognier is a particularly aromatic wine, and its glass has a smaller bowl, to protect those delicious aromas from oxidation, as well as a slightly wider rim.
Sweet Wine glasses are small and flute shaped, with a slightly tapered rim. They direct wine to the back of the tongue so the sweetness is not overwhelming, and their tapered rims make it easy to swirl the wine, adding extra air. A little oxidation is welcome here, as it adds acidity to help balance the sweetness of the wine.
With its iconic inverted-cone shape, the cocktail glass was created for short cocktails. Its short bowl and extra-wide rim means you can really enjoy all those delicious flavour combinations. Cocktail glasses are strictly for liquid only, and should not be used with ice.
Also known as the Old Fashioned, or rocks glass, the lowball glass is a short, wide, stemless glass with a heavy base. Its wide base makes it popular for muddled drinks, and it is also used to drink neat liquor like whisky and brandy.
A taller version of the lowball, the highball should hold 8 to 12 oz of liquid, and is perfect for longer cocktails with more mixer than alcohol. It is sometimes confused with the Collins glass, which is similar, but taller and wider.
Similar to the classic cocktail glass, but with a larger bowl and more pointed base, the martini glass has grown over the years as more vodka was added to the traditional martini cocktail.
The margarita glass is more of a style choice than anything else, and margaritas may also be served in a standard cocktail glass or even a lowball. The classic margarita glass has an iconic saucer shape at the top, with a steeper nipple shape at the bottom. It doesn’t really enhance the flavour of your drink, but it does look cool with a salted rim.
A snifter is typically used to enjoy neat brandy or whisky. It has a full bowl so you can swirl the liquid without spilling it, and a slightly tapered rim to trap the aromas inside. It also has a short stem, so you can keep the liquid warm with your hand.
A goblet has a deep bowl and a wide rim, and is often used to serve water in restaurants. It is made of thicker glass in order to maintain the temperature of the drink, and can be used for hot or cold drinks.
A chalice looks similar to a goblet, but is used to serve dark, high-gravity beer like stout or porter. It is shorter and broader at the widest part, with a medium stem, and is typically made with thinner glass than a goblet to show off the drink inside.
Similar in shape to the margarita glass, which it is said to have inspired, the coupe was the glass of choice for champagne until it was superseded by the champagne flute. These days it is enjoyed chiefly for its vintage appeal, and is often used to serve cocktails like the Side Car, Martinez, and Aviation.
Irish coffee glass
Designed to show off your drink without burning your fingers, the Irish coffee glass is mug-shaped, with a small handle, and a slightly flared opening to accommodate a cream topping.
Cordial glasses are designed to showcase a small amount of cordial or liqueur. They have an upright U shape with a flared rim, and usually a stem, and can be thought of as the more refined cousin of the shot glass.
Grappa is a drink that is best served cold, so its glass has an extra long stem. It is also known for its wonderful aroma, which is accentuated by the unusual shape of the grappa glass. The glass tapers in at the middle, concentrating all the aromas in one place, then flares out dramatically at the top, releasing them in an explosion of delicious fragrance.
The liqueur glass is a small glass with a very long stem and widely-flared rim, designed for savouring small amounts of sweet liqueur. As with the grappa glass, the flared top is great for releasing the aromas of your chosen tipple.
Sake glasses come in a set, and are meant to be enjoyed with friends. There is a taller glass, for pouring, and smaller shot-sized glasses to drink from. Part of the experience of sake drinking is friends pouring for one another.
Typically used to serve small amounts of strong liquor, shot glasses are designed for convenience, rather than savouring your drink. They come in different shapes and sizes, but are often slightly tapered at the top, simply because this makes them easier to stack behind a bar.