Every drink has a type of glassware that it's best suited to. In fact, the perfect glass shape can even improve the flavor of a cocktail. These eight definitive drinking vessels are all easy-to-find, and with them on the shelf, you can properly serve any classic cocktail or new concoction you come up with.
The coupe, a round saucer or bowl-shaped glass on a petite stem, was originally created in the 1600s as the first specialty glass for Champagne and remained the popular choice for sparkling wine through the mid-1900s. Today, the four to six ounce glass is making a comeback in the cocktail world. Smaller than most other glasses, it's perfect for small doses of potent cocktails served "up" (without ice): the lengthy stem and separated bowl mean that the cocktail isn't warmed up by your hands.
The martini glass is a variation on the coupe. Also featuring a stem to ensure the cocktails served "straight up" stay properly chilled, the Martini glass bowl is a conical shape and generally holds between four and six ounces. The broad rim allows the perfect surface area of oxygen to showcase the aromatics of gin—and the sloping sides can conveniently support a skewer of olives.
The flute is a long, narrow stemmed glass designed to preserve sparkling wine's effervescence: it was created to hold the bubbles more tightly together than the wider coupe which allowed them to dissipate. It looks elegant and festive, and it holds six ounces of your favorite bubbly.
An Old-Fashioned glass may also be called a rocks glass, or a lowball. They are generally found in six to eight ounce sizes. Use an old-fashioned glass for drinks built in the glass. What that means is, you're not using a cocktail shaker or mixing glass to 'build' the cocktail; you're mixing it in the same glass in which you're serving it, usually directly on ice. Aside from the Old Fashioned cocktail, other classic 'built' cocktails are Negronis and Sazeracs.
Narrower and taller than a highball glass, the Collins is a classic glass that takes its name from the Tom Collins cocktail and is designed for carbonated drinks. The tall, slim shape helps effervescent cocktails stay that way long after they're poured. Tiki drinks with crushed ice are also well suited for a Collins glass. The main difference between the Collins and highball glasses is simply the size; if you don't have sets of each they are interchangeable. These glasses are much larger than other barware staples, as they generally hold 12 to 16 ounces of liquid and ice.
The sterling silver cups claim a Kentucky origin, which isn't surprising considering their most famous use: the Mint Julep, aka the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. There are two main styles of julep cups: one with a beaded rim and the other showcasing bands at the top. Traditionally, the cups were handmade of sterling silver and were family heirlooms that would be monogrammed and passed down through generations; however now stainless steel versions are an affordable and readily available option. They're best filled with pebble or shaved iced, a necessity for strong drinks that require a lot of dilution to find their balance. Sizes vary, but you should be able to find one somewhere between eight and 16 ounces.