Different drinks require different glasses. That was a profound statement wasn't it? Who would have thought?
You can't poor every drink in the same glass because certain mixtures of liquids have different requirements. For instance a red wine requires oxygen to open up its complex bouquet of aromas and flavors. That's why a red wine glass has a wider rim, to allow more oxygen in. Wine glasses also have long stems which give you something to hold on to so that you don't warm the wine with your hand. Pinot Noir glasses have particularly wide rims. For a glass of the best Pinot on the planet check out the "Hitching Post," made famous in the fantastic wine movie "Sideways."
A champagne flute is designed to achieve the exact opposite effect. Its narrow rim is designed to keep the bubbly goodness from escaping the glass too quickly. Champagne doesn't need to "open up" so the design of the glass is narrow.
You can tell just by looking at the differences in glass shapes that each one is designed for a specific purpose. A shot glass for instance is short, easy to grab, and to the point. The purpose of a shot glass is to get a shot of liquor into your body quickly with a minimum of fanfare.
Briefly skim over the glass descriptions below. You'll learn the difference between the glass types once you start practicing making drinks. When learning to mix drinks it's not absolutely crucial that you start out using the correct glasses for each drink, but it is helpful. You might want to check out your local thrift stores in order to find a cheap version of each glass. This will help you get ready for the real thing.
Beer Mug, Stein, Pilsner Glass
Beer goes into a beer mug. The more the better! Typical mugs are around 16 ounces. I prefer those around 24 ounces. Pilsner glasses are long and slender which really shows off a beer's beautiful coloring. Pilsner glasses are normally used for light ales and of course, Pilsner beer.
Brandy is sipped from a Snifter, also referred to as a balloon or bauble glass. The glass almost resembles a short wine glass with a wide body and narrow opening. The large base allows the liquor's nice aroma to develop and become trapped at the narrow opening for your nostril's enjoyment.
A champagne flute has a narrow body with a narrow opening. This is to keep carbonation from leaving the liquid too quickly. Similar to wine glasses, the flutes long stem allows the drinker to hold the glass without raising the temperature of the drink.
Similar to a highball glass, the collins is somewhat narrower and is used to serve "collins" drinks. Often times this glass is used for other drinks like the Mai Tai.
Small, low stemmed glasses used for serving liquors and liqueurs. Typically used as an after dinner glass and sometimes called a "Pony Glass".
A classic glass used to serve everything from gin and tonics to tequila sunrises. This glass is shorter in height than a collins glass and taller than an old fashioned glass. When in doubt, throw the drink into a highball glass!
The classic margarita glass has a wide rim and long stem. Salt is usually applied to the rim. Margarita glasses come in an enormous variety of colors, sizes, and shapes. There's a restaurant in Old Town San Diego California that serves amazingly delicious margaritas the size of your head!
A classic looking triangular shaped glass with a stem from the 1950's. The glass of choice for serving any type of martini.
Old Fashioned Glass
The classic rocks glass for serving whiskey or any other liquor served "on the rocks." The glass is short and barrel shaped. Simple cocktails such as a White Russian are sometimes served in an old fashioned glass.
Pousse Cafe Glass
This glass is similar to a cordial glass with a bit of flair at the rim. The shape of the glass aids in layering drinks which is its purpose. Desert and layered drinks are reserved for this glass.
Similar to a small shot sized wine glass, it is used primarily to serve aperitifs, sherry, and port. This glass is occasionally used to make layered shooters.
A very small barrel shaped glass typically around two ounces in volume. This glass is used to serve any liquor.
Similar to a small champagne glass, this stemmed glass is used to make sour drinks such as a whiskey sour.
Long stemmed with round bowls, there are typically two different types of wine glasses. Red wine glasses have a wider bowl and rim, allowing more oxygen to mix with the drink in order to allow the wine to "breathe." This allows the wine's flavors and aromas to be released more readily.
White wine glasses have narrower bowls and rims due to not requiring as much oxygen to release its flavors and bouquet.