Identifying Bar Glassware

Brush up on your bar glassware knowledge and you'll be able to identify beer steins, sherry copitas, brandy snifters, and more.

Perhaps you've inherited your great-aunt's crystal stemware and you'd like to know what liqueurs to serve in it. Or you've bought a jug from your local microbrewery and need to know what sort of glass will best suit that hoppy pilsner. Brush up on your bar glassware knowledge and you'll be able to identify everything from a copita to a pousse-café.

Beer glasses

Pint glasses are the most common form of beer glasses. These are the simple straight-sided, 16-oz glasses, narrower at the base than the top. Often they have a logo or a brewery name emblazoned on them. Pint glasses are an all-purpose beer glass and can be used to serve any type of beer.

Pilsner glasses have been increasing in popularity in America. These are tall, elongated glasses that generally hold 12 to 16 ounces of beer. The classic pilsner has a v-shape. Flares, which are wider at the top and bottom than in the middle, are also popular. These glasses are, naturally, used to serve pilsners and other lagers. As the shape of the pilsner makes it a more delicate glass than other beer glasses, they are often used as a "classy" beer glass when serving beer at a party or formal dinner.

Other types of beer glasses include the tulip, which is like a pint glass with the top half bulged out, the classic stein, which has a handle, and the yard, which is a yard-long skinny glass with a bulbous bottom, held upright by a wood or metal stand. The yard holds a good three pints of beer and is tricky to drink out of, but its cousin the half-yard can be a fun and unique alternative.


The word tumbler can refer to any straight-sided glass. There are several different types of barware in this category, most of which are multi-purpose. Highball glasses generally hold 8 to 10 ounces, and their companion the lowball holds 4 or 5. Old-fashioneds are generally larger and sturdier than highball glasses; they may hold 12 or 18 ounces. Similarly, double old-fashioneds are larger and sturdier than lowball glasses, and may hold 10 or 12 ounces. Any of these are appropriate for serving liquor drinks. The highballs and old-fashioneds are generally used for mixed drinks like gin-and-tonics or bloody marys, and the smaller glasses are used for liquor served on the rocks.

The small straight-sided glasses are the shot glasses and pousse-cafés. Shot glasses hold 1 to 2 ounces of straight liquor, and come in a variety of shapes and logos. Pousse-cafés are slim and narrow. Holding about 4 ounces, they are often used for fancy shots consisting of layers of different liqueurs.


The amount of stemware can be staggering. Sometimes it seems as if there is a separate type of stemware for every drink imaginable. In fact, this is not far off. Stemware comes in such a range of styles because each type of glass has specific qualities designed to bring out the best in the drink it is serving.

Wineglasses have expanded beyond the typical glasses for white and red. You can find now stemware made particularly to suit individual varietals such as chardonnay and merlot. The typical glass for red wine is slightly larger than for white, with a bigger bowl and wider rim. It is designed to help develop the red wine and bring out more of the aroma. The smaller wineglass for the whites helps to keep this wine cooler. These two main types of wineglasses each serve to best enhance the specific qualities of the different wines.

A sherry glass, or copita, looks like a smaller, narrower version of the glass used for white wine. It holds a mere 4 to 7 ounces. In contrast, the brandy snifter looks like a more bulbous version of the glass used for red wine, with a much shorter stem. This allows you to cup the glass in your hand, warming the brandy. Brandy snifters may be as small as 5 ounces or as large as 25 ounces, though they are still typically filled with only a couple ounces of liqueur.

The best-known cocktail glasses are those used for the martini and the margarita. The well-known martini glass, with its long stem and wedge-shaped bowl, can be used for any sort of cocktail. The margarita glass has the recognizable double bowl. It is often brightly-colored, and has a sturdy heavy rim that can easily be dipped in salt.

Other types of specialty stemware include champagne glasses and irish coffee mugs. Champagne flutes are long and slim, and sometimes made without a foot at the bottom of the stem. Champagne saucers are wide shallow bowls atop short slim stems. Thesehave fallen out of popularity, as they cause the champagne to lose its bubbles more quickly than the flutes do. Irish and other enhanced coffee drinks are often served in glass mugs. The mugs may have a straight or curved shape, and often are set on a tiny stem and foot.

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