Which Glass Do I Use? A Handy Guide for the Beginner Bartender

Bartenders, barkeepers, barmaids, or mixologists; the terms you use to refer to the instant best friend that serves us liquid gold when visiting our favorite spots! I can attest to the joy that is watching them work their magic. Much like watching Da Vinci bring The Monalisa to life (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little there!), the careful tossing and spinning of intricately designed cocktail shakers are not the only appealing display of art when visiting a bar!

There is so much to look at, including the ecstasy that seems to glue bartenders and bar enthusiasts together, the fascinating tools used to prepare the liquid gold, and the array of glasses displayed that leaves the average customer curious. What are these, why do they have so many sizes of the same kind – and why do I not have them in my kitchen?

Which Glass Do I Use? Animated drawings of liquor, wine, and beer glasses - a visual aid deciding which glass to use

Well! A bartending enthusiast may already know that different glasses serve different purposes in the mixology world. There’s a jug for an ice-cold beer and stemware for wine, but is it drought or stout, red or white? Bartending is an age-old art that demands ‘attention to detail’ from those who seek to master it, and while we can’t lay out all the tricks of the trade in a single blog, we can help our beginner pals with some valuable tips. Keep scrolling for more! 

Bartending: A History

Our generation may be responsible for how ‘artsy’ bartending has become, but we definitely cannot take credit for the art itself. We can go back a few hundred years and still not identify the connoisseurs. That’s how old this is. Ancient Greek and Roman eras old!

Remember the biblical miracle when water was turned into wine? Alcohol was often only accessed by the era’s elite and brought in for the masses whenever there were celebrations. The scarcity and high prices can be attributed to the low number of alcohol brewers and how difficult it was to access ingredients at the time. So, the fortunate and quite fortuned few made large amounts of money from selling their exclusive craft to their equally fortuned patrons. 

In the 19th century, ‘Professor’ Jerry Thomas changed the narrative and gave bartending new prestige. He wrote a ‘how-to ‘ manual and established a formal bar management consultancy. However, when the 20th century kicked in, a high moral standard was established, and bartending was no longer such a high-held art. Instead, those who worked in such joints were considered ‘lesser’ as most were either financially desperate or rebels. They couldn’t get high-end jobs in banking, journalism, and teaching, which were considered elite. Or in other cases, students who sought to make extra pennies filled bartending positions.

Presently, bartending is again an art. Every reputable establishment has a mixologist that can whip up cocktail mixes that transcend borders from the famous Cosmo to the tongue-teasing Daquiri. From the old-school but still relevant Margarida and Portuguese-influenced caipirinha to the Cuban-born Mojito, there’s a cocktail for every palette, and bartenders are the architects.

Which Glass Do I Use? Different Liquor Glasses and Their Uses

It is worth repeating that every glass you see hung artistically behind a bar has its purpose. From wine to spirits to beer brews, and back to cocktails, each type of drink is to be served in precise measures that don’t rob consumers of the experience but also don’t exaggerate portions. Remember, the amount is still king! Let’s look at different glass-wear and what their uses are:

Highball Glass

The description is literally in the name. High, as in tall. Capiche? These types of tumblers can contain up to 330 ml (12 oz) of choice liquid and are frequently used to serve either virgin cocktails or ones with more non-alcoholic mixer than the alcohol itself. Think twenty-eighty! Also very useful for soda princesses like myself.


Tumblers are arguably the most used glasses of the lot, thanks to the versatility of their potential contents. They can come clear as my conscience when heading to my favorite bar, knowing fully well that I don’t have to drive home, or in a variety of colors, and I can bet all the money in my ‘bar’ jar that 90% of all households have at least six of these. Tumblers are pints (We’ll get into these in a bit) with sass; they’re pretty easy to hold and can be used to serve any type of drink. You can knock yourself out with these.

Martini Glass

Rumor has it that martinis used to be served in either highball or cocktail glasses, but boy have they become the queens (or kings) of the bunch! After alcohol-to-mixer (if there’s ever any) ratios changed, a special reciprocal was made. Can I serve you a Martini in a martini?! 

Hurricane Glass

The hurricane glass was invented by New Orleans tavern owner Pat O’Brien back in 1940, and just like the martini, it was used to serve its namesake cocktail, the hurricane. These days, however, hurricane glasses can be used to serve a variety of cocktails that contain more mixer than alcohol. The curvy shape makes this type of glass suitable for the varieties of drinks that do visual dances. Think rainbow slushies, but for grown-ups.  

Beginner Bartender: Which Glass Do I Use? A Dark background with many different styles of liquor glasses -  a visual aid deciding which glass to use

Which Glass Do I Use? Different Beer Glasses and Their Uses

Where I’m from (South Africa), beer-drinking forms part of many social traditions that bring people from different backgrounds together, and to no surprise, some of these can be found in other parts of the world too. Many people take their beer seriously, as they should; no two beers are created equal – and just as not all beers are equal, neither are the glasses. Here are some examples:

Pilsner Tumbler

Pilsner tumblers are narrow at the bottom and widen to the length. They are crystal clear and serve the visual appeal of pilsners, bocks, and lagers well. As explained by beer craftsmen, there are different methods to the refreshing madness that is beer, and there ought to be methods of consumption as well. Pilsner glasses are great at holding the beer’s ‘head,’ which retains its aroma.


Tankards are arguably one of the most varied drinkware available and are pretty ancient too. Though the shape remains relatively standard, the material can be silver, pewter, ceramic, glass, wood, or even leather. Pre-19th century tankards had lid-like covers, but that soon fell away, leaving the tankards with mug-like resemblances. 

These days, tankards aren’t used in conventional settings such as bars or taverns as they’re considered novelties, but it’s always a great idea to use ones that are customized at special events. And our friends at Drinkable Gifts highly recommend these as gifts. 

Pint Glass

Pints are the kings of beer prom, and their versatility is the reason why. Whether imperial with the lip-like curve towards the sip tip or American straight, pints are all-purpose and offer avid beer drinkers a similar experience. Remember what I said about tumblers a few paragraphs ago? Yup! Birds of the feather.

Which Glass Do I Use? Different Wine Glasses and Their Uses

Another trade that comes with interesting tricks is wine drinking. As an enthusiast myself, I know what goblet to bring out and for what kind of wine. As with beer varieties, different wine types go through varied fermentation processes, and unique serving methods must be followed to retain the flavor. Wine glasses are made of four parts: The base, stem, bowl, and rim. The length of the stem enables consumers to firmly grip the glass without clutching the bowl and changing the temperature. Let’s explore the different bowl shapes and stem lengths:


Glasses used to serve red wines are typically large, round-bowled, with large openings. This kind of design allows consumers to take in the aroma while indulging and increases the rate at which the wine reacts with oxygen. This way, flavors are much smoother on the palette. So, whether your customers are Burgundy, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, or a Bordeaux kind of peeps, these glass types are sure to make the experience that much more delightful… and classy, might we add?


Because whites can be refrigerated and served cooler as opposed to reds that are served at room temperature, the styles of glasses used have less rounded bowls and are generally smaller. The shorter stems are just enough for a firm grip, but temperature changes aren’t too much of a concern. The u-shape design helps to maintain the temperature – so you can go ahead and serve sauvignons, Montrachets, Chardonnays, and standard whites in these. Keep in mind, however, that these come in different sizes too.


The best blush glasses depend on whether you’re serving standard or mature blushes. Flared lip rose glasses work best for the younger rose, as their long stems ensure that the palm’s warmth does not change the beverage’s temperature. The blossom-like shape of the lips directs the wine to the most active parts of the palette, enhancing the crisp and sweet taste of the wine. On the other hand, slight taper wine glasses work when serving mature and full-bodies blushes. Instead of an outwardly flared lip tip, these glasses are shorter and have smoother mouths.


Ports are the be-all-end-all types of wines. The aim of serving these is to seal the deal for the customer, especially after well-coursed meals. As with any dessert, the portions are often small but pretty impactful. What’s that thing they say about dynamites coming in small packages again? Uhuh! Port wines are served in smaller tumblers with enough swirl room and lead the wine to the right spot. With these, the taste is king!

Which Glass Do I Use? A wine cellar and variety of white, red, and blush wines

Handy Tips for the Beginner Bartender

I’m certain we can all agree that being a bartender goes way beyond taking drink orders and mixing amazing cocktails. Things such as customer service also matter a ton, and that’s why we’ve put together a few tips that may help you be the best performer, with the bar as your stage.

Taste your work: There’s nothing that will put a customer off than a bad-tasting cocktail that came right out of a bartender’s hands. So, we suggest that you taste all your cocktails and drink mixes. That way, you’ll be able to adjust ingredients whenever the need arises. This also ensures consistency, so get tasting! 

Timing matters: There’s nothing as awful as waiting for ages for your favorite drink to finally sit right in front of you. Nothing! We understand that things can get insane quickly, but do try to be as quick as possible. That way, there are fewer intervals between drinks, and you get to do what you love. It’s a win-win if you ask me!

Customer service is king: This one is pretty self-explanatory, mates. No matter how amazing your drinks may be, if your service is below par, customers will look at alternatives, and I’m sure you don’t want that. Right? People of all kinds of temperaments visit the bar, and they may not always be in a good mood, so a bit of kindness combined with an amazing drink may just change that. So, stretch your kindness as far and wide as possible, throw a sincere smile here and there, and be courteous.

Last but certainly not least, experiment with your mixes and become a creator. All the famous cocktails people around the world enjoy today were the results of experiments, so don’t be shy. Get your shaker, cut up a few exotic fruits and get mixing.

You’ve learned a ton about Glasses. Now what?

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