Commercial glassware is an essential component of running a food and bar service operation, but the variety is endless and certain glasses are strategically designed for specific needs. This is all dependent on the type and purpose of the operation.

Glassware can be broken out based on segment. If your operation is only focused on serving food, then your basic beverage glass, like the all-purpose glass, water glass, tumbler, iced tea glass, etc. will be appropriate. If you have a bar specializing in beer or wine selection, you’ll want to ensure you have enough of the appropriate type of glass to fit each of the specialties (learn all about types of beer glasses and wine glass types). Different styles of glassware are intended to optimize the specific experience your guests are looking for.

The same can be said for the types of bar glasses you stock up on. Each one is designed to optimize the enjoyment of specific cocktails, created as such to enhance the ambiance, flavor, and overall drinking experience. However, it’s important to note that not all types of glassware are created equal. Each line undergoes a different and unique construction process, resulting in varying degrees of durability (learn more in our commercial glassware buying guide). It’s important to know what to expect from your bar glasses before you buy.

This guide is intended to provide an overview of the various styles of bar glassware and their intended use. However, sometimes it’s best to physically feel the glass before you purchase. Central offers free samples of glasses from popular brands to help you do just that. Simply connect with one of our foodservice product experts to request.

The Basic Types of Bar Glasses

All glassware is going to depend on your intended purpose. Here are some of the most common types recommended for every bar or restaurant, but the specific type of glass will depend on your unique drink menu.

Beer and Wine Glasses

Just about every establishment with bar service offers a beer and wine selection. If you offer beer on draft, your beer glassware needs may be different than if you only offer beer by the bottle. However, even if you only offer beer by the bottle, some guests may prefer to pour it into a glass.

Beer glass designs vary based on many factors. Most prominent: the style of beer you’re serving. The design helps to bring out different characteristics of the style of beer (learn more in our types of beer glassware buying guide.) These characteristics range from differences in aroma, flavor and aesthetics, all factoring into the beer-drinking experience.

The most popular types of beer glasses include mixing, pint, and pub glasses; beer mugs; and stemmed beer glasses. However, with the boom in craft breweries, more glassware manufacturers are releasing different styles of specialty craft beer glassware to cater to varying preferences (more about the right beer glass for the right beer here.)

If beer service is an option but not the focus of your establishment, you’ll probably be fine with just one or two styles of glasses – typically one for 16-ounce pours, and one for 22. Therefore, the most standard type of beer glass is a pint or mixing glass, complemented by a 22-ounce pilsner glass for larger pours. And don’t forget beer pitchers or growlers to serve bigger groups.

Like beer glasses, wine glass types are also designed according to different styles of wine. The main types include red wine glasses, white wine glasses, all-purpose wine glasses, stemless wine glasses, dessert wine glasses, and champagne/sparkling wine glasses. However, these also get into the nitty gritty with specific glassware designed for pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, etc. These specific styles of wine glasses are designed to bring out the unique characteristics of the wine, enhancing the smell, taste, and overall experience. Note that smell is 90% of taste, and many lines of glassware are designed specifically to optimize this. You can learn all about the best wine glass for each type of wine in our Types of Wine Glasses Buying Guide, and all about delivering your guests the ultimate wine experience in our Definitive Guide to Wine Service.

If wine service isn’t the main selling feature of your bar, but you still offer a few selections, you can get by with one or two styles of glassware – an all-purpose glass for both red and white wines, and a flute for sparkling wines. View all Champagne and Wine Glasses here.

For any stemmed glassware, like wine glasses, we recommend installing a glass rack underneath countertops to save space and improve the organizational flow of your bar.

Shot Glasses and Shooters

Shot glasses are one of the most popular types of glasses for the bar. Traditionally, they’re designed to hold between one and two ounces of straight liquor, stronger spirits, smaller cocktails, or a liqueur. They are also commonly used to perfect measurements for cocktails.

Shot glasses are sometimes referred to as shooters, which serve the same purpose. Many shooter glasses are slightly longer than traditional 1.5 ounce shot glasses and may hold a little more. These are sometimes used for double shots.

Whiskey Glasses: Highball vs. Lowball

Whiskey glasses, as the name suggests, are used to serve whiskey. The standard size of such glassware usually varies between eight and ten ounces. The traditional whiskey or bourbon pour is 1.5 ounces for a single (the same as a shot), or three ounces for a double, assuming the guest wants it straight instead of a whiskey-based cocktail. The purpose of a whiskey glass is mainly aesthetic, aiding in the presentation of whiskey drinks, however, like wine, a good bourbon will open up with a splash of water and a quick swirl, so that’s why many opt to serve in a bigger glass than just a shot glass.

Most manufacturers take whiskey presentation seriously, designing trending collections devoted to the visual appeal. The 8-10-ounce capacity provides ample room to serve whiskey either neat (no ice) or on the rocks (with ice).

A common whiskey glass is the lowball glass, sometimes referred to as an old-fashioned glass, a popular whiskey drink traditionally made with bourbon or a rye whiskey, mixed with bitters and sugar (though recipes vary). Their design is usually smaller with a rounded base to accommodate ice, including larger ice cubes that won’t melt and dilute the drink as fast.

Highball glasses, on the other hand, hold the same capacity as a lowball glass, but they’re taller with a skinnier base. They’re not ideal for straight whiskey or old-fashioned drinks; rather highball glasses are used to serve additional cocktail creations. The term “highball glass” is sometimes used interchangeably with the Collins glass.

Master’s Reserve, a high quality, premier brand of glassware from Libbey, manufactures the Official Tasting Glass of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is an American tradition formed in 1999 with the purpose to educate visitors of the unique science and history behind bourbon, and it attracts more than one million visitors a year. The Official Tasting Glass holds eight ounces, designed with a wide bowl and narrow neck to assist evaporation and navigate the aromas to the nose.

Cognac and Brandy Glasses

Cognac and brandy are essentially the same drink, and share the main characteristics with stronger dessert wines, like ports. The key difference is cognac must derive from the Cognac region of France, whereas brandy can be made anywhere. This is the same concept of champagne vs. sparkling wines. True champagne originates from the Champagne region of France, while sparkling wines can come from anywhere else in the world (read also: Types of Wine and Popular Regions.)

Cognac and brandy glasses, also referred to as snifters, are traditionally smaller, stemmed glasses with a wide, balloon-shaped bowl. The stem allows users to swirl the drink to aerate and release flavors, while the wide, tapered bowl helps lift the aromas, directing them to the nose. Snifter glasses also make for good bourbon glasses for a higher-end presentation and experience.

Many recommend cognac as an after-dinner dessert drink served warm or in a warm glass. This increases the amount of vapers that lift up to the nose. Remember: smell is approximately 90% of taste. The balloon shape of the glass helps these vapors to collect. 

Plastic Bar Drinkware

Plastic options of bar drinkware are also available. These are great for outdoor areas around patios and pool bars. Though plastic constructions very, plastic drinkware is virtually unbreakable and results in less replacement costs.

It’s important to note before purchasing if the type of plastic construction is safe for the dishwasher. Some plastics will melt in high heat or start to become murky and less clear with frequent use. A polycarbonate plastic construction is a popular choice for drinkware because it’s highly durable and dishwasher safe for a while.

SAN, which stands for styrene acrylonitrile, is another common type of plastic often seen in the foodservice industry because they hold up much better in the dishwasher after extended use. G.E.T., a premiere manufacturer of plastic dinnerware and drinkware, conducted a study between polycarbonate and SAN plastic drinkware, washing both in a commercial dishwasher 1,000 times. They found that polycarbonate plastic showed obvious signs of wear after only 100 washes, while SAN tumblers were able to withstand all 1,000 wash cycles. On the other hand, drinkware made from SAN are more likely to crack when dropped, so there are pros and cons to each.

The Libbey Infinium collection of plastic bar drinkware is a hugely popular line made of TRITAN, a premium plastic material that combines the best of durability and dishwasher use. They’re impact and shatter-resistant and will stay clear after hundreds of dishwasher cycles. And Libbey’s Infinium line includes all the plastic barware you’re likely to need, including shot and shooter glasses in various capacities, single and double old-fashioned glasses, various beer and wine glasses, and your standard cocktail glasses for martinis, margaritas, and more that we’ll explore below.

Types of Cocktail Glasses

Above is an overview of all the standard types of bar glassware you’ll want to consider stocking your bar with. However, given all the various types of cocktails, different styles of glasses have been created, and have since become synonymous, with the types of beverages they’re intended to serve. Many of these differ in purpose from your various styles of beer, wine, and snifter glasses whose designs add to the flavor and aromas of the intended drink. The below types of glasses cater more to visual appeal and the service presentation guests have come to expect when ordering a drink.

Moscow Mule Mugs

Moscow Mules have risen in popularity in recent years. It’s a colder, refreshing beverage comprised of vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice. Traditionally, these are served in copper mugs with handles to help with cold temperature insulation and retention. This works hand in hand with the components of a Moscow Mule cocktail, given the uniqueness of ginger beer, increasing the carbonation while keeping it extra cool. The rim also takes on a cooler sensation, adding to the tasting experience for an ideal summertime treat.

Many Moscow Mule mugs are available in a hammered finish for extra presentation flourish.

Margarita Glasses

In recent years, it’s become more common for margaritas to be served in a range of cocktail glassware styles, including stemless martini glasses, wine glasses, goblets, and schooners. However, the standard margarita glass, sometimes referred to as a Welled Margarita Glass, features a wide top bowl that sinks down with a smaller well, enabling a heftier fill. The wide top allows for extra salt or sugar along the rim, and the overall stemmed design makes for a comfortable grip and easy holding – ideal for those who enjoy their margaritas frozen or on the rocks!

Martini Glasses

The traditional martini cocktail glass was originally designed to serve stronger cocktails straight up. Most martini glasses are noted for their long stem, wide rim, and a downward sloping conical bowl. Because most martinis are served chilled, the long stem and conical bowl help to ensure temperature is retained and it won’t warm too quickly.

Note: beware the clumsy when opting to serve with a traditional martini glass. Given the wide, outward facing rim that differs from traditional bar drinkware, it is easier for the beverage to splash out. Therefore, martini glasses are best reserved for stationary drinking, not ideal if guests will be holding their drink while walking around.

Flights and Sampler Glasses

Beer and wine flights have become popular menu items in recent years, due in large part to the explosion of microbrews and wineries across America. Establishments, especially those who offer their own, in-house selection of beers, are eager for guests to sample their assortment – and guests are eager to do the same! Win-win! Offering smaller portions of several popular drinks is a great addition to the menu, helping to showcase top sellers while boosting profits. They are also great to give guests a chance to try out a certain brew or style of wine before committing to a whole pint or glass.

Sampler glasses and flight boards are both available in varying shapes and styles to enhance the presentation of these miniature pours for both wine and beer, usually ranging from three to seven ounces.

Irish Coffee Mugs

Irish coffee is a popular alcoholic beverage best reserve for colder seasons. They’re traditionally made with coffee, Irish whiskey, simple syrup, and topped with whipped cream. Irish coffees are served in an Irish Coffee Mug that differs from traditional coffee mugs in that they’re usually made of clear glass, sitting atop a short stem. Many feature a handle for comfortable drinking since the beverage is served hot. The glass showcases the layered appeal of this beverage, with dark coffee and the topping of whipped cream, for optimal presentation.

Schooners, Mason Jars, and Specialty Glasses

In addition to all those listed above, many establishments opt to purchase specialty glassware to give their signature cocktails a unique spin. These include schooner glasses, which typically feature a short stem with a tapered bowl, used often for serving pints of beer or dessert drinks, like sherry. Mason jars are also popular, with many establishments using them to serve long islands or other sweet drinks to add a rustic, farm-to-table appeal. Beer boots are another common type of specialty glassware to liven up the drink presentation.

Libbey Glass

Libbey Glass has been serving the foodservice industry since 1818, and one of the most popular brands of residential and commercial glassware throughout the world. With dozens of Libbey lines catered specifically to bars, including popular brands like Master’s Reserve and Spiegelau that add high-quality and upscale finesse to the bar and restaurant scene, they’re sure to have what you need. The Libbey Infinium line of plastic, stackable bar drinkware is a highly durable solution for outdoor bars.

Central Value Series

Central’s Value Series collection of glassware features your standard barware available at some of our most competitive prices.

Anchor

Anchor’s assortment of bar glassware combines durability with affordability, covering all corners bar glass needs with trend-forward designs.

G.E.T.

G.E.T. designs and produces stylish plastic dinnerware and drinkware for all purposes, including durable plastic bar drinkware.

Arc Cardinal

Arc Cardinal also produces a vast assortment of bar glassware, housing several brands of varying construction processes and levels of durability. The signature Arc Cardinal Arcoroc brand has made it a mission to bring traditional, old-fashioned drinks back into style, designing an assortment of trendy bar glass solutions to accommodate.