Glassware Buying Guide

Restaurant Glassware 101

Between wine glasses, cocktail glasses, tumblers, goblets and more—how do you choose? We'll cover the highlights of commercial glassware in this buying guide.

Types of Glassware for Your Restaurant

Much like phone apps, you'll find that "There's a glass for that." when it comes to any beverage. Critics have long posited that shapes and sizes affect the taste of a beverage, from wide wine glasses that allow Cabernets to breathe, to thick-walled mugs that keep brews chilled. In many ways, feel and texture does affect our taste—in an informal poll around the office, coffee drinkers prefer to drink their caffeinated beverage in a mug instead of a disposable cup. Regardless if you could care less about drinking a Pinot in a mason jar, standard cultural norms dictate certain glasses for certain beverages—and if you strayed too far from the norm, diners at your restaurant will be left confused.

Though you'll find close to a hundred different kinds of glasses used for one purpose or another, don't sweat it—many glasses are extremely versatile, letting you use them for more than one type of beverage.

Instead of overwhelming you with every option out there, let's cover the glassware highlights that you'll most likely find in any restaurant or bar:

Wine Glasses

Wine Glasses

Red or white? Almost as famous as 'Do you want fries with that?', diner preferences for a glass of red or white wine depend on a variety of factors such as entrée selection, time of day, and even the weather. Your customers will likely fall on both sides of the spectrum, so plan to be ready with the appropriate glassware. Wine glasses come in all shapes and sizes, to enhance the flavor of the wine you are enjoying:

Red Wine
As a general rule, red wine tastes better with age; over time, its rough tannins slowly soften for a smoother, more rounded feel. Red wine glasses tend to feature wide rims and large bowls designed to aerate the wine and allow the drinker to fully appreciate its aromas.
White Wine
Generally white wine glasses have a taller, slender profile when compared to their red wine counterparts. This shape traps delicate aromas, minimizes the wine's contact with air, and also helps keep it chilled. Most white wines are to be consumed once they hit the market. Unlike red wines, white wines are more fragile and have a lower antioxidant content, making it more palatable to drink when the wine is young.
Dessert Wines (Madeira, Port, etc)
Sweeter wines like madeiras and ports are commonly served in special glasses that are smaller than their red and white wine counterparts, making them a perfect after-dinner indulgence. Typically glassware manufacturers have fun with dessert wine glasses, featuring interesting and unusual shapes.
Sparkling Wine/Champagne Glass/Flute
A champagne glass is recognizable by its tall, slender profile and long, elegant stem. Designed to maintain the wine's carbonation or effervescence longer, its tall design and small opening decreases the exposure to air. Though commonly referred to as a “champagne” glass, this type of glassware is perfect for any carbonated beverages like Prosecco and other sparkling wines.
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Beer Glasses

Beer Glasses

We've come a long way since the traditional pint glass, which was once synonymous with bars around the country. Beer has grown up, becoming much more than its homestyle roots in red solo cups atop plywood tables. In the last 10 years we've seen an exponential growth of specialty and craft beers, designed for sipping and taking in all of its aromas. Between Belgians, lagers, saisons, ales and more, brewers are becoming creative with their offerings—and glasses.

Some experiment with the flared edge of the tulip glass, which is designed to develop and maintain that rich foamy head on your beer.

While others combine the classic canned shape with the refinement of glass by creating a playful beer “can” mug.

Whatever your favorite brew is, there's a glass for you:

Used for primarily light beers (like a pilsner), this slender, tapered glass showcases the color and carbonation of golden beers while a broad top helps maintain a beer head.
The tulip glass (also known as a Belgian beer glass), features a curved body and flared rim to trap aromas and support a healthy head. The tulip profile is perhaps the most versatile of the beer glasses, perfect for everything from IPAs to Stouts.
Similar to a pilsner glass, a weizen glass features a wider top to release its aroma and accommodate the thick, fluffy heads of wheat beers.
The nonic glass is similar to a standard pint (or pub) glass, but it also features a bulged profile towards the top to increase grip and become stacked—ever had to throw away an entire rack of glasses because you stacked them when they immediately came out of the dishwasher?
Typically featuring large stems and thick walls, the goblet glass is perfect for heavy Belgian ales and other sipping beers.
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Bar and Cocktail Glasses

Alcoholic beverages come in a wide range of colors and aromatics that are increasingly being showcased in complementary glassware to enhance the drinker's experience.

Cocktail Glass
The cocktail (or martini) glass is one of the most recognizable pieces of barware (thank you Mr. Bond). Used to serve mixed, alcoholic drinks like martinis, cosmopolitans and more, its inverted cone shape is designed to enhance the aromatics of the cocktail while a slender stem prevents the drinker from inadvertently warming the beverage.
Margarita Glass
The iconic, “inverted sombrero” shape of the classic margarita glass is synonymous of boozy beverages and fun (or not so fun) times. Used to serve margaritas on the rocks or blended, diners love sipping these frozen concoctions in the standard margarita glass.
Rocks Glass/Old Fashioned Glass
A rocks glass has several monikers, such as Old Fashioned, Bucket, Lowball and more. These glasses are essentially short tumblers that typically accommodate 8 to 14 oz pours, making it perfect for serving alcohol neat or on the rocks, or mixed drinks like a gin and tonic.
Highball/Collins Glass
The Highball, or Collins glass, is a taller glass designed to hold beverages like Bloody Marys, mojitos and its namesake, Collins, drinks. More restaurants however, are utilizing this type of glass outside of the bar by serving iced tea, soft drinks, juice and more. Your bottom line will love the versatility of stocking just one glass instead of many.
Shot Glasses
Nothing says a party like a round of shots. Whether drinking alcohol straight, or dropping one in a pint of Guinness, the shot glass is a regular you want at the bar. Tip: Easy to overlook, but certainly important, ensure you look for a shot glass made of tempered glass—don't kill the party prematurely with cheap shot glasses that break easily (and could potentially send patrons to the hospital).
Coffee Mugs and Digestifs
Diners often like to round out a meal by ending with a cup of coffee or digestif, an alcoholic beverage that aids in digestion (so they say). Typically served in specialty glassware like an Irish Coffee mug or a port glass, these beverages are smaller in portion and are typically sweeter than pre-dinner cocktails.
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Beverage Glasses and Tumblers

Beverage glasses and tumblers are the perfect all around glass no matter if you're in the casual or fine dining space. These workhorses of the industry hold large amounts of iced tea, soft drinks, and water and typically feature simple, clean designs to match with any glassware.

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Glassware Considerations

When choosing drinkware for your restaurant, there are several considerations. Common concerns include durability (how often can I anticipate breakages?) and aesthetics (does this fit with my restaurant's décor?). There are, however, other factors that may come into play, such as storage concerns—if you have the budget to stock up on several types of glassware that's great! But where will you store it all?


Your glassware is an extension of the look and feel of your restaurant. Perhaps you want to feature modern glassware with straight sides to accommodate large, trendy ice cubes. Or maybe you'd prefer a traditional curved goblet that can easily be mixed and matched with other settings.

Before you purchasing your glassware, take into account some considerations:

  1. What is your specialty?
    As a craft brew pub, you may invest in several kinds of beer glassware to highlight special notes in your brews. Or maybe margaritas are your thing, and serving margaritas in a rocks glass helps distinguish you from your competitors.
  2. What is your restaurant culture?
    Traditional, modern, rustic, industrial…there are several kinds of design themes that restaurants follow. What theme best describes you? You want your glassware style to be a thoughtful (and accurate) representation of you.
  3. Are you willing to sacrifice durability?
    Sometimes design and durability do not go hand in hand, and you need to make the decision on whether or not your bottom line can handle a few breakages here or there (which will happen). Speaking of…

Durability and Glass Quality

Durability matters when you're in a restaurant. The strongest glassware will withstand dishwashers (manual and automatic), bartenders, servers, and simple everyday use. Constant breakages could quickly affect your bottom line if you regularly have to replace your glasses.

Annealed Glass
Annealed glass is your value of glassware. When glass is annealed, it is slowly cooled to relieve any internal stresses (making it more durable when it is exposed to temperature changes found in dishwashers). Be careful when you break one of these glasses, as it'll shatter into sharp shards when broken.
Fully Tempered
Fully tempered glass refers to glass that has been processed to increase its strength (as compared to annealed glass). Not only is fully tempered glass more durable against breakage, but when it does break the glass will crumble into small granular chunks versus splintering into jagged and dangerous shards.
Rim-Tempered Glass
When you're on a budget, but still want glassware that's more durable than your basic annealed glass, look for “rim-tempered” which designates that a limited area is made of tempered glass. When glassware breaks it's often due to stacking or tipping over, causing the rim of the glass to endure the brunt of the force. Though not as strong as fully tempered glass, a rim-tempered glass can bring increased strength and shock resistance.
Kwarx® material is relatively new to the market, made of a specific composition that adds strength and transparency to glassware. Often you'll find Kwarx® used on sheer rim glassware to increase its durability while still maintaining the sophistication of a smooth, flat rim (free of a beveled edge).

There's no right answer to finding the ‘best' glassware—only to find what the best glassware is for you. We hope this buying guide helped demystify the types of glassware on the market and helped you think about ways your glassware can do double duty around the restaurant.

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