Have you ever wondered why all cocktails aren’t served in the same glass? We constantly see in movies actors drinking martinis and cosmos out of fancy glasses, so we may feel we have to do the same as well. People go out of their way to choose a glass that their cocktail will look best in without knowing why.

Different glassware have evolved in order to make different cocktails look and taste better. The function of the glass serves two purposes: to enhance aromas and correct temperatures. These are two key factors in an enjoyable drinking experience. Different shaped glasses bring out different aspects of the drink.

Red Wine Glass

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Photo by Bri Jones

The standard wine glass has a stem. Holding the glass by the stem transfers less heat to the wine, so your hand isn’t warming it up as fast. Aroma is one of the most important elements with wine, which is why your wine glass should have a large opening. Red wines are served in larger, bowl-shaped glasses to swirl the wine easily around. The large surface area allows for more aroma release.

White Wine Glass

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Photo by Steven Baboun

Usually, white wines are served in a more slender glass than red wine. Smaller glasses help slow down any rise in temperature, while the long stem allows you to hold your drink without your hands heating it up. These glasses are petite, because the dessert wine is typically very sweet and you don’t want a lot of it. It has a smaller opening because the sweet taste is more important than aroma.

Martini Glass

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The martini glass is probably the most iconic drink thanks to Sex and the City. Martini glasses generally differ from a traditional cocktail glass by having a larger bowl and being fully conical at the bottom. The long stem helps to control the temperature of your alcohol, because drinks served in this glass will not have ice in them. They will be shaken or stirred with ice first, and then strained into it. The cone shape serves to help maintain temperature, keep the ingredients pushed together, and provides a nice large surface area for aroma.

Rocks Glass

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Also called an Old Fashioned or a lowball glass, these are all names for a short, heavy, round tumbler. If you want your drink “on the rocks,” This is the glass for you. A Rocks Glass is usually used for serving cocktails that have more alcohol than mixer, like whiskey or brandy. The glass can accommodate large cubes of ice and there’s still plenty of room to stir. It’s also got a nice big opening so you can really get a whiff of your cocktail.

Highball Glass

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Also called a Collins glass, this glass is used to serve tall cocktails and other mixed drinks that contain more mixer (usually soda) than alcohol, and are poured over ice. This glass is similar to the flute in that it promotes bubble retention with a smaller opening. You’ll often see drinks served in these that are a little bit sweeter, like a mojito, because smell won’t be quite as important.

Champagne Flute

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Champagne flutes are often seen on fancy occasions and at celebrations. Champagne flutes are shaped to make bubbles last as long as possible. There is a bead at the bottom of the glass which acts as an attempt to give the bubbles a starting point. Aroma isn’t as important with these wines, so the opening is smaller, resulting in less surface ares. This is also an attempt to minimize the exposure to air to preserve bubbles.

Snifter Glass

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Photo by Judy Holtz

This glass holds “tough drinks” like bourbon, brandy, or cognac, and is perfect if you want your drink on the rocks. This glass has a very short stem which is supposed to be cradled in the hand, helping warm the drink it contains. The large bowl allows the drink to be swirled, trapping more aromas for the drinker to enjoy a more prominent smell as they sip.

Coupe Glass

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This glass was shaped after Marie Antoinette’s breast. It is said that she wanted her court to toast her health by drinking from glasses shaped like her bosom. The petite coupe shape stuck throughout the ages, because it’s easier to hold and maneuver. It also keeps your beverage from sloshing around everywhere when you’re tipsy. You can find drinks like the Manhattan or the Daiquiri in a coupe.

Hurricane Glass

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Photo by Abigail Wilkins

The Hurricane cocktail is a bright red drink garnished with orange slices and cherries. It was developed by New Orleans tavern owner Pat O’Brien in the 1940s, who first poured his cocktails into hurricane lamp-shaped glasses, hence the name. Over the years, the drink and the name stuck. You can find it in the French Quarter of New Orleans.