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How to Choose the Right Drinkware for Your Bar or Restaurant

Too many bar owners take drinkware for granted — a mistake that impacts the customer experience and, in some cases, the way a drink tastes. That’s why it’s important to choose the right glass for the job.

“Glassware is like the outfit your cocktail wears,” says Michelle Ruocco, bar manager at The Bent Brick in Portland, OR. “You can be as trendy and inventive as you want, but sometimes it’s nice to just keep it simple.”

We asked bartenders for the must-have glassware for your bar supplies inventory, and here’s what they suggested:

Multipurpose Drinkware

Named after cocktails, these choices are good for bar owners on a budget who don’t want to buy a lot of highly specialized glasses.

  • Collins: Tall and skinny. Good for almost any mixed drink.
  • Highball: Squatter than a Collins glass. Comes in 8- and 10-ounce sizes. Preferred for drinks with more liquor than mixer.
  • Old-Fashioned, Rocks or Lowball: Wide top and thick bottom. Available in single (6 to 10 ounces) and double (12 to 16 ounces). Best suited for drinks served on ice, especially those requiring muddling.

Specialty Drinkware

These glasses serve specific purposes and may be optional depending on the style of your bar, its drinks list and the clientele.

  • Martini: Tailor made for martinis and other drinks served “up,” like cosmopolitans.
  • Shot: The only vessel appropriate for tequila and other 2-ounce shots.
  • Handled Mugs/Glasses: For hot toddies, Irish coffees and other hot drinks.
  • 3 oz. Cordial: For liqueurs like Grand Marnier or Cointreau.

Beer & Wine Glasses

Depending on your patrons’ expectations, you may only need one style of wine or beer glass.

  • Pint: What everyone expects a beer to be served in. Available in several shapes and styles and in imperial (20-ounce) or U.S. (16-ounce) sizes. Also good for water and soft drinks.
  • Wine: Available specifically for red or white wine (including sparkling), or a multipurpose style that accommodates all varieties.
  • Flute: Specifically for dry sparkling wines and champagnes. Available in 4- and 6-ounce sizes.
  • Coupe: Best for super-sweet champagnes and sparkling wines. Also popular for daiquiris.

“The amount and type of glassware truly depends on your concept,” Ruocco says. You want drinkware that’s appropriate for the drinks and clientele you serve. The number of each glass is determined by your sales volume. But remember, not having enough glasses means you can’t serve, which kills revenues and could keep customers from coming back.

The more knowledgeable your patrons and the higher your prices, the more you’re expected to have a wide range of glasses. But Gary Crunkleton, owner of The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill, NC, warns against taking that sentiment too far and serving drinks in outlandish glassware. “People love martinis and margaritas in those super-sized glasses, but that’s not appropriate to the cocktail’s serving size — usually 4.5 to 5 ounces,” he says. If you really want to use outsized vessels, be sure to increase your bar supplies budget, adjust liquor use calculations and raise drink prices accordingly.

Whether you’re a classic cocktail bar, a dive bar or something in-between, do right by your drinks and your patrons and use the right glassware to serve up their favorite libations.

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