I moved into my first “grown-up” apartment at the start of my junior year of college. There were four of us living in an off-campus house, and although we tried, we never could nail down a cohesive style for the apartment. The kitchen was populated with a mismatched collection of whatever dishes survived each of our prior two years of dorm living, and any matching glasses we had were stolen from the dining hall.
It wasn’t until close to a decade later that I really began to think about how to find the best whiskey glasses for my home. The dining hall drinkware had since been replaced by odd glassware I had taken home from the bar I was working at, and while the quality and design were better, I still didn’t have a cohesive set.
By that point, I had been working in bars for long enough that I was extremely picky about my glassware, and since first setting out on my journey to stock my bar with perfect glassware, I have picked up many sets that I use for different occasions, purposes, and moods. Whether you’re just beginning to replace your version of stolen dining hall glasses, looking for a gift for a friend, or rounding out your already extensive barware collection, I can teach you how to find the best whiskey glasses.
Bottom Line Up Front
When looking for the best whiskey glasses, the most important things to keep in mind are the aesthetics of the glass and what purpose you’ll be using it for. When there are so many different styles of glassware on the market, it doesn’t make sense to purchase something if you don’t love the way it looks. Additionally, you don’t want to buy a curved glass with a tiny mouth if you plan on drinking your whiskey on the rocks.
I had the opportunity to try several whiskey glasses, and I must say that the Crystal Whiskey Tumblers from Viski are near-perfect whiskey glasses. They may be simple, but they’re sleek. Plus, you can use them for anything from sipping whiskey neat to serving up cocktails.
What Are You Using It for?
Before we get into the details about choosing a whiskey (or whisky) glass, it’s worth taking some time to think about your needs. When you think about drinking whiskey from your perfect whiskey glass, are you hosting a tasting party with friends? Sipping your favorite bourbon while settling in to watch a good movie? Maybe you’re planning on mixing up an old fashioned?
Of course, you don’t need a dedicated glass for each of these applications. Many of the best whiskey glasses are multi-purpose, but if nine times out of ten you prefer to drink your whiskey with a large ice cube, that’s something to think about when choosing a glass that’s perfect for you.
What to Look for in a Whiskey Glass
When choosing your perfect whiskey glass, there are a few key features you should consider.
Design and Aesthetics
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing the best whiskey glass is something that can’t be quantified, and that’s aesthetics. There are countless options for glassware at all different price points, so chances are you’ll find something that suits your style.
Whether you prefer something in a clean, mid-century modern style, a la Mad Men, or you want something ornate enough to sit in a cupboard at Versaille, give some thought to the overall style of both your home and your bar before choosing a glass.
Shape is probably the next most important factor to consider when looking for whiskey glasses. It will affect everything from what you can drink out of the glass to how comfortable it is to sip from. Here are a few things to consider:
- Think about how the glass feels in your hand. If possible, pick up the glass before you purchase it. Can you get a good grip on it? Is it too wide or too narrow to hold comfortably? Will condensation cause it to slip?
- Consider the nose/opening of the glass. Are you looking for something with a narrow, focused opening to focus the aromas of your whiskey during tastings? If you prefer to drink your whiskey on ice, make sure that the opening is large enough to fit a cube into the glass, especially if you plan to use big cubes or ice spheres.
- Think about what it’s like to drink from the glass. Will the glass bump your nose when you try to take a sip? Do you have to throw your head all the way back? Can you drink from the glass without spilling on yourself (normal clumsiness aside, of course)?
- Finally, consider the stability of the design. Is the glass easily tipped over?
The size of your whiskey glasses will determine how versatile they are. It’s difficult to enjoy a whiskey sour if you have to drink it one shot glass full at a time. If you’ll be adding ice to your whiskey or drinking it in a cocktail, make sure the glass is large enough to accommodate the extra volume. You also want plenty of headspace in the glass to give you space to swirl and aerate your whiskey, releasing its aromas.
The most common whiskey glasses are made from glass or crystal, though you may also see acrylic or stone glasses as well. Other than the aesthetics and cost of your glasses, there are two main factors to consider when determining what material you’d like your whiskey glasses to be made from.
- First is durability. Will the glass survive regular use? Do you want something that can be put in a dishwasher? Maybe you’re looking for glasses that you’ll only break out for special occasions, in which case you’re ok with something a bit more delicate.
- Next is heat exchange. If your glass is thin-walled or delicate, the heat from your hand will most likely warm your whiskey quicker than something double-walled, for example. It’s worth noting that some people want their hands to warm their whiskey, and there are specific glasses designed with this in mind.
The final thing you need to consider when finding the best whiskey glasses is cost. You can find gorgeous whiskey glasses on practically any budget, so make sure you determine what you’re willing to spend. I would suggest not setting your budget too high if you plan to use your glasses regularly — you want to be able to replace them without too much torment if they break!
Narrowing Down Your Search: Different Types of Whiskey Glasses
There is a lot of variety when it comes to whiskey glass designs, but many styles can be grouped into one of the following common categories.
The Glencairn glass was developed in Scotland and is made specifically for tasting whiskey. The curved shape of the glass and smaller opening focuses the aroma of the whiskey and makes it easy to both sniff and sip. You can think of it as a magnifying glass for your whiskey since it hones your senses in on what’s in the glass.
The traditional Glencairn glass is fairly sturdy with a heavy base, but there are plenty of other similarly shaped nosing glasses available, and some are much more delicate, such as long-stemmed nosing glasses. They make the glasses much easier to break or knock over, but they keep the heat from your hand from warming the whiskey.
A snifter is a short, curved glass with a small opening and a short stem. It has a wider base and bowl than a Glencairn, but it works similarly to channel the aromas of your whiskey up toward your nose. Snifters are most commonly used for brandy and cognac, though many people like to sip whiskey from them. Unlike a wine glass, the wide, curved bowl of a snifter is meant to be cupped in your hand. Your body heat warms the spirit and helps release its aroma and flavor.
Tumbler/Rocks/Old Fashioned Glass
Tumblers, also called rocks glasses or old fashioned glasses, are some of the most popular whiskey glasses. They’re stocked behind almost every bar in the world, and there’s a good chance you’ve already got a few in your home.
They tend to be simply shaped glasses with either straight or slightly flared sides. You’re probably most likely to see them in either plain, etched, or cut glass or crystal, though there are seemingly endless styles available.
They tend to be my preferred whiskey glass for several reasons. I prefer a simple, clean aesthetic, I like how versatile they are, and (perhaps most importantly) they’re hard for me to knock over.
Coupes and cocktail glasses are stemmed glasses that are meant to house cocktails served “up.” They’re not what I would immediately think of when I think of “whiskey glasses,” but they are great for manhattans and boulevardiers, so I thought they were worth mentioning on this list.
If you really want to, you can drink your whiskey neat out of one of these (hey, it’s your life), but it’s not really what they’re meant for. They’re also not meant to be served with any ice in them — try it, and you’ll see why (and maybe need a stain stick for your shirt.)
Highball glasses are also not one of the first styles of glass that come to mind when I hear “whiskey glasses” since I wouldn’t drink straight whiskey from them, but they are glasses that are great for serving classic whiskey cocktails.
A highball glass is taller and narrower than a rocks glass (the latter of which is sometimes referred to as a “lowball glass.”) They’re meant to serve highball cocktails, such as whiskey and soda or a seven and seven.
Chances are you don’t need me to tell you what a shot glass is, but I’m going to do it anyway. Shot glasses (or slightly larger “shooters”) are small one to two ounce glasses meant to serve spirits that will be downed in one gulp. They’re not made for sipping whiskey. Trust me; no one looks cool trying to take small, thoughtful sips from a shot glass.
Where to Find the Best Whiskey Glasses
There are plenty of places to buy whiskey glasses in person or online. No matter where you’re shopping, make sure you purchase from a reliable seller. Here are some suggestions for where to find the best whiskey glasses:
- Homegoods stores
- Big box stores such as Target or Walmart
- Restaurant supply shops (just note that some of these require memberships)
- Specialty barware retailers such as Viski or Cocktail Kingdom
- Major online retailers like Amazon
- Thrift stores and antique shops
Testing Some of the Best Whiskey Glasses
I had the opportunity to try out some whiskey glasses from Viski. I loved the selection on their website. They had a lot of different styles for a range of affordable prices. I considered all of the guidelines I mentioned above while testing each glass.
Burke Whiskey Glasses
These Burke Whiskey Glasses from Viski are short, tapered glasses with a heavy base. While I didn’t immediately like the way these glasses looked, I really liked the way they felt in my hand.
I have somewhat small hands, and it was really easy for me to get a comfortable and secure grip on these. The base felt really sturdy and gave me something to hang on to without feeling like I was going to mark up the glass with fingerprints.
I thought the tapered sides and smaller mouth of the glass would make this more of a nosing glass and concentrate the aromatics of the whiskey, but I didn’t really notice a difference in my Four Roses compared to the other glasses I tested. Maybe it would be more obvious with an Islay Scotch.
There’s something about the angular shape of this glass that’s a little too severe-looking for my taste, but they are modern and will suit a certain aesthetic. I like the size for a whiskey glass, but I don’t think I would use these for cocktails. They’re a bit too small. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t fit a big ice cube in the glass, but I was able to fit a (slightly melted) ice sphere.
These are dishwasher safe, and I liked that I didn’t feel like I had to be too gentle when I hand-washed them. They’re definitely sturdy!
- Made of lead-free crystal
- 8 oz capacity
- Dishwasher safe
- Sold as a set of two
- They’re easy to hold.
- They felt very sturdy.
- I didn’t love the design.
- It didn’t fit a large ice cube.
- It’s not large enough for a cocktail.
- The glasses aren’t stackable.
What I’d Use These for
- Whiskey neat or maybe sipping an amaro.
Crystal Whiskey Tumblers
I really liked these glasses. These Crystal Whiskey Tumblers from Viski are classic, straight-sided rocks glasses with a curved, slightly weighted base.
RIght away, I liked how solid they felt in my hand. I was surprised by how light the crystal was, but I didn’t feel like I was going to crush it just by gripping it too tightly the way I do with some thin-walled glasses. (I have yet to Hulk out on a rocks glass, but the fear is always there.)
There’s a little divot on the base of the glass that helped me get a comfortable grip on it without feeling like I had to clench the glass in my hand.
The style of this glass might not be exciting enough for some people, but I really like simple, clean aesthetics, and I appreciate how versatile a glass like this is. I could easily drink a cocktail out of this, and it fits a large ice cube, no problem. I will say, however, that it almost felt a little too big to use for a whiskey neat.
I definitely overpoured when I poured myself a bourbon in this glass. While that might not be a problem for some people, it’s something to consider if you’re planning on using these glasses when entertaining guests who might be serving themselves.
I did also notice that while the crystal was surprisingly thin and perfectly clear, it did show fingerprints very easily. As a total chapstick addict, I’m sure I’d be able to spot my glass from across the room, but luckily these are easy to clean. One thing to note is that while the Viski website says that these are dishwasher safe, the back of the box says hand wash only.
- Made of lead-free crystal
- 12 oz capacity
- Sold as a set of two
- They’re easy to clean by hand, even if you don’t want to risk putting them in the dishwasher.
- They easily fit a large ice cube or ice sphere.
- They’re good for cocktails as well as whiskey.
- According to the website, these are dishwasher safe, but the box said hand wash only.
- They feel a bit too large.
- The design might be too simple for some people. They look like something you’d expect to see in a restaurant, which may not be exciting enough for some home bars.
- I really wanted these to be stackable. You could almost stack them, but they don’t feel super secure. I would worry that they would fall if the shelf they were sitting on was bumped.
What I’d Use These For
- Anything. I think these are great, simple glasses that anyone could keep stocked on their bar. Old fashioneds? Of course. Whiskey smashes? Absolutely. A tiny glass of cold brew because you’ve already had two today and you really shouldn’t have another, but it’s only 3:30 and you’ve got a lot more day ahead of you? Go for it.
Rolling Crystal Whiskey Tumblers
These Rolling Crystal Whiskey Tumblers from Viski are definitely fun, but I’m not going to lie — my anxiety spiked every time I caught it moving out of the corner of my eye. I think I’m so wary of knocking over my drink that I had a hard time relaxing when drinking out of this glass. I kept thinking it was about to fall over!
Of course, my whiskey was perfectly safe. These glasses are designed to sit at an angle and delicately rock with a gentle nudge. I’m thinking these would be a perfect gift for someone with a little more chill. I will say that once I got over my anxiety, they were really fun to spin around and watch the whiskey swirl without sloshing out.
Although the product description says that the glass holds 12 ounces, that’s only true if the glass is held upright, and it won’t sit upright on its own. I don’t really see this as a problem for a whiskey glass since you’re not going to want to fill the glass to the brim anyway. (Or maybe you are, in which case — no judgment, but this isn’t the glass for you.)
The glass fit a big ice cube, but it did look a little awkward. It looked particularly nice with an ice sphere, though. Pro tip: add the ice before you add the whiskey to minimize sloshing. Learn from my mistakes.
I think this could be a great glass for a negroni or a boulevardier served on an ice sphere, but you may have to make your cocktail a bit smaller than you’re used to, to account for displacement.
- Made of lead-free crystal
- 12 oz capacity (to the rim)
- Dishwasher safe
- Sold as a set of two
- The design is simple but unique.
- These glasses are definitely conversation pieces.
- Because of the tilt of the glass, it holds far less volume than you might think.
- My heart jumped every time I set the glass down and it tilted, and I was a little bit worried it was going to roll off the table!
What I’d Use These For
- Whiskey or a stirred cocktail served neat/down or with an ice sphere.
Answer: While it really boils down to personal preference, how you’re planning on drinking your whiskey may determine what type of glass is best for you. I prefer to drink my whiskey out of a rocks glass because I like the way it feels in my hand, and I like how universal it is (I can use it for cocktails or add ice to my whiskey.)
If you’re planning on conducting a critical whiskey tasting, you may want to consider a Glencairn glass. The shape of the glass will help you pick out some of the subtler flavors and aromas of your whiskey.
Answer: If you’re drinking a whiskey neat or on the rocks, a standard pour is two ounces. If you’re drinking a shot, a 1.5-ounce pour is standard.
Answer: Adding ice to your whiskey is a matter of personal preference, and I would suggest you experiment with tasting whiskey both ways, especially if you’re still learning what you like. I like to drink most of my whiskey neat, especially softer bourbons and wheated whiskeys, but I will add an ice cube to a particularly “hot” overproof rye.
Ice can numb your palate a bit, but as it melts, the cool water will open up the flavors of your whiskey and soften it. If you like this effect but want more control over the dilution of your whiskey, consider adding a few drops of chilled water in place of an ice cube.
Although choosing the best whiskey glass largely boils down to personal preference, if you follow this guide and ask yourself some of the questions I posed, it will help you narrow down your search. As with anything, make sure you make your purchase from a reputable seller and don’t spend more money than you’re comfortable budgeting.
Of the whiskey glasses I tried, the Crystal Whiskey Tumblers from Viski were my favorite. They’re simple enough that they won’t look out of place on any home bar, they’re comfortable to sip from, and they’re large enough that I can drink my whiskey any way I want — what more could I ask for?
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