Basement Bar Design #4(a): Essential Glassware

Basement Bar Design #4(a): Essential Glassware

Parts Two and Three in this series dealt with fairly big ticket items. With Part 4(a) I’m going to talk about something that is perhaps even more critical, but costs a lot less—at least in detail.

What’s with the 4(a)?

Upon editing this piece, I decided to break it into a three parts. The first is about the glasses you need from the start when you set up your bar. The second will cover all the other cool glasses you can add later for various purposes. The third post will be about how to acquire the glasses you start with and those you add later.

You edit your work? Seriously?

Actually, yes I do. But I don’t cut very vigorously, or you’d end up in the bin almost everytime…

When you first construct your Basement Bar, you will have to have some glassware in which to serve and drink the drinks that are the purpose of the exercise. You probably already have some of what you need upstairs, but you may not. Also, you may want to keep what you have in the kitchen, in the kitchen. For the purposes of this piece, we’ll assume you are starting from scratch. Any elements that you can cover from stock, go ahead and do so.
There is a bewildering array of glassware out there. What is more bewildering is the number of cocktail books who try to tell you that you need a minimum of four cordial glasses for your basic setup. Even the more restrained references will still tell you to have an egregious number of kinds of glasses.
To set up your Basement Bar, you will need four kinds of glasses. That’s all. Anything else can wait for pocketbook to recover and/or opportunity to present itself.
Much more below the fold:
How many of each kind of glass you need, you will have to determine for yourself. You know how many people you are likely to have around at any given time. You also know how many of these glasses you can afford. Work out your needs.


The Highball is unquestionably the most versatile glass on Earth. In fact, the 95% of the English-speaking world that doesn’t know its technical name just calls it a glass. It’s primary bar usage is for tall mixed drinks on the rocks, such a the iconic Gin and Tonic, or Jack and Coke. More mixologically advanced drinks also live in this glass, such as the Mojito. It also is what you use to serve most non-alcoholic drinks like Coca-Cola, or Iced Tea. But the Highball will also serve as stand in for a host of other glasses, until you decide to add them to your collection. A lot of frozen blender drinks, like Strawberry Daiquiris, will go here in pinch. (for stronger mixed variations, you might want to go with an Old-Fashioned. See below) Most importantly, this glass will stand in admirably to serve up the occasional beer. No matter how big a cocktail snob you are, you will serve beer in your Basement Bar.
Almost equally versatile, and nearly as omni-present, is the Old-Fashioned glass, also known as a Lowball, or just a rocks glass. These come in various sizes. I’d recommend the Double Old-Fashioned, simply because I have found the slightly larger size to be more versatile. You will most often use this glass for mixed drinks on the rocks as well, but these drinks will contain much less mixer, if any at all. Beyond the namesake Old-Fashioned, and the Sazerac, you may most often find yourself pulling these out for a simple scotch, or other straight liquor, on the rocks. But these glasses will also serve for juices or Shirley Temples. Your Old-Fashioned glasses can be used to serve liquor neat as well, even Cognac.
You gotta have wine glasses. Even if you don’t drink wine yourself, a significant number of guests in your bar, especially women, will drink nothing but. But you don’t need more than one kind of glass to start with. Really. Honest. There are good reasons for the different kinds of wine glasses, but most of those reasons only apply to the really fine examples of the grape. If you are the kind of person who is spending fortyish or more for a bottle of wine, you won’t be worrying about this. First, you’ll already have an excellent selection of wine glasses, and second, if you can afford to routinely pay the same for a bottle of wine as a bottle of Glenmorangie, you can bloody well afford a couple of different types of wine stemware for your bar. And you’re probably building a wine cellar tasting room anyway, so move on.
For the average drinker of the average wine, one glass will really do for all. Find yourself a set of nice looking glasses with a long enough stem to comfortably hold without the heat of your hand mucking with the temperature of the wine. You’d be surprised how many glasses out there don’t qualify on this front. The real question you have to ask yourself is size. Too small, and you are just going to look cheap. Also, you will waste a lot of time refilling glasses. Many people suggest big glasses, then advise you to only fill them half full or less. Expensive steak houses nearly all ascribe to this theory. In a home bar, after the first glass, you’ll start filling more and more, until you are serving up 12 ounce pours of Pinot Noir and discovering your guests still sleeping it off on your floor in the morning. Get a good medium sized glass,probably in the white wine shape, and forget about it.
A wine glass won’t really be good for much else other than wine, but chances are you drink wine somewhere between occasionally and nearly every frickin’ day. Stock up.
I finish with the glamor girl of glassware, the Cocktail Glass. You need these for Martinis, Cosmopolitans, Manhattans, Sidecars, and of course, Pegus. You are going to serve Pegus in your Basement Bar, right? In theory, you could serve cocktails in a wine glass. They both share the same single critical design element, the stem. If you have friends prone to spillage, you could even argue that a wine glass is better for cocktails than a cocktail glass! You could also argue that Prince Charles needs those big ears to hold up future headgear…. You want cool looking Cocktail glasses. The BarMixMaster recently noted that the Cosmopolitan was invented in the first place to give people an excuse to just stand around holding a Martini glass. By the way, it is a Cocktail Glass, not a Martini Glass. You use it to serve virtually any drink served up, shaken or stirred with ice, but strained off the ice when served. Calling the glass a Martini glass just encourages the uncouth practice of naming drinks things like the Cosmopolitan Martini or the Chocolate Martini, or the, shudder, Melontini.
Be careful on size here too. Please be sure not to make your cocktail glasses too big.

Absolutely! Serving a 10 ounce cocktail is just irresponsible!

Actually, that’s true, but really beside the point. A cocktail that big is going to be warm, i.e. it is going to suck, by the time you finish it. And a cocktail served in a half full glass, as opposed to the classic half-full wine glass, just looks stupid or cheap.

Up next, I’ll venture into a discussion of the other cool glasses you can add as you get used to your Basement Bar. Don’t go out and start buying yet though, the third part will deal with how best to acquire all this glassware.

If you want to follow this specific series of posts on the Pegu Blog, you can subscribe to our Basement Bar feed here. Or you can just subscribe to the entire blog, with all its brilliant content, here!
Here’s a list of the other articles in this series that have been posted so far:
[catlist id=47 orderby=title order=ASC numberposts=-1]


  1. Marleigh

    13 June

    Thrift stores and second-hand shops. Those are my favorite places to buy glassware.

    I picked up my brandy snifers, collins and wine glasses at Cost Plus for a song (yay recycled glass!).

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  2. Doug

    13 June


    You are getting ahead of me. Where and how to buy are Part 4(c)!

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  3. Marleigh

    16 June

    Apologies! You can delete it and take credit in 4c. 😉

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  4. Doug

    16 June

    Delete it? Not a chance. I don’t get enough comments on this blog anyway!

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  5. You can get many of these glasses by following the above link!

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  6. May i ask where you got the photography from for the items above? It is of a very high standard. We need some similar product shots doing at the moment.


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  7. Egg Donor

    22 November

    those thick and heavy borosilicate wine glasses are the best but they are very expensive -~* :.;

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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