3 Reasons You Should Choose Small Cocktail Glasses Straight Up Cocktails and Spirits

updated May 2, 2019
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Is bigger better? Not when it comes to cocktail glasses. Here are 3 great reasons to go small.

1. Small Glasses Keep Things Chill
If you’ve ever struggled with those last few room-temperature sips of a Martini, you’ll know what I’m talking about. What began as a crisply bracing, cocktail-hour refresher now seems about as appealing as a swig of tepid bathwater.

The solution? Put those oversized cocktail glasses away. Go smaller with a 4-, or even 3-ounce glass.

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you painstakingly re-calculate all your favorite recipes, systematically re-jiggering them so that your just over 4-ounce Manhattan will now fit into a diminutive 3-ounce vessel. What I’m recommending here is the patented “chilled-second-helping-ready-and-waiting-for-you” method of serving cocktails straight up.

After you’ve filled your glass, strain and decant any “leftovers” into a separate container (I’ll often use a small juice glass) and pop it in the fridge. Or, if you want to get a little fancier, you can do what many craft cocktail bars do: pour the excess into a small carafe, then place the carafe in a bowl filled with ice beside you. Either way, when the time comes to top up your drink, you’ll have fresh, cold “second helpings” ready to go.

Pictured above: a 3.5-ounce vintage glass; a 4-ounce vintage glass; a 4-ounce contemporary glass; a 5-ounce contemporary glass; a 10-ounce contemporary glass.

2. Small Glasses Balance Better
Drinking mammoth portions from birdbath-sized cocktail glasses can cause you to lose your balance in more ways than one. Oversized “Martini” glasses (like the 10-ouncer pictured to the far right above), with their long stems and wide, conical bowls, are top-heavy and prone to tipping and sloshing over when full. Most small glasses have a lower center of gravity, ensuring that they’re a lot less likely to get “tipsy” – and that they’re a whole lot more comfortable to hold.

Pictured above: a Martini in a 4-ounce glass and a Manhattan in a 3.5-ounce glass.

3. Small Glasses Have Historical Cred
Small glasses aren’t just practical for classic recipes, they’re also stylistically appropriate. Over the years, cocktail glasses have grown supersized, ballooning from the modest 3- to 4-ouncers that were standard in 1930s to the imposing 8- to 10-ouncers so ubiquitous today. But if you’re fixing yourself an old-timey classic such as a Martini or a Manhattan, a Jack Rose or a Sazerac, why not choose a glass befitting William Powell in The Thin Man (1934), or Bette Davis in All About Eve (1950)? Go small.

Small Cocktail Glasses Available Online:

  • Vintage glasses from EBay. There’s nothing like the thrill of browsing through a thrift store or yard sale and spying a small, hand-etched gem priced at just a few dollars. But for those other times, there’s eBay. My own recent search for some vintage Fostoria glasses turned up a wealth of gorgeous options, with “Buy It Now” prices ranging from $3.75 to $56.99 per stem.
  • Martini Embassy, 5 ounces, $4.95 at Fish’s Eddy (a sturdy everyday glass that’s dishwasher safe)
  • Mini Martini, 2 ounces, $1.95 at Crate & Barrel (this one might even be a little too small for ordinary use, but would be great for sampling a variety of cocktails at a tasting party)
  • Reidel Vinum Martini Glass, 4.6 ounces, $40 for a set of 2 at Williams-Sonoma (an elegant design from one of the most revered makers of crystal stemware)

What kind of cocktail glasses do you use at home?

Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.

Related: Living with Mismatched and (Mostly) Vintage Glassware

(Images: Nora Maynard)