BartendingFood & Drinks

How To Hold Different Cocktail Glasses (With Pictures)

How To Hold A Cocktail Glass

Whether tradition or necessity, almost every alcoholic drink has a glass associated with it. Certain drinks need a particular temperature or are shaped in a certain way to accommodate the ingredients.

Friends might invite you to a cocktail party, and you don’t want to look like an oddball. You’ll wonder, am I doing this right?

How do you hold a cocktail glass?

If it has a stem, hold it by the stem. If there’s a thick base, hold it by the base. They designed glasses for chilled cocktails with a stem to keep them as cold as possible for as long as possible. If the glass has a handle, you’ll hold it by the handle. The only exception is the brandy snifter you cradle in your hand to warm the drink, releasing its aromas.

This quick guide will help you navigate the perils and etiquette of holding a wide variety of cocktail glasses. We’ll look at glasses with stems, bases (and no stems), and the brandy snifter.

Cocktail Glass Etiquette—How To Hold Them Right

Cocktail Glass Etiquette—How To Hold ’Em Right

Cocktails can be tricky to navigate, and when they are served in their associated glasses, it can become even more perilous. Understanding the logic behind these glasses makes it much easier to hold the glass correctly.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in and turn you into a cocktail-wielding expert!

Glasses Held by the Stem

You’ll hold glasses with stems by the stem. The drink needs to be kept as cold as possible.

Cocktail or Martini Glass

Cocktail Or Martini Glass

The Martini glass is filled to the brim and very delicate. An upside-down, wide cone sits on a thin stem supported by a base.

Some people are too scared to order a Martini because spilling their drink scares them, or they label themselves as ‘clumsy drinkers.’ When most of the time, they are holding the glass the wrong way.

The reasoning behind this design is that the cocktail usually has an aromatic ingredient that will be under the drinker’s nose when drinking, having the desired effect. The wide mouth also ensures this.

You should not hold this glass by the bowl—hold it by the stem to make sure you don’t heat your drink.

When you serve cocktails, they will not contain ice and warm up even quicker through contact with your hand. For extra stability, you can put your hand under the base of the glass when your glass is full.

Cocktails served in a cocktail/martini glass: Martini, Cosmopolitan, Manhattan, and Daiquiri.

The straighter sides and slightly tighter bowl also keep cocktails colder for longer. And it’s more spill-resistant.

Champagne Coupe or Bowl

Champagne Coupe Or Bowl

Yes, you guessed right! By the stem.

Legend has it they modeled the champagne coupe or bowl after Marie Antoinette’s left breast so the court could toast to her health and longevity in bosom-shaped drinkware.

Bartenders also use coupes rather than martini glasses because they tend to spill less.

Margarita Glass

Margarita Glass

Again, hold this one by its stem.

The double bowl shape is a fun and festive design and works especially well with frozen margaritas.

The extra-wide rim makes it easy to salt or sugar the rim—one of the key presentations when serving margaritas.

Hurricane Glass

Hurricane Glass

These glasses are reminiscent of hurricane lamps, which lend their name to this glass. It is used for exotic and rum-inspired cocktails or frozen cocktails.

It should be… held by the stem. Be careful; sometimes, the garnish can be top-heavy.

Liqueur and Port Glasses

Liqueur And Port Glasses

These miniature glasses are used to serve liqueurs and digestives. They are dainty, shrunken versions that mostly look like a wine glass, although other shapes also exist.

They are small because most people do not want to drink a large amount of liqueur or overly sweet dessert wines at a time.

These are held, again, by the stem.

Glasses Held by the Base

Some glasses are held by the base, such as the rock glass, Collins and highball glasses, and the Glencairn whisky glass.

Whisky, especially, should never be in contact with the warmth of your hand.

Rock Glass

Rock Glass

This glass can go by other names: ‘lowball’ or ‘old fashioned.’

The thick base allows a bartender to smash the non-liquid ingredients of a cocktail directly in the glass with their muddler—without shattering it.

These glasses have a thick base, so you can hold them by the base rather than curling your hand and fingers around it.

Collins and Highball Glasses

Collins And Highball Glasses

These bases are thick and should be held by the base. It may be tempting, but do not wrap your hand around the glass.

If holding it by the base proves to be difficult, you can lightly hold it with your fingers because, most of the time, drinks in these glasses will contain ice to keep them cold.

It is important that you do not let the glass slip out of your hand (due to condensation settling on the outside).

Glencairn Whiskey Glass

Glencairn Whiskey Glass

They developed the Glencairn glass specifically for serving whisky. You should hold the glass as low as possible by the thick bass. The hand should not warm whisky. Whisky should be served at the correct temperature as well (between 60º and 65ºF or 15 and 18 degrees Celsius).

One Exception Breaking All the Rules

Yes, of course, there is a glass that’s exempt from all the rules above—the brandy snifter.

Brandy Snifter

Brandy Snifter

No, it’s not held by the stem and not held by the base. Yes, shocking, right? We cradle these in the hand.

The heat of your hand makes the bowl shape capture the aromas. You can also safely swirl your drink to check the color and legs without spilling your drink.

We mostly use these glasses for sipping brandy, cognac, sometimes whiskey or bourbon, and amaretto.


The basic rule of thumb is: if it has a stem, hold it by the stem to keep the drink as cold as possible. The exception is the brandy snifter which you will cradle in your hand to let the warmth allow the drink’s aromas to escape.

Here is a nice video to guide you through the different glasses and their associated holding etiquette and holding styles. In case you feel a bit overwhelmed and need to mix up a cocktail.

Cocktail glassware tips by Cointreau