The Size a Whiskey Glass Should Be and Why It’s Crucial


Whiskey glasses come in lots of different sizes. This is not because it doesn’t matter whether the whiskey glass you use is big or small but because the right size for a whiskey glass can change. So what size should a whiskey glass be and when is that so?

The size a whiskey glass should be depends on how the whiskey is being drunk:

  • For drinking whiskey neat use a 4 – 8 fl oz nosing glass
  • For drinking whiskey with ice use a 6 – 10 fl oz tumbler
  • For larger whiskey drinks use a 12 – 16 fl oz tumbler
  • For drinking whiskey cocktails use an 8 – 16 fl oz highball
  • For drinking whiskey shots use a 1 – 1.5 fl oz shot glass

It’s important to use the right sized whiskey glass for each way of drinking whiskey because it will improve your drink immensely. In the rest of this article, we’ll explain exactly how and why each glass does that. We’ll also compare different whiskey glasses within each size range.

You can buy the right sized glass for every way to drink whiskey, on Amazon (affiliate link)

4 types of whiskey glasses and their sizes

Use a 4 – 8 fl oz Nosing Glass When Drinking Whiskey Neat

If you’re drinking whiskey neat – meaning without any ice or mixer, then you need to use a nosing glass that’s big enough to contain at least 4 – 8 fl oz. This is because the purpose of drinking whiskey neat is to taste all its flavors and you won’t be able to do that if the glass you’re using is too small.

To explain why this is so there are two things you need to keep in mind.

The first is that whiskey has a high level of alcohol, which can be anywhere between 40%ABV and 68%ABV. This means that the smell and taste of the alcohol will overpower the smell and taste of the whiskey, probably numbing your nose and palate in the process thereby making it even more difficult to smell or taste your whiskey. The high level of alcohol also keeps many of the whiskey’s flavors closed.

The second thing you need to keep in mind is that flavor is not only taste but smell as well. This means that the more aromas you pick up, the more flavors you’ll detect and the better they will taste, whereas the less aromas you pick up the more a whiskey’s flavors will be muted.

A nosing glass is a type of whiskey glass that’s specifically designed to help with these two things, and its size is one of the reasons it can do so.

Man holding Glencairn Whisky Glass at the stem

Since the standard amount to pour when drinking whiskey neat is 2 fl oz (a good amount for a substantial drink but not so much that you’ll get drunk) and the total capacity of a nosing glass being between 4 – 8 fl oz is at least twice as much as that, you’ll be drinking your whiskey from a glass that’s at least half empty – but in this case that’s a good thing.

With lots of empty space in the glass there will be plenty of room for air to get to the whiskey allowing it to breathe. This lets more of the ethanol evaporate so you’ll pick less of it up when smelling and tasting your whiskey and it will be less likely to numb your nose and palate. And with less alcohol keeping your whiskey closed, more of its flavors will open up.

The extra room in the glass also means that there’s a space where the whiskey’s aromas can accumulate so you can detect them and get the full flavor of your drink. This is why nosing glasses have a tapered neck – to stop the whiskey aromas from dissipating and concentrate them towards the narrow rim.

On the other hand, if you use a glass that’s too small there will be no room for air to get to the whiskey or the aromas to accumulate. This means that many of the whiskey aromas will dissipate but most of ethanol will remain, making it difficult to pick up the flavors of your whiskey.

Popular Whiskey Nosing Glasses and Their Sizes

Most whiskey nosing glasses are between 4 – 8 fl oz. In the table below I’ve listed some of the more popular ones, their sizes and the amount of empty space they’d have with a standard 2 fl oz neat pour:

SizeEmpty Space
Glencairn Copita4 fl oz2 fl oz
The NEAT Glass5 fl oz3 fl oz
Cuisivin Glendale Whiskey Glass5 fl oz3 fl oz
Glencairn Whisky Glass6 fl oz4 fl oz
Norlan Whisky Glass7 fl oz5 fl oz
Riedel VINUM Whisky Glass7 fl oz5 fl oz
Libbey Whiskey Glass8 fl oz6 fl oz

Use a 6 – 10 fl oz Tumbler When Drinking Whiskey with Ice

If you’re drinking whiskey with ice then you need to use a tumbler that’s big enough to contain at least 6 – 10 fl oz. This is because you still want plenty of empty space in your glass for your whiskey to breathe but because it now contains both whiskey and ice, to have the same amount of empty space as it did before it needs to be that bit bigger.

The reason for drinking whiskey with ice is that it’s another way to reduce the impact of the alcohol. Adding ice lowers the temperature of your drink which diminishes the intensity of the alcohol, and so you’re better able to smell and taste the whiskey.

If you’re only planning on adding one or two small ice cubes to your standard 2 fl oz neat pour, then you can probably still manage with a nosing glass. A 1 cubic inch ice cube is about 0.5 fl oz in volume so you won’t be adding that much more to your drink. However, with three or four 1 cubic inch ice cubes, you’ll have an additional 2 fl oz of ice with the same amount of whiskey, so you’ll certainly need a bigger glass.

You’re also switching glass type because it’s easier to fit ice cubes through the wide opening of a tumbler than the narrow opening of a nosing glass. Yes, this does mean you’ll lose whiskey aromas as they dissipate quicker in glasses with wide openings, but you should still get some.

Some Whiskey Tumblers and Their Sizes

The exact size tumbler you need to use will depend on how much ice you want to add and how much empty space you want there to be, but as long as you’re not having a larger whiskey drink (see next section) you should be fine with a 6 – 10 fl oz tumbler.

In the table below I’ve listed some whiskey tumblers, their sizes and the amount of empty space they’d have with the standard 2 fl oz neat pour and four 1 cubic inch ice cubes (which is 2 fl oz in volume):

SizeEmpty Space
Riedel Tumbler6 fl oz2 fl oz
5 O’Clock Rocks Whiskey Glass7 fl oz3 fl oz
Kanars Crystal Whiskey Glass8 fl oz4 fl oz
Crystalear Whiskey Glass9 fl oz5 fl oz
Venero Whiskey Glass10 fl oz6 fl oz

Use a 12 – 16 fl oz Tumbler for Larger Whiskey Drinks

For larger whiskey drinks you need to use a tumbler that’s big enough to contain 12 – 16 fl oz.

And by larger whiskey drinks I mean one that has:

  • More whiskey
  • More ice
  • More ingredients

Sometimes you’ll want more whiskey. The standard size for a whiskey double is 2.5 – 3 fl oz and if you’re anything like me it’s 4 fl oz.

Some people like to use large or even giant ice cubes because with less surface area than many smaller ice cubes put together, they’ll melt slower and keep your whiskey colder for longer. A large ice sphere can be 2.5 inches in diameter!

Some whiskey cocktails have little or no mixer meaning that they’re still mostly alcohol and because we’re still not in getting drunk territory, while they’re more than just a standard neat pour of whiskey they’re not that much more, but they’re drunk in large whiskey tumblers because the empty space allows you to enjoy their aromas.

Now it may be possible to use the smaller tumblers for some larger whiskey drinks but it’s probably more comfortable overall, to use the larger ones.

Some Larger Whiskey Tumblers and Their Sizes

Once again, the exact size tumbler you should use will depend on how much whiskey you pour, how much ice you add, how much empty space you want and what cocktail you’re drinking, but a 12 – 16 fl oz tumbler should accommodate any combination. 

In the table below I’ve listed some larger whiskey tumblers and their sizes:

Size
Mofado Whiskey Glass12 fl oz
Schott Zwiesel Double Old Fashioned Glass13.5 fl oz
Luigi Bormioli Double Old Fashioned Glass15.75 fl oz

Use an 8 – 16 fl oz Highball When Drinking Whiskey Cocktails

If you’re drinking a whiskey cocktail with large amounts of non-alcoholic mixers and ice then you need to use a highball that’s usually between 8 – 16 fl oz. This is because the drink is bigger and the whiskey makes up only a small fraction of it, so there’s no need for an empty space that lets the alcohol evaporate and the whiskey aromas accumulate or giant ice spheres to slow the rate of melting.

Instead, you need a highball that’s tall and narrow which keeps your drink cold and retains any bubbles.

Some Highball Glasses and Their Sizes

Which size highball to use will obviously depend on the ingredients and amounts of the whiskey cocktail you’re drinking, but a highball that’s between 8 – 16 fl oz should be large enough.

In the table below I’ve listed some highballs and their sizes:

Size
QAPPDA Highball Glass8 fl oz
Riedel Highball Glass10 fl oz
Paksh Novelty Highball Glass13 fl oz
Red Rocks Highball Glass16 fl oz

Use a 1 – 1.5 fl oz Shot Glass When Drinking Whiskey Shots

If you’re drinking whiskey shots, then you need to use a 1 – 1.5 fl oz shot glass and this time you’ll fill it to the brim with whiskey. This is because the purpose of drinking shots is to drink small amounts of whiskey quickly and in one gulp or swallow. Now we’re into getting drunk territory.

Unsurprisingly, the standard pour for a shot of whiskey is 1 – 1.5 fl oz. Not too much that it makes it difficult to drink in one go but enough to achieve the desired goal.

Once again, since you’re not drinking the whiskey to taste its flavors, you don’t need to do anything to bring them out. And reducing the impact of the alcohol by allowing air to get to your whiskey is, in this instance, counterproductive.

Some Shot Glasses and Their Sizes

Most shot glasses are between 1 – 1.5 fl oz and I’ve listed some and their sizes in the table below:

Size
Homee Shot Glass1 fl oz
Accguan Shot Glass1.2 fl oz
Thirsty Rhino Shot Glass1.5 fl oz

You can find a list of all the whiskey glasses mentioned in this article on Amazon (affiliate link)

Useful Whiskey Links

  • Click here to buy whiskey at Tipxy.com
  • Click here to join Flaviar and explore interesting and rare whiskeys
  • Click here to design your own bottle of whiskey at designerdram.com
  • Click here to search Amazon for awesome whiskey gifts and accessories

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Josh Mitchell

I'm Josh Mitchell. I love whiskey and am working on increasing my whiskey tasting abilities and my collection.

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