I used to think you could drink whiskey out of any glass but that was a mistake. Using the right glass will make your whiskey taste better and ensure you don’t accidentally ruin your drink. So, here’s how to choose the right glass to use for drinking whiskey.
Use a nosing glass for drinking whiskey neat as it helps you pick up all its flavors. Use a tumbler for drinking whiskey with ice or smaller whiskey cocktails as they’re bigger, so they have room for large ice cubes and more ingredients. Use a highball for drinking large whiskey cocktails and a shot glass for drinking shots of whiskey.
The following table is the right glass to use for drinking whiskey is a nutshell:
|Type of Drink||Glass to Use|
|With ice / Smaller cocktails||Tumbler|
As you can see there are several types of whiskey glasses and the right one to use will depend on how you’re drinking your whiskey. In the rest of this article, I’ll go into more detail about when to use each one and why it’s crucial.
Use A Nosing Glass When Drinking Whiskey Neat
When drinking whiskey neat you need to use a nosing glass. Nosing glasses are tall-ish and tulip shaped. They have a wide bowl, long narrow neck, thin stem and broad pedestal.
The reason why you need to use a nosing glass when drinking whiskey neat is because the point of drinking whiskey neat is to taste all the flavors of your whiskey, and without a nosing glass you can’t do that.
That’s because when it comes to drinking neat there are two problems:
- The alcohol content of whiskey
- The aromas of the whiskey dissipating
The high alcohol content of whiskey (anywhere between 40% – 68%ABV) keeps many of the whiskey’s flavors closed up so you have no chance of tasting them. It also ensures that the unpleasant tasting alcohol will be the dominant flavor of your whiskey until it numbs your nose and palate, temporarily reducing your ability to smell or taste anything.
The aromas of a whiskey start dissipating when they’re poured into a glass, and since flavor is smell as well as taste, their loss will mean your whiskey’s flavors will be muted.
A nosing glass is designed to solve these two problems.
The wide bowl helps reduce the impact of the alcohol by providing more room for air to get to the whiskey so it can breathe. This allows some of the alcohol to evaporate and your whiskey’s flavors to open up. It also gives the whiskey more room to be swirled around so that more air can get to more of the whiskey, quicker, allowing even more alcohol to evaporate.
The long narrow neck means the whiskey’s aromas are concentrated towards the narrow rim where they can accumulate. You will now be able to detect all the aromas of your whiskey and taste all its flavors.
Most whiskey nosing glasses have the same basic shape – any differences between them are mainly variations in the size of the bowl and the neck. The most popular nosing glasses for drinking whiskey are:
- The Glencairn Whisky Glass
- The Norlan Whisky Glass
- The NEAT Glass
- The Glencairn Copita
I have written a more detailed article about the best whiskey glasses that enhance your drinking experience, which you can find here.
Use A Tumbler for Whiskey with Ice & Small Cocktails
When drinking whiskey with ice or smaller whiskey cocktails you need to use a tumbler. Tumblers are short and wide glasses with straight sides, a thick or heavy flat bottom and no stem or handle.
The reason why you need to use a tumbler when drinking whiskey with ice is because it ensures that the whiskey doesn’t become diluted, and the glass doesn’t become damaged.
To stop your whiskey from becoming diluted too quickly you need to use one or two large or even giant ice cubes as they have less surface area than many smaller ice cubes of the same volume, so they’ll melt slower. However, large or giant ice cubes will only fit through the wider openings of tumblers and not the narrower opening of nosing glasses.
The thicker sides and bottom of tumblers also insulates the contents of the glass from the heat coming from your hand or surface the glass is resting on. That way, you don’t also warm your whiskey while you’re trying to chill it.
Using tumblers when drinking whiskey with ice also stops your glass from being damaged by the ice cubes. The stronger sides and thicker bottom of tumblers prevent the ice cubes from breaking or scratching the glass – something that can easily occur with the more delicate and fragile nosing glasses.
The reason why you need to use a tumbler when drinking smaller whiskey cocktails is because it’s large enough for a bigger drink and strong enough that if the cocktail is built inside the glass you can muddle the ingredients against the base without worrying about it breaking.
Since the shape of tumblers is less complex than that of nosing glasses there is more room for variation of designs. That’s why you’ll find plain whiskey tumblers and whiskey tumblers with a diamond and wedge cut. You’ll find round whiskey tumblers, square whiskey tumblers, oval whiskey tumblers and even twisted whiskey tumblers.
Tumblers can be some of the most unique whiskey glasses out there, and I wrote an article with 15 of my favorite ones which you can find here.
Use A Highball When Drinking Large Whiskey Cocktails
When drinking larger whiskey cocktails, you need to use a highball. The highball is the taller brother of the tumbler. While both are wide with straight sides, a thick or heavy flat bottom and no stem or handle, the tumbler is short while the highball is, as its name suggests … tall.
The reason why you need to use a highball when drinking larger whiskey cocktails is because a bigger drink needs a glass.
Additionally, the narrowness of the glass causes any bubbles in the cocktail to concentrate which makes the drink hold its carbonation for longer. This is useful because many whiskey cocktails are carbonated such as scotch and soda, and whiskey and ginger ale. The narrowness of the glass also brings the flavors and aromas of your drink to the top of the glass.
The stronger sides and thicker bottom of highballs also prevents the ice cubes from breaking or scratching the glass and insulates the contents of the glass from the heat coming from your hand or surface the glass is resting on. Being tall and thin, the heavier bottom also helps makes highball glasses more stable.
Again, the shape of the highballs is less complex than that of nosing glasses so there’s more room for variation of designs. However, you don’t often find very fancy highball glasses as you do with whiskey tumblers.
Use A Shot Glass When Drinking Shots of Whiskey
When drinking shots of whiskey, you should use a shot glass. Shot glasses are the smallest of all the whiskey glasses. They’re short, narrow, with a thick or heavy flat bottom. They also have no stem or handle.
Now it’s true that whiskey shots are drunk quickly and in one gulp because you’re less interested in its aromas and flavors and more interested in getting alcohol into your body as fast as possible, so you might have thought that it doesn’t matter what whiskey glass you use for that.
However, there’s actually a very good reason to use a shot glass for drinking shots of whiskey which is that they’re made to hold 1fl oz or 1.5fl oz, which are standard amounts for a shot of alcohol. 1.5fl oz of 40%ABV whiskey contains 15 grams of pure alcohol, which, in the US, is one standard drink.
If you drink shots of whiskey from a shot glass you’ll easily be able to keep track of exactly how much whiskey you’ve drunk. And given the purpose of drinking shots of whiskey, that would definitely be something very helpful to do.