Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez
There is no scene in the world of drinking as iconic as watching someone order a whiskey—neat. The bartender reaches below the counter, pulls out a stout cylindrical glass, sets it on the bartop right in front of a thirsty customer, and proceeds to pour a few ounces of bourbon or scotch. It’s an enduring image that has been depicted countless times in movies and television.
At the center of that scene is the rocks glass. Also referred to as a whiskey glass, an old-fashioned glass, a tumbler, or a lowball, this simple and versatile piece of glassware is a must-have for any aspiring home mixologist or spirits enthusiast. “They’re kind of a straight-forward everything glass,” says Jason Valdez, General Manager at Los Angeles whiskey and cocktail bar Wolf & Crane. Beyond neat pours of whisky, rocks glasses are used to serve a plethora of both classic and modern cocktails (like the Penicillin). And they aren’t exclusive to whiskey either—they’re great for serving whatever spirit you prefer.
For such a simple design, the market is flooded with an overwhelming selection of different rocks glasses—a quick Amazon search returns over 3,000 results. After getting some advice from Valdez, we rigorously tested 13 of the most popular and highly regarded sets of glasses to find out which were the best. After a few dozen pours of whiskey, here’s what we found.
The Winners, at a Glance
These Dorset rocks glasses were compact, sturdy, and just the right size for enjoying a typical two-ounce pour.
The stout design and wide mouth make these rocks glasses from Reidel ideal for enjoying a pour of whiskey on a big chunk of ice. Their capacity (13 ounces) also allows for serving cocktails like the old fashioned and negroni.
When it comes to serving a variety of cocktails, capacity is key. These 13-ounce double old-fashioned glasses from Spiegelau have the size and design ideal for building an old-fashioned right in the glass or for any drink served on the rocks.
Serious Eats / Amanda SuarezSize and Capacity Test: We measured the height and radius as well as the weight of each glass. When handling the glasses, we evaluated weight distribution and balance. We also noted the stated capacity of each glass and how well single pours (neat and on the rocks) and cocktails fit in each glass.Design Test: When assessing each whiskey glass, we noted any design choices that may affect usability or desirability. Many glasses have engravings and other ornamental designs or heavily weighted bottoms. Although most design nuances are purely aesthetic, some can affect the usability of a glass.Neat Pour Test: Using each glass, we sipped a 2-ounce pour of whiskey served neat. With each glass, we evaluated design features like the rim, weight of the glass, grip, and overall comfort of drinking from it.On the Rocks Test: In each glass, we poured two ounces of whiskey over a single, large ice cube. While sipping, we noted how well the ice and whiskey fit in the glass, if the glass was able to keep the drink sufficiently cool, and if any design characteristics affected usability.Old-Fashioned Test: With the best-performing glasses from the previous tests, we made an old-fashioned cocktail in each one. For each old-fashioned, we built the cocktail in the glass, meaning we mixed all of the ingredients with ice in the glass the drink was served in. For this test, we noted how easy it was to make and stir each cocktail and if there were any issues with the capacity.Cleaning Tests: After each test, we hand-washed every glass with dish soap and water and then dried and polished it with a dish towel. We evaluated how easy each glass was to clean and if any design features made cleaning difficult.
What We Learned
Minor Design Differences Impacted Performance
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez
Part of what makes rocks glasses such a versatile and useful piece of glassware is their simplicity. There aren’t many ways to improve upon or change the design without making it a different type of glass entirely. Because of this, there wasn’t a ton of variation between the glasses, though there were minor design nuances (mainly size and shape) that affected performance and what role each glass was best suited for. Weight and weight distribution also played a role in how pleasant each style of glass was to use. For standard rocks glasses, the sweet spot was around nine to 11 ounces and for double old-fashioned glasses, we preferred a weight of around 12 to 14 ounces.
What Size Rocks Glass Was Best?
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez
It’s important to consider what you intend to use the glasses for before purchasing a set. Smaller rocks glasses (around the 6- to 7-ounce range) put our noses closer to the spirit, making it easier to enjoy its aroma. But smaller glasses don’t usually have the capacity for full-sized cocktails. The larger 10- to 14-ounce double old-fashioned glass can accommodate the volume of a plethora of cocktails, but standard 2-ounce neat pours were dwarfed by the higher walls, and the aroma was harder to discern.
Durability and Longevity
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez
When investing in any glassware, durability and longevity should be a consideration. Glass, in particular, can break easily and create a safety hazard when cleaning up. To avoid chipping, cracking, or shattering, thicker glass is the way to go. Thin glassware needs to be handled with more care when using and cleaning.
Thick glass has an added bonus if you’re serving a drink on the rocks. “The thicker the glass is, the more slowly your drink will dilute,” Valdez says. Thicker walls also help to balance out the weight of rocks glasses with thicker bases. However, if the glass is too thick, it can feel cumbersome and clunky. Essentially, you want glassware that strikes a balance—not too thick nor too delicate.
Cylindrical vs. Tapered Glasses
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez
The shape of the whiskey glass can affect both functionality and appearance. Cylindrical glasses with straight vertical walls performed best in our rocks and the old-fashioned tests. When building a cocktail in the glass, straight walls help facilitate an even rate of stirring which allows for more control over chilling and dilution. When serving whiskey on a large block of ice, we found that glasses with tapered sides and wider bases made the drink look a bit awkward and unbalanced as well, but non-standard shapes work just fine with neat pours given they aren’t too large.
The Criteria: What to Look for in Whiskey Glasses
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez
Our favorite whiskey glasses all hit on the same criteria. First, the best glasses were sturdy and balanced. Thicker glass walls and a thick base ensure that the glass won’t chip or break as easily, but glass walls that were too thick felt clunky. Glasses with heavier bases stood up well to muddling ingredients and made the glass more difficult to tip over. Our favorite glasses also had straight sides that were at an approximate 90-degree angle from the base. While certain designs with angled or curved sides can be attractive with neat pours, they aren’t the most practical when adding ice or mixing. We also enjoyed drinking from glasses that had an even weight distribution and felt balanced in the hand.
The Best Whiskey Glasses
What we liked: The Dorset Single Old Fashioned glasses were the best choice for enjoying a neat pour of whiskey. It has a simple and elegant cylindrical design that does a great job of showcasing the liquid it holds. The size and capacity make it so that a standard 2-ounce pour fills about one-third of the glass. The thick base and solid walls feel balanced and sturdy and the glass feels comfortable and nice in the hand.
What we didn’t like: The biggest downside with the Dorset glasses is the price. At about $120 for a set of four, it’s one of the more expensive sets we tested. Although this glass works perfectly for neat pours, its capacity and width make for a tight fit when it comes to cocktails and any drinks with ice.
Price at time of publish: $120 ($30 per glass).
Dimensions: 3.5 inches high; 3 inches in diameterCapacity: 7 ouncesMaterial: Lead-free crystalCare instructions: Hand washSerious Eats / Amanda Suarez
What we like: Reidel is an Austrian glassmaker that is renowned for their elegant wine glasses. When it comes to their line of cocktail glasses, they maintain the same standard of quality. The Reidel Rocks Glass is a simple and classy glass that’s perfect for a pour of whiskey on the rocks. The glass is almost as wide as it is tall, which makes it ideal for a single large cube or sphere of ice. The 10-ounce capacity also means it can easily fit a lower-volume cocktail served with ice like the old-fashioned or negroni. It feels sturdy and balanced and it is not easily tipped over.
What we didn’t like: The only downside here is the capacity. Though the shape and 10-ounce capacity is perfect for sipping a spirit on the rocks, it doesn’t quite have the same versatility in serving higher-volume cocktails that you find in a double old-fashioned glass.
Price at time of publish: $30.
Dimensions: 3.27 inches high; 3.23 inches in diameterCapacity: 10 ouncesMaterial: GlassCare instructions: Dishwasher safeSerious Eats / Amanda Suarez
What we liked: If you are looking for a set of whiskey glasses for cocktails, you can’t do much better than these double old-fashioned glasses from German glassmakers Spiegelau. With a large, 13-ounce capacity, sturdy base, and thick, straight sides, these glasses hit the mark on every possible criterion. The etchings on the side are stylish, minimal, and modern, which works for multiple styles of cocktails. The large capacity gives this glass even more versatility, allowing home mixologists to serve drinks over pebble ice on the rocks. When testing, we even made a few mai tais with this glass just to verify its versatility (and because they’re delicious).
What we didn’t like: This double old-fashioned glass works great for cocktails that utilize various styles of ice, but its size isn’t ideal for the standard 2-ounce neat pour. Some drinkers may also prefer a more classic aesthetic with traditional etchings instead of the minimalist design of the Spiegelau glasses.
Price at time of publish: $40.
Dimensions: 4 inches high; 2.8 inches in diameter Capacity: 13 ouncesMaterial: GlassCare instructions: Dishwasher safeSerious Eats / Amanda Suarez
MacLean Double Old-Fashioned Glasses: These double old-fashioned glasses were well-built, but the weight distribution felt a bit off and unbalanced.Riedel Spey Double Old-Fashioned Glasses: This set from Reidel was the runner-up for our top pick for cocktails. We ultimately chose the Spiegelau because it was slightly wider and had a more minimal design, but you likely won’t be disappointed with these.Williams Sonoma Reserve Old Fashioned Glasses: These stylish glasses work great when serving a spirit neat, but the rounded shape isn’t the best for accommodating a large piece of ice or serving a cocktail.Estelle Hand-Blown Colored Rocks Glasses: We found these thick-based glasses to be too heavy and a bit cumbersome, though well-made. The tinted glass also affects the color of the spirit or drink in the glass, which could potentially be discouraging.Kanars Old-Fashioned Whiskey Glasses: These glasses are very affordable, but we found them to be a bit too thick and clunky with a lower-quality build.Libbey Rocks Glasses: These low-profile and affordable glasses have a straightforward design and perform well, but with an 11-ounce capacity, it’s not quite as versatile as other double old-fashioned glasses and we preferred the lower profile of the Reidel rocks glass.Zwiesel Glas Pure Double Old-Fashioned Set: These unique and stylish glasses work well with neat pours, but the rounded sides and wider base aren’t the most amenable for building a cocktail in the glass. Anchor Hocking Old-Fashioned Whiskey Glasses: For whiskey served over a rock or neat pours, these hefty glasses from Anchor Hocking will definitely do the trick. We just preferred the lower walls and slightly thinner glass of the Reidel glasses.Godinger Dublin Double Old-Fashioned Glasses: Out of all of the rocks glasses we tested, this was the only set where it felt like the large and pronounced etchings impacted the drinking experience. Marquis by Waterford Double Old-Fashioned Set: These classic-style glasses were well made, but they were a bit more top-heavy than the other glasses in this style we tested.
What is a rocks glass?
The rocks glass is a short, cylindrical glass that is also referred to as a tumbler, an old-fashioned glass, and a lowball glass. It’s commonly used both to serve spirits neat (without ice or mixers) or with ice and typically holds about six to eight ounces of liquid.
What is a double old fashioned glass?
A double old-fashioned glass is a whiskey glass that has about double the capacity as the standard size. This size and style of glass is usually better suited for serving higher-volume cocktails or drinks that are served on a large block of ice. Double old-fashioned glasses usually have a capacity of 10 to 14 ounces.
Which cocktails can be served in a rocks glass?
The rocks glass is one of the most versatile pieces of glassware behind the bar. It’s best known for being the style of glass used for serving the old-fashioned cocktail, but it can also be used to serve other popular cocktails such as the negroni, margarita, and mai tai.
How do you smoke a glass for an old-fashioned?
Smoking old-fashioned cocktails has become a popular way to add a bit of smoky aroma and flair to a timeless classic. To add a whiff of smoke to your drink, you’ll need a cocktail smoker. There are a few different styles available, so check out our guide to the best cocktail smokers to find out which are worth investing in.
Why We’re the Experts
For this review, we tested 13 whiskey glasses—drinking spirits from them neat, over ice, and in a cocktail. Dylan Ettinger is a contributor with more than a decade of experience working in the specialty coffee industry. He also specializes in writing about cocktails and the spirit industry. For this review, we interviewed Jason Valdez, General Manager at Los Angeles whiskey and cocktail bar Wolf & Crane.