Photo: Courtesy of the retailer
When it comes to glassware, the sexier vessels — a coupe, a flute, a wineglass — seem to get all the glory. But a simple water glass (which can be just as appropriate for juice, wine, iced coffee, or, yes, a G&T) gets used more than any of those options — and is just as worthy of praise. Whether you’re in the market for a basic, stackable matching set or for something bolder to spruce up your dinner table, the choices are many. To help you in your search, we asked 21 of our favorite restaurant, beverage, and interior-design experts how they take their H2O. I’ve also included a few affordable favorites of my own as the Strategist’s unofficial home-bartending expert (if you want to know about the best barware to pair with your new drinking glasses or the bar cart to place them on, I’ve also got you covered).
Material: Drinking glasses come in a variety of materials that will determine both the look and the durability of the vessels, as well as whether they are dishwasher or freezer safe. Our experts agree that while thin glass looks sophisticated, it is more fragile than tempered options. And if you have kids (or are clumsy), opting for practically indestructible acrylic is probably your best bet.
Volume: The amount of ounces each glass can hold will affect more than just how quickly it takes you to reach your daily hydration goal. Aside from aesthetics, the size and volume of the glass will influence what types of drinks you can make. If you plan to use your drinking glasses for highball cocktails, you’ll probably want to stick to tall glasses that are 12 ounces and above, whereas short glasses under eight ounces will be best if you’re partial to a glass of red wine or a neat whiskey at dinner.
Set number: Most of the glasses down below are sold in sets. Your entertaining needs, budget, and the amount of space you have will all determine how many glasses you should purchase. A set of two is great for just you and your roommate, whereas sets in larger increments are great if you’re the entertaining type. We’ve even included a few restaurant-grade styles sold in bulk (that you may want to go in on with a friend or two, since you probably won’t need all 72).
Tempered glass | From 8 3/4 oz | Set of 18
Duralex’s Picardie glasses are a favorite among our panelists. It’s easy to see why: They are available in assorted sizes, so you’ll always have the right one at hand if someone wants water, juice, or a stiffer drink. More important, as Tracie Battle, a senior designer at online interior-design service Havenly, says, their “classic look will never go out of style.” She explains that they are made of thicker tempered glass, which “offers more durability and a more expensive look.” Hudson Wilder founder Conway Liao and author (and former Lucky Peach executive editor) Rachel Khong also swear by these glasses, with Khong saying that her set is “still going strong after many many years.” This 18-piece set includes three sizes and six glasses in each size.
Tempered glass | From 11.6 oz | Set of 16
This set of Dailyware Bodega glasses from Bormiolo Rocco — which includes eight shorter double old-fashioned glasses and eight taller highball glasses — is interior designer Katrina Hernandez’s choice. She uses the glasses in both her house in the country and her Brooklyn apartment. “They’re perfect for water or a cocktail. It’s a set of two sizes, but both are relatively shorter and more modern,” she says. Hernandez adds that they’re thin, but not “scary thin where you feel they could break in your hand at any moment.” She also appreciates the rounded edge of the lip as well. The Bodega is also a favorite style of Julie Mulligan, the owner and designer of cocktail lounge and restaurant Lot 15, because it’s “versatile and low maintenance but still chic.” She says that it’s “great for all kinds of home drinking and serving” and can even be used for displaying flowers. “They have a great smooth lip to drink from and the price is just right,” she adds.
Glass | From 16 1/4 oz | Set of 16
Battle also recommends Libbey’s Polaris glasses for their “super-unique shape,” which has a rounded, weighted base that feels hefty while still being sleek. This set comes with eight drinking glasses and eight smaller rocks glasses, offering the best “bang for your buck, at just over $2 per glass,” she says. They’re BPA-free and dishwasher-safe, too.
Thin glass | 13 oz | Set of 6
If cabinet space is limited, shorter glasses may be the way to go. Both Liao and Amanda Spina, the general manager of Williamsburg’s Four Horsemen restaurant and Nightmoves bar, swear by these shorter, stackable glasses by Japanese company Toyo-Sasaki. “I always want precious, delicate, thin Japanese glassware at the restaurant, but it’s got to be strong enough to fall onto a rubber mat and not break,” says Spina. “And it must be stackable.” These glasses, which are each about four-inches high, tick all those boxes. “They’re a little more unique and contemporary than the ubiquitous Duralex,” she adds, “but just as practical.” Liao agrees, noting their stackable design makes these “perfect for New York apartments.”
Glass | 5 oz | Set of 72
According to Mulligan, Libbey is “an industry standard for style and wearability in the design world.” The petite Esquire side water glass is one of her all-time favorites, and she says that they’re great for the home but also in a restaurant setting. The thin glass, slightly curved shape, and weighted base make it a little more interesting than your standard, straight-sided water glass. Intended for the service industry, these glasses come in a case of 72, which is more than an average household will ever need. But if these appeal to you, consider splitting a case with a family member or friend (or several family members or friends). The cost-per-glass comes out to just a tad over a dollar, which honestly can’t be beat.
Thin glass | 11.6 oz | 1 Count
If you love the delicate look but are on a tighter budget, I swear by these glasses from Canadian homewares brand EQ3 (I was gifted a set of three and plan on buying a few more to round it out to an even six). The glass is whisper thin and has so far withstood both my dishwasher and my clumsy hands.
Thin glass | 11 oz | Set of 8
The CB2 Marta glass has a similar feel as the smaller Bodega glasses above, and comes recommended by Athena Calderone, the founder of lifestyle blog Eye Swoon. She likes that they have “clean, straight lines” and are “made of ultra-thin glass.” She also says that “the price is deceiving — they look and feel far more expensive than they really are,” adding that they’re “definitely a crazy-good bang for your buck.” Not to mention:“They look as good sitting around on the table as they do on open shelving, which is helpful because that’s what I have at home,” Calderone says. Interior and event designer Ken Fulk is also a fan.
Glass | 12 oz | Set of 4
If cabinet space is limited, shorter glasses may be the way to go. I love this handsome set from Our Place that was kindly gifted to me last year — and featured in this year’s print gift guide — because not only are they short, they’re also stackable. Available in sets of four and eight, these heavy-bottomed beauties feel wonderfully hefty in your hand, look more expensive than they are, and are great for drinking everything from water to old-fashioneds to wine. In addition to the clear version shown, they come in five other colors (bonus: If you can’t decide, there are also multicolored sets).
Tempered glass | 7 oz | Set of 6
Mulligan’s go-to “for something clean and classic” are these tumblers from Duralex. She likes that these glasses are stackable, but more importantly, that “they’ve withstood the test of time in my home, which is no easy feat.” Made in France of tempered glass, they’re also dishwasher-, microwave-, and freezer-safe.
Glass | 9 oz | Set of 12
Instead of a glass with straight sides, maybe you’d prefer one that has a tapered V-shape. Paul Malvone, a co-founder of Boston Burger Company, says the style is better for stacking. “At the restaurant, we prefer a 9-ounce old fashioned Endeavor rocks glass,” he says. “They’re a little better-looking than a traditional drinking glass, and are versatile enough for water or a soft drink, or even a hard beverage.”
Glass | 8 oz | Set of 2
Shelley Kleyn Armistead, a partner at Gjelina Group who is in charge of the interior design and tableware at all of its restaurants, is a fan of these simple Riedel water glasses. “I love the silhouette,” she says. “At the restaurants, we actually use them for wine because there’s something about them that feels friendly and approachable, a contrast to how wine is so often served.” Of course, they also work beautifully for water. Not too big and not too small, “they feel like glasses that should be used for daily enjoyment,” as Armistead puts it.
Glass | 12 1/4 oz | Set of 12
“At home, I use these 12-ounce Collins glasses, which are tall and a handsome vessel for cocktails” says Nick Rancone, the owner of the Twin Cities–based Twist Davis Group of restaurants. While they’re nice enough for serving drinks like a Tom Collins, gin fizz, or even a mojito, Rancone likes these because “they’re multipurpose enough to use for just plain water, too. I like that it can do double or triple duty.”
Glass | 16 3/4 oz | Set of 4
Libbey’s highball Impressions glasses hold more fluid than the brand’s shorter Esquire glasses in the section above, but they have a similar curved look and come in a more reasonable quantity (a set of four as opposed to a case of 72). They’re recommended by Decorist interior designer Katy Byrne, who says they’re her top pick for an everyday water glass. “It’s the perfect weight with an elegant detail that not only looks nice but provides the perfect grip spot,” she tells us.
Glass | 16 1/4 oz | Set of 4
These highballs from Luigi Bormioli come recommended by Battle: “This set is minimal in style and works well for several different drinks, whether a simple glass of water or a mint mojito,” she says. Battle adds that they’re also a great choice if you have kids: “They are a more durable option without having to sacrifice the look of glass.”
Acrylic | 12 oz | Set of 4
If you’re looking for something even more durable, Battle says “this is an almost identical alternate to the Luigi Bormiolo Classico glass, but is made of an acrylic that is BPA, Phthalate, lead and latex free.” They’re another great option “if you want the look of glass but don’t want to run the risk of them shattering,” she adds. They’re also available in a smaller “double old fashioned” style and in a turquoise, which she thinks is “great for summer.”
Glass | 9 oz | Set of 36
This stackable highball glass is a favorite of Employees Only co-owner Igor Hadzismajlovic for its convenience. “We use the 9-ounce highball glass by Libbey at home, which is stackable, and is a must for a tiny New York apartment,” he says. “It’s actually the same glass we use at Employees Only, too. They’re thick enough to eliminate breakage, which is especially important for a glass that is most frequently used.”
Recycled glass | 16 oz | Set of 4
Sustainable-living expert Danny Seo, the editor-in-chief of Naturally, Danny Seo magazine, loves these glasses that are made from 100-percent post-consumer recycled glass — or “the stuff you toss out in your recycling bin,” as he puts it. Seo adds that “the organic texture and shape lends well to pairing them with clean modern dinnerware.” And we think the slightly bulbous silhouette is a little more interesting than that of your standard highballs.
Tempered glass | 10 oz | Set of 6
Don’t sleep on Ikea’s kitchen section, particularly when it comes to tableware. Food stylist Judy Kim recommends these ridged glasses, another variation on a simple texture. “They’re so durable,” she says. (Strategist writer Emma Wartzman can attest to this, as she owns a couple of sets and has dropped them with absolutely no breakage on more occasions than she can count.) You can buy them in clear, but “I also love the green-blue color,” Kim says. “They reflect really pretty light all around, especially if you’re outside in the sun.”
Glass | 14 oz | Set of 4
For glasses with a bit more texture, Battle recommends these from Williams Sonoma, which feature a pattern inspired by honeycombs. She thinks they’d work well in “a more eclectic kitchen space.” Made in Italy, they’re also freezer safe, which Battle points out isn’t common. “Pull these out of the freezer in the middle of summer to immediately chill a glass of lemonade,” she says.
Thin glass | 11 oz | Set of 8
Kim also likes these slightly higher-end glasses from CB2, which have a similar design to the Ikea set. “The main difference is that they’re superthin,” she says, “which means you have to be careful when stacking and washing them (though they can go in the dishwasher). But they’re so lightweight to hold and so satisfying to drink out of. It feels like a high-quality glass at a not-crazy price.”
Crystal | 15.2 oz | Set of 4
After years of drinking out of a collection of mismatched glasses, maybe you’re looking to invest in glassware strong enough for daily use but elegant enough for special occasions. According to filmmaker Taylor Steele, the founder of Solento Organic Tequila, a set of these could be just the ticket. “This is a classy glass,” he says. “It’s made from hand-cut crystal, creates beautiful shadows, and is perfect whether you’re sipping water or something a little stronger.”
Glass | 7 oz | Set of 2
Susan Buckley, the vice president of food and beverage operations at Atelier Ace, told us that “this is the classic tumbler we use at Narcissa,” the restaurant at The Standard, East Village. The glasses are V-shaped and therefore stackable, a feature Buckley calls “a plus.” She also adds that they “sit nicely relative to accompanying wine glasses, have a nice feel when you hold them in your hand, and are strong without feeling clunky.” The light blue hue makes them especially memorable. “We’re lucky to have an amazing tabletop stylist who spent hours sourcing these perfect glasses.”
Glass | 10.8 oz | Set of 6
For glasses with even more color options, consider these sets from Italian brand Zafferano, which we heard about from Rebecca Carey, the food-and-beverage director at the Viceroy Chicago hotel (and its restaurant Somerset and rooftop bar Devereaux). “Using their products just makes me happy,” she says. She uses the Veneziano tumblers (in amethyst) at her home and says she gets “a lot of compliments on them.” She’s also used the Perle glasses (in cobalt) at work, calling the style “really striking and special.”
Recycled glass | 3.2 oz | 1 count
“I found these at a shop in Paris,” Kim says, “and I wish I had bought more.” Turns out the store ships internationally — good news for anyone drawn to this classic silhouette and the striking colors. Some are currently sold out, but “you can buy them individually. It would be fun to mix and match the complementary shades,” Kim says.
Recycled glass | N/A | Set of 6
Both Polonsky and Armistead are huge fans of these handblown glasses. “Not only does Salime, the woman who makes them, use recycled glass,” Armistead explains, “but she also powers her ovens with methane that she makes from manure from a local farm (which she then turns into fertilizer to give back to the farm) as well as old, burned cooking oil from local restaurants. When I say it’s a sustainable glass, I really mean it.” (If you’re interested in reading more about the makers, you can do so here.) Polonsky loves how the glasses are slightly imperfect and vary from glass to glass but are all equally satisfying in weight, shape, and size.
—Shelley Kleyn Armistead, partner at Gjelina Group
—Tracie Battle, a senior designer at online interior-design service Havenly
—Susan Buckley, vice-president of food and beverage operations at Atelier Ace
—Katy Byrne, Decorist interior designer
—Athena Calderone, founder of lifestyle blog Eye Swoon
—Rebecca Carey, food-and-beverage director at the Viceroy Chicago hotel
—Ken Fulk, interior and event designer
—Igor Hadzismajlovic, Employees Only co-owner
—Katrina Hernandez, interior designer
—Rachel Khong, author and former Lucky Peach executive editor
—Judy Kim, food stylist
—Conway Liao, Hudson Wilder founder
—Paul Malvone, co-founder of Boston Burger Company
—Julie Mulligan, owner and designer of cocktail lounge and restaurant Lot 15
—Anna Polonsky, founder of food-focused strategy-and-design consultancy Polonsky & Friends
—Nick Rancone, owner of restaurant group Twist Davis Group
—Danny Seo, editor-in-chief of Naturally, Danny Seo magazine and sustainable-living expert
—Amanda Spina, the general manager of Williamsburg’s Four Horsemen restaurant and Nightmoves bar
—Taylor Steele, founder of Solento Organic Tequila
—Dominique Pariso, Strategist writer
—Emma Wartzman, Strategist writer
With additional reporting by Samuel Anderson, Lauren Ro, and Emma Wartzman.
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