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What are Highball Glasses?

Julie Crotty
Julie Crotty

Highball glasses are used typically for tall mixed drinks and can hold between eight and twelve ounces (24 to 35 cL) of liquid. Of the many types of glassware, highball glasses are distinguished by their straight sides and can have a flat base or a footed stem. Highball glasses are smaller than Collins or Zombie glasses, but larger than the Delmonico glasses. Highball glasses are similar in shape to the Collins glass and hold the same amount of liquid, but the Collins glass is narrower than the highball glass. Highball glasses are versatile and can be interchanged with the Collins glass, and like other stemware, can also be used to serve beer or soda. In different geographical areas, highball glasses are also known as a slim jim or a cooler.

Highball glassware is a staple in any collection of cocktail glasses and can be used for drinks such as a Salty Dog, Colorado Bulldog, Vodka and Cranberry, or the ever popular Whiskey Sour. A traditional highball drink is made using one shot of rye whiskey over ice, filling the remainder of the highball glass with ginger ale. The term highball refers to a family of mixed drinks that have a high proportion of mixer to alcohol. Traditionally a highball drink is served over ice and made up of one liquor and one mixer such as water or a carbonated drink. Optional garnish such as a slice of lemon, lime, or orange may be added.

Cranberry juice in a highball glass.
Cranberry juice in a highball glass.

The exact origin of the highball name is still unclear, however, Patrick Duffy, a New York barman, claimed that he invented the highball in 1895. Other references indicate the highball term didn’t surface until approximately 1898. The highball glass was named as such because railroad practices in the 19th century included raising a ball on a pole to indicate to a passing train driver that he needed to speed up and move quickly. The highball drink is served quickly, hence the name. The day of time the drink is consumed may also explain the highball name. A cocktail is enjoyed during the evening hours before dinner, and a highball consumed in the afternoon when the sun is still high.

Water in a highball glass.
Water in a highball glass.

The highball glass tumbler, like other glassware, comes in a few different styles. Most bars and restaurants will serve drinks in a clear, plain highball glass, but hand-painted and tinted highball glasses are also available for the personal bar collection.

Discussion Comments


@amysamp - I don't know why I remember these things as I am actually not that much of a traditionalist, but here goes:

The first year anniversary is clock.

The second year anniversary is china.

The third year anniversary is crystal/glass.

So you can either wait till year three to give your friends the crystal highball glasses or you can break tradition if it is not their third anniversary! Rules are made to be broken, right?


I was thinking of giving a crystal highball glass to my friends for their wedding anniversary gift, but I can't remember what year it is that crystal is supposed to be given...

I was in their wedding and thought they would love to have some highball glasses as gifts because they had their signature drink, Whiskey Sours, served in highball glasses at their wedding.


I was looking for drinking glasses to use for Mint Juleps - the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby - for my next Derby party.

I think highball glasses, especially plastic highball glasses will be perfect. I know the plastic doesn't fit the fanciness of the Derby, with all the dressed-up celebrities, fancy hats, and other fanfare. But the plastic is for the possible breakage in the case of over-theatrical cheering - since there is usually small bets made on the races, glasses have been known to be knocked over when someone finds out their horse won!


My mother got my husband and I the best wedding gift. We got married at Swan Lake with actual swans swimming about gracefully on the water as a backdrop to the ceremony. We had our reception at the Swan Lake Event Center, so it was perfectly fitting that she got us engraved highball glasses that featured swans.

The glasses are clear so as not to take away from the design. Two engravings adorn the glasses. Half of them have the design of a single swan sitting, and the other half have two swans sitting with their heads bowed and touching.

These glasses are so beautiful that I can’t bear to let anyone else use them for fear that they will be broken. My husband and I use them when we have date night and on our anniversary. The rest of the time, I keep them in the curio cabinet on display.


I saw the coolest highball glasses while shopping for dishes the other day. I had to have them, and I just tried them out last night when I had friends over.

The glasses are transparent green. They have round glass pieces made onto the surface of the bottom half. These pieces look like raised bubbles. Since cold drinks like the ones we were having cause condensation on glasses that can make them hard to grip, these glass bubbles were a wonderful idea. They make the glasses so easy to hold onto, and they add such an interesting visual aspect to otherwise ordinary glasses.

Because they are green like a Spite can, I like to serve Sprite in them. I like to mix white wine with Sprite and drink it from my bubbly highball glass.


I keep highball glasses on hand for parties, but I also use them for children's drinks on hot days. I like to stick them in the refrigerator for extra coolness.

When I throw pool parties, everyone likes to bring their children. So, I use the glasses for daiquiris for the adults and non-alcoholic mixed drinks for the kids.

A favorite among children is the lemonade slushie. I make regular lemonade, but I put it in the blender with ice and turned it into slush. I am very meticulous about keeping the adult drinks separate from the kids drinks, though. Because the drinks themselves look just alike, I use pink-tinted highball glasses for the children and clear ones for the adults.


My sister lives four hours away from me, but she comes for a visit around Christmas. We both like to drink mixed drinks in highball drinking glasses, though we differ slightly on our ingredient preferences. She likes to mix hers with Diet Dr. Pepper, and I prefer Coke.

I noticed one day while listening to the radio and staring at the blinking lights on the Christmas tree that no matter what song is on or what setting the lights are on, they blink in time to the music. I thought that was the coolest thing, so I told my sister. We got out the highball glasses, poured our drinks, and sat back to watch them. Sure enough, every song went with the lights. This phenomenon is even more enjoyable with drinks.

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    • Cranberry juice in a highball glass.
      By: Galina Mikhalishina
      Cranberry juice in a highball glass.
    • Water in a highball glass.
      By: Elenathewise
      Water in a highball glass.
    • A jigger is used to measure alcohol to make highball cocktails.
      By: karandaev
      A jigger is used to measure alcohol to make highball cocktails.
    • Some mixed drinks are served in a highball glass.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      Some mixed drinks are served in a highball glass.
    • Beer is sometimes served in a chilled highball glass.
      By: BRAD
      Beer is sometimes served in a chilled highball glass.