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What is a Martini Glass?

By G. Melanson
Updated May 16, 2024
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A subtype of cocktail glass, the martini glass is distinguished by its v-shaped cup, long stem, and circular base. Although the shape of a martini glass is distinctively ornate, it was mainly designed to be functional, as the stem prevents the person holding the glass from warming the drink with their hands. The cone shape of the martini glass prevents the ingredients of a martini: gin and vermouth, from separating; and also displays the onion, olive, cherry, or lemon rind that often garnishes the traditional martini. The size of a martini glass can affect the quality of the drink, according to some drink aficionados who consider the four-ounce glasses ideal for the drink’s ingredients, versus the six-ounce glasses often used by bartenders.

In popular culture, the martini glass has been associated with fictional film icon, James Bond, as well as martini-loving public figures such as Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, Alfred Hitchcock, and Winston Churchill. Because of its association with celebrities and the resurgence of “Old Hollywood” glamor, the martini glass has become an icon of refinement and sophistication. Today, several bars and cocktail lounges have martini menus which feature a wide selection of fruit-flavored variations of the drink. However, many martini purists consider these drinks a poor substitute for the traditional martini, which is sometimes created using little or no vermouth in bars to keep costs low.

During the latter-part of the twentieth century, the martini glass became more decorative, and today comes in various colors and designs. Some martini glasses feature decoratively stacked glass beads or gemstones on the stems, which are known as "pillar stems." The town of Vizovice in the Czech Republic has a group of artisans that specialize in hand-blown martini glasses and other stemware. Fine gin company, Bombay Sapphire, held a martini glass design competition in 2008. The winner, Brooklyn artist, Mia Ferrera Wiesenthal, designed a stemless martini glass called “On the Rocks.”

Due to the martini’s resurgence in popularity, many decorative martini glass accessories have been developed. Stir sticks featuring glass olives or miniature martini glasses at the top have become a popular accessory for the martini glass, as well as stemware charms which are secured to the stem in order to help one identify his or her glass at parties. Martini glass kits have also become a popular gift item, and are sold directly from various brand name gin producers, as well as in the house ware section of several retailers.

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Discussion Comments
By amysamp — On Sep 23, 2011

My roommate and I were looking for new fun drinks to make so we decided to make Fridays, martini Fridays. So we gathered up the essentials, fun martini glasses and a martini glass shaker.

The glasses all had different stems, my favorite was a curvy blue stem, but the different stems were great so that you could always tell which glass was yours.

I highly suggest this for people who like to throw parties, as keeping track of your drink is always a plus.

By snickerish — On Sep 23, 2011

I can tell you what a martini cocktail glass is - a restaurant server's nightmare! I hated those glasses as a server. Just try to carry them on a tray without spilling, I dare you!

However, as a purchaser of martinis, I love the glasses. Without knowing the history of how pop culture icons made these glasses popular, I had always felt that martini glasses were fancy.

I guess it is like wine glasses something about glass and stems, that just ups the ambience a little (even if you are using acrylic martini glasses - which I personally love secondary to the fact you can't break them).

By SZapper — On Sep 23, 2011

@JessicaLynn - Your post made me giggle a little. I'm usually able to keep my martini in my glass but I can see how it might be difficult if you're a little accident prone.

I actually prefer the smaller martini glasses, so it looks like I have good taste according to this article. But actually, I find the bigger martini glasses to be way too heavy to hold for long periods of time. I'm not a very quick drinker, so I end up holding my glass a lot and taking occasional sips.

By JessicaLynn — On Sep 22, 2011

I love the way martini glasses look! I think they look extremely sophisticated and I always feel a little more refined when I'm holding one.

However, that feeling is always brief. I'm prone to spills, and I always end up sloshing some of my martini over the side of the glass. Once I even spilled my whole martini because I was trying to pick my glass up by the stem without looking at it.

I appreciate the fact that the glass prevents me from warming the drink. But it doesn't do me any good if I spill the martini before I get a chance to drink it!

By manykitties2 — On Sep 21, 2011

I have a huge collection of Lolita martini glasses and they make my home bar look pretty stylish if I do say so myself. I like that all of the designs put out are so fun. One of my favorites has to be the martini glass I picked up on girl's only vacation that has numerous stiletto shoes all over it.

I think if you are really into quality painted martini glasses that you'll look into the Lolita collection. While most of their glasses are very feminine and flirty, they do have some that would be suitable for anyone to own. After all, not everyone can appreciate sassy leopard print.

By Sara007 — On Sep 21, 2011

There are some bars that I go to that love to serve quite a few of their cocktails in oversized martini glasses. They even have plastic martini glasses for those folks that are a little too tipsy to be drinking out of anything breakable.

One of my favorite drinks my local bar whips up is a chocolate martini with a bit of chocolate shaving on top, with a little chocolate heart candy added as an accent. It's a delicious drink, and gorgeous to look at.

I actually have fond memories of that drink as it was one of the first ones my boyfriend (now husband) purchased for me when we were first dating.

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