Straight to the Point
We loved the Cocktail Kingdom Leopold Coupe Glass for its vintage, no-nonsense design that made even a 3.5-ounce martini look ample. Of the larger glasses we tried, the Bacador Champagne Coupe balanced sleek design with substance.. Finally, the IKEA Storhet Champagne Coupe was a decent budget offering.
While drinks poured over ice, like an Old Fashioned, work best in short, squat rocks glasses that you can wrap your whole hand around (this warms the drink and helps with dilution), “up drinks” or those served sans ice (like martinis) are a different story. These drinks, which are strained, require a glass with a stem. This keeps your hand well away from the vessel so your body temperature doesn’t warm up the drink and muddy the flavors. There are two basic styles of stemmed glasses: the martini glass and coupe glass. There are good reasons to grab the latter.
Essentially a small, shallow bowl on a stem, the coupe glass originated, by most accounts, in 17th-century England, where it was used for Champagne. When the classic cocktail era came about, the coupe glass was adopted for stronger drinks to great effect.
“Any drink that you’d serve straight up can go in a coupe, shaken or stirred, without any ice,” says New York–based mixologist and beverage consultant Paula Fidler Lukas. This includes martinis, Negronis, and Manhattans.
The roundness of the coupe’s bowl adds an old-timey elegance, but there are also practical reasons to choose a coupe glass over a V-shaped glass. For one, with a V-shaped glass, your hand often wanders up to the angled bowl, which is a natural shape to hold onto. “Coupe glasses fulfill the stemmed aspect such that the drinker’s hand does not warm up the liquid contents,” because you grab the glass by its stem, staying well away from the bowl, explains Frederic Yarm, author, blogger, and general manager at Boston, MA’s Drink, an award-winning cocktail bar. “Coupe glasses also have vertical sides, so they eliminate much of the sloshing of V-shaped cocktail glasses.”
The short of it is, a set of coupe glasses are an essential (and nice-looking) home bar addition. As we discovered during our testing, the best coupe glasses combine elegance and durability; they’re not too gossamer-thin that they seem as if they’d break on contact, but they’re also not too heavy. We also liked glasses that weren’t super large—you’re making a cocktail, not a bowl of soup.
The Winners, at a Glance
The Best Coupe Glass: Cocktail Kingdom Leopold Coupe
Also available at Cocktail Kingdom.
“I prefer a shorter, thicker stem. They’re sturdier and tend to break less,” Lukas says. The Leopold is an exemplar of this genre of coupe. At only six ounces in capacity, this is a small glass, but that makes it just the right size many “up” drinks. Given the thickness of the material, it’s not the most beautiful coupe glasses out there, but it’s durable. It stacks well in the dishwasher, and it fits into nearly any cabinet. Plus, its stem is still long enough that you can still keep your hand shy of the bowl.
The Best Larger Coupe Glass: Bacador Champagne Coupe Glass
Many of the bigger coupe glasses we tried were so thin-walled that we feared breakage over time. Not the Bacador. It’s thinner than the Leopold, but not so thin as to crack in our hands when we wash it. As for its stem, it fits Yarm’s criteria perfectly. As he says, “While a thin stem is elegant, that often shortens the life of a glass through use and washing; therefore, something around 1/4-inch thick is perfect.” Plus, although this is a big one, its tapered bowl helps displace some of the liquid, compensating somewhat for the scant look of a smaller cocktail in a larger glass.
The Best Budget Coupe Glass: IKEA Storhet Champagne Coupe
You simply can’t go wrong with the price of this glass. Its shallow bowl can be a problem if you’re sipping for a very long time, as it tends to dissipate the chill of the drink. However, its ever-so-slightly concave, curved walls help direct the drink’s aroma up to your nose, making for an aromatic sip. And though the stem is rather thick, it actually feels good to grip, and it’s reasonably proportionate to the base and bowl.
- Martini Test: Stir a martini over ice and strain it into the glass to observe its appearance. Taste it to observe aroma and flavor.
- Temperature Test: Take martini’s temperature when poured and 15 minutes later to observe how well it retains its chill.
- Daiquiri Test: Shake a daiquiri over ice and strain it into the glass to observe its appearance. Add a lime wheel to the rim of the glass to observe how it looks and stays. Taste the daiquiri to observe aroma and flavor.
- Cleaning Test: After each test, hand-wash the glass to observe how easy it was to clean as well as durability. We also machine-washed appropriate glasses to observe durability.
What We Learned
Size Mattered, and Bigger Wasn’t Better
If you do a search for vintage coupe glasses online, you’ll find many that are on the smaller side. Though the cocktails of the 1990s were super-sized, pre-Prohibition cocktails were not. Big on flavor and potency but small in measure, they were poured into glasses appropriate to their size. There’s a romantic, old-timey vibe to drinking out of a smaller coupe. Chilled beforehand, a smaller coupe glass helps keep the drink colder longer, too, though a smaller drink will probably be finished before it warms up.
Both the martini and the daiquiri that we made to test the coupe glasses were based on 3-ounce builds. After dilution, they didn’t get over four ounces in size. Poured into a glass twice that size or more, the drinks generally looked too short. With many of the bigger coupe glasses, the lime wheel didn’t even break the surface of the daiquiri when it was propped on the rim, which wasn’t a great look. As Josué Castillo, beverage director for Boston’s Pazza on Porter and Next Door, explains, “I prefer a glass to look full, or people tend to feel it’s short on alcohol.” Cocktail Kingdom’s Leopold Coupe Glass, we found, was truly the ideal size.
Bowl Shape Was More Important than the Stem
A stem is a stem is a stem. Clutching 9 different stems on 9 different glasses, we came to the conclusion that most stems are just fine for the holding, though we did find three possible problems with the stem: 1) It’s so nubby that your hand ends up wedged against the bowl of the coupe glass. That issue did not come up, except in a roundabout way with the Godinger Champagne Coupe (see below), which was unbalanced in all sorts of aspects. 2) The stem is so thick and ungainly in proportion to the base and the bowl, that the glass is out of whack (again, we cite the Godinger). And 3) The stem is so thin that you fear it will break. The Riedel and the Nude Glass threatened such a scenario.
A bigger concern was the shape of the bowl. It’s the bowl that holds the cocktail, and after all, the glass is simply a vehicle for the sip. With a “slightly deep” bowl, “there tends to be less spillage,” says Lukas. The bowls that worked best had high sides that concentrated the liquid’s aroma and sheltered it from maximum exposure to ambient temperature, helping to retain its chill. Bowls that were shallower and wider threatened spills, and they dissipated the chill, warming the martini and daiquiri too quickly. After 15 minutes, the drinks had increased in temperature by nearly 30 degrees; they begged for an ice cube.
A bowl that flared slightly inward concentrated the aroma of the drink best, allowing it to rise upward, which enhanced the flavor of the cocktail. But the biggest concern with the bowl was its size. If it was too big—and many of them were—it dwarfed the cocktail, making it look like a half a drink rather than a whole one. That’s a major disappointment when you’re anticipating a nice, substantial-looking sip.
Elegance Must Be Balanced by Durability
Some of the coupe glasses we tested were so thin-walled, we were afraid they’d crack when washing. While none did, we can’t say if this would be a constant over time. We’d feel insecure using glasses as thin as the Reidel if we were throwing a house party. But some coupe glasses, the Bacador chief among them, bridged the divide between durability and chic with a slightly thinner material and a longer, more slender stem, while still feeling substantial and sturdy.
The Criteria: What to Look for in a Great Coupe Glass
Yarm sums it up nicely with some of his criteria: “I look for elegance in shape, the proper thickness of glass such that it feels good on the lips when sipping, and a nearly vertical lip for both liquid handling and glass sturdiness.” But we’d also add size. You want it not too big that you have to make a monster martini to fill it.
The Best Overall Coupe Glass: Cocktail Kingdom Leopold Coupe Glass
Also available at Cocktail Kingdom.
What we liked: A terrific little workhorse of a coupe glass, the Leopold is just the right size for a 4-ounce cocktail. Its compact bowl holds in the chill, keeping the drink nice and cold for a long time. The steep walls of the bowl—nearly Nick-and-Nora-like—keep your hand well in the clear of warming the drink, even though the stem is short. And there’s less risk of breakage with its thick, squat, yet not inelegant design.
What we didn’t like: If you’re having one of those days when you need a double, this glass won’t work because it’s just too small. It’s so diminutive, in fact, that a lime wheel dwarfs it, looking downright silly on its rim. And it’s not for you if you’re the type that likes your glass bowl butterfly-wing thin.
Price at time of publish: $40.
Key Specs (Per Glass)
- Capacity: 6 ounces
- Stem length: 3.75 inches
- Weight: 4.72 ounces
- Width of glass from edge to edge: 3.25 inches
- Number in set: 6
The Best Larger Coupe Glass: Bacador Champagne Coupe
What we liked: The thickness of the material and the height of the stem toe the line between elegance and sturdiness. You feel sophisticated drinking out of it, but without fear of easily breaking it.
What we didn’t like: You probably want to serve a 6-ounce drink in this one. Though the tapered bowl helps displace some liquid, a 4-ounce pour still looks like someone drank half your daiquiri.
Price at time of publish: $37.
Key Specs (Per Glass)
- Capacity: 11.5 ounces
- Stem length: 4 inches
- Weight: 4.22 ounces
- Width of glass from edge to edge: 4.25 inches
- Number in set: 4
Best Budget Coupe Glass: IKEA Storhet Champagne Coupe
What we liked: For the price, this sturdy, ample glass performed well enough to have us ordering more of them. Though its bowl is larger than others, it’s still shallow enough that the 4-ounce martini and daiquiri we served in it didn’t look too short. The slightly concave sides hold the drink in place nicely; you just don’t have to worry about it sloshing. It might not have kept the drinks as cold as others, but it’s good for bigger parties. With such a sturdy, solid design, including a rather thick stem, you don’t have to worry about breakage (though at this price, it’s not a big deal to replace it).
What we didn’t like: Though the concave sides help funnel the aroma of the cocktail, the wide bowl counteracts that efficiency, and it tends to dissipate the chill of the drink. Also, the thickness of the glass was too much for the lime wheel, which flopped off the rim and into the daiquiri.
Price at time of publish: $4.
Key Specs (Per Glass)
- Capacity: 10 ounces
- Stem length: 3.75 inches
- Weight: 6.67 ounces
- Width of glass from edge to edge: 4 inches
- Number in set: 1
- Riedel Veritas Coupe: Lukas calls Riedel coupe glasses “beautiful.” With their signature, paper-thin crystal with its tall, slender stem, they enhance the look of a home bar. But the bowl was entirely too big and wide to keep a reasonable-sized cocktail cold, and breakage was a risk.
- Barconic Coupe: While these were very sturdy, we found that the bowl was too wide and shallow to keep drinks adequately cold over the 15-minute test interval.
- Libbey Paneled Coupe: If you’re going to go for texture, then you care about looks, so why choose one that looks so machine-made with a seam down the middle of the bowl? The bowl was also too shallow to keep drinks chilly over several sips.
- JoyJolt Bloom Coupe Crystal Glasses: Though we liked how the tulip shape funneled the aroma of the cocktail upwards, our glass cabinets just aren’t tall enough to stow this coupe glass, and the bowl of the glass was so deep that a 3-ounce cocktail looked tiny in it.
- Godinger Champagne Coupe Barware Glasses: It looks more like something you’d use to serve sherbet than a cocktail, and it was so heavy that was cumbersome to use. Plus, there was just nothing elegant about sipping from that extra-thick glass.
- Nude Glass Savage Coupe Glasses: Though it’s not quite as delicate as the Riedel, this glass was tall and thin enough that we were afraid of breaking it during serving or washing. Its bowl was also so shallow that drinks warmed up too quickly in it.
What exactly is a coupe glass and why is it called that?
A coupe glass is a stemmed cocktail glass with a fairly round bowl with straight sides, rather than those angled in a V-shape like a modern-style martini glass. It’s basically a small, wide bowl on a stem. There are a few theories as to its name, but the most probable one is that it is named for the French word for “cup,” which is “coupe.”
What would you ideally use a coupe glass for?
Though originally designed in the 1660s to hold Champagne, the coupe glass isn’t everyone’s favorite for sparkling wine, as the bubbles tend to dissipate quickly in its open bowl. Many argue it’s better, in fact, for cocktails that are served “up,” i.e. without ice. With its old-timey feel, it brings pre-Prohibition-like flare to brandy crustas, sidecars, Manhattans, daiquiris, Negroni variations, and even martinis—particularly ones served small and wet, as they were historically imbibed.
How big is a traditional coupe glass?
Compared to the monstrous, V-shaped martini glasses of the 1990s, vintage coupe glasses are on the smaller side—usually four or five ounces. But the optimal size depends on who’s serving the drinks. Yarm prefers a 5.5-ounce glass “for a 3- or 3.5-ounce build with proper dilution,” he says. Lukas agrees. Castillo likes his glass a bit bigger; seven ounces is his sweet spot. “Anything smaller would be too little for a full cocktail to fit, and anything bigger would make the cocktail look like it’s missing liquid,” he notes.