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Why are Martini Glasses Shaped Like That?

By Erika Peterson
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are two possible reasons behind the unusual shape of martini glasses. The distinctive shape of the glasses is functional, as well as visually appealing. The wide open brim of the glass is said to produce surface tension that brings out the bouquet of the gin and creates a nicer display of the olive garnish than a standard cocktail glass. The coned shape also keeps the ingredients of the drink from separating. While these facts may be true, many people believe that martini glasses were invented during Prohibition, where the wide mouth made it easier to quickly dispose of the illegal alcohol during a police raid.

Martini glasses have a wide brim and narrow to a point at the base of the bowl. They are part of the large family of cocktail glasses, and they are often used to serve a wide variety of beverages. Martini glasses are undeniably one of the most well known types of cocktail glasses, and their notoriety is as a result of their distinctive shape. They are most well known for their cone-shaped bowl and stem above a flat base. The tip of the cone forms an approximate 90° angle at its cross-section. It differs from other cocktail glasses because of its sharply tapered shape.

A traditional martini is a cocktail containing gin and vermouth. It is usually garnished with an olive or two, though some may prefer a lemon peel instead. The drink, like other cocktails, is served without ice, which allows the stem of the glass to both be visually appealing and have a practical use. The drinker can hold the stem instead of the bowl so that the heat of the hand does not change the temperature of the drink.

The idea side for this glass is 4 ounces (118.2 ml), but they come in various sizes, colors and styles, some of which are more fitted for decoration than for the consumption of a good martini. Those who prefer a more contemporary martini recipe with additional ingredients often use a 6 ounce (177.4 ml) glass. They also come in 8-ounce (236.5-ml) sizes, and recently they have been created in a different style to serve on-the-rocks style martinis.

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Discussion Comments
By anon321856 — On Feb 24, 2013

I had a martini, straight up. It came with three olives, in the four-ounce standard size/shape martini glass.

The martini was $10. On the bill there was an upcharge of $2. We asked our server what the $2 Up! was.

This was her explanation: A drink served straight up and not on the rocks is, basically, a drink. A drink on the rocks is displaced by ice cubes therefore is less of a drink. We thought this quite insane but said nothing. After all, isn't a drink mixed or shaken in a cocktail shaker the same drink - the same size - with the same ingredients, etc.? What does on the rocks or straight up have to do with anything? All help welcome!

By bear78 — On Feb 15, 2013

Just to put another theory out there, the large surface area of a martini glass allows me to smell the martini while drinking it, which actually enhances the flavor!

And like @literally45 said, if your wife asks, it's just one drink!

By literally45 — On Feb 14, 2013

@anon315879-- That's a good point. It may well be.

My theory is that the shape and size was made for the drink. A classic martini is five parts gin to one part vermouth. It is simply stirred and served.

The shape of a martini glass is not only perfect for the amount of alcohol, but it's also very easy to stir in.

I personally prefer large martini glasses, the eight ounce ones. It holds two drinks in one!

By burcinc — On Feb 14, 2013

I highly doubt that the shape of a martini glass has anything to do with Prohibition. It must simply be a functional design.

By anon315879 — On Jan 25, 2013

I always thought that the shape of the glass was ideal for socializing in that it allows you to drink without tipping the glass to steeply. This allows for sipping the drink while conversing with tilting your head back to drink the bottom half of the drink. Just my own thoughts. --Tom

By roxytalks — On Feb 04, 2011

While it may be true that the shape of glasses, for a martini, results in a better quality drink, for reasons such as stopping the separation of ingredients, I'm leaning towards the Prohibition era origins of the glass.

I think it is exactly like human nature to design a drink glass with no intention other that to get away with something that you're not supposed to do!

By anon42238 — On Aug 20, 2009

It is clear to me that the martini glass has two very important, actually more important features that have not been mentioned. Notice first, it is a glass that is used to serve cold drinks initiially made cold by mixing with ice. But, the ice is removed when the drink is placed into the glass. Manhattans have the same style of glass and serving. Here are the key features: one, a stem to keep one's warm hand from further warming the drink; and two, the upside down conical shape. The upside down cone is similar to an upside down pyramid in that is a geometric solid whose filled volume remains geometrically similar as the drink is drained from the glass. However, the conical shape has less surface area than the pyramid for any given and generally similar base surface area and height. Also,the height and top surface area dimensions are proportionally very favorable. Less surface area relates to minimal acquisition of heat i.e. loss of cold. The overall result is that this shape, considering that the glass is thin and has no inherent insulation, is optimal for keeping the drink cold! Try working with the same volume of drink in any other shape, and it will get warm noticeably more quickly!

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