What is considered a highball glass?

A highball glass is a popular type of drinkware used to serve highball cocktails. Highball cocktails are mixed drinks containing a base spirit and a larger proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer. The highball glass is tailored to properly mix and present these types of drinks. But what exactly constitutes a true highball glass? There are some key features and dimensions to consider when identifying highball glasses.

What are highball cocktails?

Highball cocktails are a broad category of mixed drinks made by combining a base spirit with a larger proportion of non-alcoholic mixer. The mixer is typically a carbonated beverage like soda water, ginger ale or cola.

Some classic highball cocktail recipes include:

  • Gin and tonic – gin + tonic water
  • Whiskey and ginger ale
  • Vodka soda – vodka + soda water
  • Cuba libre – rum + cola
  • Gin rickey – gin + lime juice + soda water

The highball category encompasses many simple, refreshing drinks. The highball glass was designed to accommodate the serving needs of these types of cocktails.

Key attributes of a highball glass

So what are the defining features of a true highball glass? There are a few key attributes:

Tall and slender shape

A highball glass has a noticeably tall and slender shape. It is taller than other cocktail glasses like an Old Fashioned or rocks glass. The height allows for the proper layering of the spirit and mixer with ice cubes. The narrow diameter maintains carbonation and prevents dilution.

Cylindrical walls

The cylindrical, straight walls promote mixing when ingredients are swirled or stirred. This allows the spirit to properly blend with the mixer.

Typically between 8-14 ounces

Highball glasses commonly hold around 8-14 fluid ounces. This capacity comfortably fits most standard highball cocktail recipes in the 6-8 ounce range. The extra room also leaves headspace for ice cubes.

Weight at bottom

Quality highball glasses feel weighty at the bottom. The weighted base lends a sense of balance and stability when holding the tall glass.

Narrow mouth opening

A slightly narrower mouth opening helps maintain carbonation in fizzy cocktails. Wider openings found on beverage glasses can cause drinks to lose their bubbly effervescence quicker.

How highball glasses differ from other cocktail glasses

Comparing highball glasses to other common cocktail glasses helps identify their distinguishing dimensions.

Old Fashioned

  • Short and stout
  • Holds around 6-10 ounces
  • Used for spirits “on the rocks”


  • Short, around 3-4 inches high
  • Holds 8-12 ounces
  • Used for spirits with ice cubes


  • Conical or triangular shape
  • Holds 4-6 ounces
  • Serves martinis “up” without ice

The highball has a distinctly tall and slender profile contrasting with these shorter silhouettes. The long height uniquely accommodates a high pour ratio of non-alcoholic mixer to spirit.

Standard dimensions

While highball glasses come in some variations, there are general standards for an archetypal highball glass:

  • Height: 5-8 inches
  • Diameter: 2-3 inches
  • Thickness: 3-5 mm
  • Capacity: 8-14 ounces

Glasses on the taller end, around 7-8 inches high, are commonly used. Capacity is typically 8-12 ounces. The walls are relatively thin, lending an elegant lightweight feel.

Material choices

Highball glasses are commercially produced in glass, acrylic, plastic, metal and other materials. Each option has its pros and cons:


  • Pros: Classic appearance, durability, seals in coldness
  • Cons: Breakable, heavier


  • Pros: Unbreakable, transparent appearance
  • Cons: Can scratch over time


  • Pros: Inexpensive, extremely durable
  • Cons: Cheap look, insulates less

Stainless steel

  • Pros: Nearly indestructible, well insulated
  • Cons: Heavier, opaque

Glass is the traditional material bringing an elegant, sleek aesthetic. But plastics and metals can prove more durable and practical in many settings.

Etching and design

Many highball glasses incorporate etched, sandblasted or cut designs for decorative flair:

  • Etched patterns – geometric shapes, botanical motifs
  • Engraved monograms
  • Cut crystal faceting
  • Colored tinting
  • Brand logos and lettering

The etching possibilities are endless for putting a unique spin on the glasses. Simple etched bands around the rim or base add subtle embellishment. Elaborately etched Art Deco motifs make a bolder decorative statement.

Where to find quality highball glasses

You can find highball glasses in many retail locations:

  • Barware and drinkware stores
  • Department stores and malls
  • Big box stores
  • Thrift stores and secondhand shops
  • Online retailers like Amazon and Walmart
  • Restaurant and hospitality supply stores

For elegant and durable glasses, check stores specializing in barware and drinkware. Look for brands known for glassware like Libbey, Luigi Bormioli and Schott Zwiesel. For good deals on sets, try big box stores, online marketplaces and thrift shops.

Popular highball glass brands

Some noteworthy brands producing highball glasses include:


– Classic American glassmaker since 1818

– Wide range of affordable, durable glassware

– Popular “Kentfield” highball glass

Luigi Bormioli

– Italian company crafting glass since 1946

– Known for proprietary SON.hyx glass technology

– Laser-cut rims and striking designs

Schott Zwiesel

– German brand designing glass since 1872

– Tritan Crystal glassware resists breakage

– Elegant collections like Pure and Forte


– Centuries-old European glassmaking

– Innovative glass designs and durability

– Specialized beer and whiskey glasses


– Japanese crystal and glassware company

– Creative etched patterns and motifs

– Affordable drinkware sets


– Esteemed Austrian crystal brand since 1756

– Industry leader in glass innovation

– Sophisticated modern and vintage styles

Bormioli Rocco

– Top Italian glass producer since 1825

– Known for delicate Murano glassware

– Elaborate decanters and barware

How to properly care for highball glasses

Caring for highball glasses comes down to a few simple guidelines:

Hand washing

Gently wash glasses by hand using mild dish soap and warm water. Let air dry on a drying rack, do not use harsh scrubbing.

Avoid extreme temperatures

Prevent damage by keeping glasses away from very hot water and freezing temperatures. Allow warm glasses to fully cool before filling with cold liquids.

Store mindfully

Place glasses carefully on secure shelves. Use stemware racks, cabinet liners or dividers to separate and cushion glasses.

Check for cracks and cloudiness

Inspect glasses for any cracks or scratches. Discard extremely cloudy glasses that compromise visibility.

Consider padded travel cases

When transporting or traveling with glassware, use padded carriers for protection. Wrap delicately etched glasses with tissue paper.

Wash all new glasses before use

Wash new glasses in warm, soapy water to remove manufacturing oils and residue before their first use.

Highball cocktail recipes to mix and enjoy

Once you have the right glasses, put them to use by mixing up delicious highball cocktails:

Classic Gin & Tonic

  • 2 oz gin
  • 5 oz tonic water
  • Squeeze of lime
  • Ice cubes
  • Lime wheel garnish

Whiskey Ginger Ale

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 4-5 oz ginger ale
  • Dash of bitters (optional)
  • Lemon wedge garnish

Paloma Cocktail

  • 2 oz tequila
  • 5 oz grapefruit soda
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Lime wedge garnish


  • 2 oz white rum
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • 4 oz soda water
  • Sprig of mint garnish

Tom Collins

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 3 oz club soda
  • Lemon slice garnish

How to layer a proper highball cocktail

Properly layering ingredients is key to a well-balanced highball. Follow these tips:

  • Fill glass halfway with ice cubes
  • Pour in base spirit
  • Add simple syrups or juices
  • Top off with 4-6 oz non-alcoholic mixer
  • Gently stir 3-4 times from top to bottom
  • Add garnish on top or skewered on rim
  • Insert a straw off-centered
  • Enjoy sipping layers seamlessly blending

Layering correctly ensures every sip contains just the right spirit-to-mixer ratio.

Cocktail recommendations for different highball glasses

Tailor your cocktail recipes to the specific glass dimensions:

8-10 ounce glasses

Good for daintier, lower-alcohol cocktails. Try:

  • Gin Spritz
  • Tequila Sunrise
  • Piña Colada
  • Moscow Mule

12-14 ounce glasses

Accommodate easy-drinking, highball standards like:

  • Gin & Tonic
  • Vodka Soda
  • Rum and Coke
  • Whiskey Ginger

16+ ounce glasses

Best for tropical, Tiki-style drinks in abundance. Mix up:

  • Mai Tai
  • Zombie
  • Long Island Iced Tea
  • Hurricane

Scale recipes to the glass volume so cocktails are neither under or overfilled.

Chilling with frosty mugs

For chilled drinks straight from the freezer, look for insulated highball “mugs” made of:

  • Stainless steel
  • Double-walled acrylic
  • Copper-lined interior
  • Thermo plastic

Benefits include:

  • Frosty exteriors with no condensation
  • Maintains cold temperatures
  • No watering down
  • Durable for outdoor use

Fill mugs half full and freeze overnight. Add liquor and mixer just before serving.


In summary, a traditional highball glass is defined by its tall, slender cylindrical shape that allows for properly layering spirits and bubbly mixers with ice. Dimensions typically range from 5-8 inches high with an 8-14 ounce capacity. While glass remains the classic material, acrylic, metal and plastic offer lightweight and unbreakable alternatives. Highball glasses come in a diversity of etched, sandblasted and colored designs. Seek out reputable brands and always hand wash delicate glassware to maintain clarity and brilliance over many years of enjoyable highball cocktail making.

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