Modern Mixing Glass
This style was popularized by Cocktail Kingdom. It is fashioned in the style of a Japanese mixing glass like many of their bar tools, and designed with the ergonomics of stirring and straining cocktails in mind. Now, just about all mixing glasses are constructed this way. These are their primary benefits:
A wider, heavier base, which keeps the glass firmly in place when stirring.
Straight edges which are more conducive to stirring, particularly for beginner stirrers.
A pour spout for, well, pouring.
Etched designs that make the glasses easier to grip, particularly if your hands are wet, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that they're also gorgeous. The most common etching is an angular cross pattern, but more variations are popping up all the time.
Larger Mixing Glass Options
The other potential advantage of the modern mixing glass is the different capacity options. They generally range from 17 oz - 28 oz, and some are even larger, which enables you to stir 2, 3, 4 or even more drinks at a time.
2. Large Mixing Glasses - It's mainly a question of how big you want to go. This is just a sampling, there are many other options and designs available, from Cocktail Kingdom and elsewhere.
Standard 16 oz Pint Glass
No frills, it just gets the job done. Despite the rise of the modern mixing glass, a lot of bartenders still use these, myself included. In fact, I prefer using them when I’m busy because they take up less space. Other benefits: they're a fraction of the price of a modern mixing glass, and can also function as the glass half of a two-piece, glass on tin Boston shaker, if you're going that route.
This will generally only fit one drink at a time, which could be a problem at home when you're mixing for a group, or even just two. But in bars, where you’re making more single servings of drinks, that isn't an issue.
1. Yarai 17 oz Mixing Glass - Cocktail Kingdom’s initial flagship mixing glass is the Yarai (pronounced yar-eye) which refers to the diamond cross pattern. They start at $32, but you’ll find some very similar emulations on Amazon for around $15. You can peruse more of Cocktail Kingdom's wide and very handsome mixing glass selection here.
The "seamless" option means there's no glass seam running down the side. It costs about $10 more and personally I think it's worth it. It's more elegant looking and provides a smoother, quieter stir.
Despite its generic sounding name, a mixing glass is primarily used for stirring cocktails ("stirring glass" would probably be a better name, but I don't make the rules).
The Evolution of the Mixing Glass
The general blueprint of the mixing glass has evolved in the wake of the cocktail revival over the last decade and a half. They used to be nothing more than standard 16 oz pint glasses, which are still a completely dependable and more affordable option. But a new modern style of mixing glass has emerged, which has a more ergonomic design and is covered with beautiful, cut glass etchings. These are all the rage with bartenders, professional and home alike, and are naturally, more expensive. In fact, the price range for mixing glasses is wider than any other standard bar tool.
But choosing a mixing glass isn't just a choice between a cheap, but plain looking pint glass and a pretty but significantly pricier modern mixing glass. Size is important too. Most mixing glasses only fit one cocktail. But some modern mixing glasses are built to fit multiple drinks. So depending on the number of guests you’re typically fixing up rounds for, that may factor in as well.
Mixing Glass Substitute
As long as it’s round and holds at least twelve ounces, it'll work fine. For the modern mixing glass you can also use a laboratory beaker or the glass part of a French coffee press. They're composed almost identically, just without the heavy base.
You can find these almost anywhere; there aren’t any stylistic variations between them. Just be sure to get one that's on the thicker side, with tempered glass so that it doesn't crack in the face of extreme temperature changes.
Vintage Mixing Glass
These relics from the 1950s and 60s cocktail hour age are wonderful pieces for any bar, home or otherwise. Most of them are essentially composed like a pint glass, though they vary in size, generally from 16 - 24 ounces. If you can find it, I recommend getting a larger one, they are great for entertaining.
Of course, the real draw with these is the bright art deco decals with various depictions of roosters (as in "cock" tail), glassware and best of all, old cocktail recipes. Somehow, imagining a person following that same recipe some decades past to fix themselves a drink, always warms my heart.
Why a Mixing Glass?
You can, of course, stir a cocktail in just about anything - a rocks glass, a metal shaker tin - it won't necessarily change how the drink tastes. But mixing glasses have their advantages. They’re sturdier, so they won't tip over as easily. They have less friction than metal, which provides a smoother and more fluid stir. This is ideal for what I call the "professional stir," (which you can learn all about on the Stirring page). It's not entirely necessary for home bartenders but looks very cool. Speaking of looks, the final feather in the mixing glass' cap is their appearance. I'd go as far to say that many of the modern incarnations are among the most beautiful of all cocktail tools.
Where to Purchase
No one is making these now, though a man wonders when Pottery Barn will start manufacturing replicas (at the time of writing, the 6th season of Game of Thrones is airing). But finding one shouldn't be too hard. Look on sites like eBay and Etsy (try various searches for "vintage /antique - cocktail shaker/mixing glass"). They're also surprisingly common at antique stores at great prices, for now anyway. And who knows, maybe there's one hiding in your parents' or grandparents' cupboard.