how to use drinking glasses

Glasses Etiquette 8 Rules: How To Use Drinking Glasses Right

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About this micro-class

Glass etiquette is the set of rules to properly use or present drinking glasses at the dining table or on any social occasion.

1. Make sure that the glasses are clean​

Storing: Store glassware properly to prevent breakage and contamination. Glasses should be stored upright to allow proper airflow.

Inspecting: Glasses should always be clean and free from any spots or smudges. Inspect glasses before placing them on the table to ensure they meet cleanliness standards. Glasses should be polished before use to ensure they are crystal clear and free from any watermarks or streaks.

Handling: Handle glasses by the stem or base. Avoid touching the rim or the inside of the glass. This prevents fingerprints and smudges on the drinking surface.

Managing complaints: If a guest makes a remark about the glassware, such as chips, stains, or lipstick marks, replace the glass.

2. Set glasses according to the table etiquette​

Placing glasses: Place the drinking glasses on the top-right side of each setting, slightly above the position of the plate and the knives. Ensure that glasses are evenly spaced and aligned.

One glass per beverage: The traditional glasses for a meal are tumblers for water and soft drinks, and wine glasses for wine. If you are hosting, provide a clean glass for each beverage you will serve.

3. Present glasses in the ideal condition​

Temperature: Ensure that glasses are at the appropriate temperature for the beverage being served. For instance, wine glasses for red wine should be at a slightly warmer temperature than those for white wine.

Unused glasses: Empty glasses that are not going to be used should be promptly cleared from the table. Check frequently for empty glasses and remove them discreetly.

Damaged glasses: If a guest breaks or chips a glass, promptly replace it with a clean, identical glass.

4. Drink only one beverage with each glass​

Use each glass for only one type of beverage. Do not use the same glass for water and a soft drink or wine.

Similarly, use each glass only for one wine. If you change the wine, change the glass too. Do not use the same glass for more than one wine, even if the wine is of the same color or type.

5. Use the right glass for each beverage

Water and soft drinks

Tumblers are the most appropriate glasses for water and soft drinks. The typical size is around 25 cl (8.5 oz).


Use stemmed glasses or chalices for wine. The typical size is between 25 and 35 cl (8.5 and 12 oz).

Larger glasses with a wide belly are for red wine to let it breathe. The glasses for white wine or rosé wine usually have a smaller belly.

Place wine glasses on the right side of the water glasses. If both red and white wine are served, the larger glass is always for red wine, the smaller glass is for white or rosé wine.

Champagne and sparkling wines

Drinks other than water and wine should be served in special glasses. In the absence of the most appropriate special glasses for a given beverage, it is acceptable etiquette to use other traditional glass types.

Champagne glasses: Champagne is usually served in champagne glasses. The two types of glasses appropriate for champagne are flutes and narrow coupes or saucer-shaped. Flutes are the most popular as they keep the champagne bubbles for longer.

Prosecco glasses: The ideal glasses for Prosecco or other sparkling wines are regular white wine glasses.

Dessert wines, brandys, and whiskeys

Use small glasses for dessert wines or liquors. 

Brandys are usually served in balloon glasses. 

Whiskeys are usually served in tumbler glasses.


Cocktail glasses vary based on the spirits used in the cocktail. Martinis are often served in triangular stemmed glasses, and Bloody Marys in large tumblers.

6. Hold stemmed glasses by the stem​

Hold flutes and wine glasses by the stem, to avoid warming the wine with your hand. It is against etiquette to hold wine glasses by the belly.

Conversely, you should hold balloon glasses for brandy by the belly and not by the stem. The warmth of the hand should warm the spirit and allow it to release its aroma.

7. Fill glasses with the appropriate quantity of liquid

Avoid overfilling glasses

Do not overfill glasses. You should leave enough room for the liquid to breathe and prevent spills. 

Fill water and soft drinks glasses slightly over half a glass. 

Wine glasses should be filled slightly over one-third.

Offer to refill

Offer to refill your guests’ glasses, especially for water or wine, without being overly intrusive.

Pay extra care when pouring alcoholic drinks. Overfilling someone’s glass with an alcoholic drink may be misinterpreted and considered offensive.

Serve beverages from the guest's right side

Right-hand side: When serving beverages to other guests, serve from the guest’s right side to avoid crossing the person. 

Avoid touching the glass: When pouring beverages, the bottle or container should not touch the glass.

Hold the bottle by the body or bottom: When pouring a beverage, do not hold the bottle by its neck. Instead, hold it by its body or bottom.

8. Do not drink with food in your mouth​

Either eat or drink

Drink only when you have no food left in your mouth. Do not drink and eat at the same time. 

Similarly, do not drink a beverage to wash food down.

Avoid leaving marks on the glass

Before drinking, ensure that your lips are not greasy or oily, to avoid leaving a mark on the glass. You can discreetly and gently pat your lips with your napkin. 

If you wear lipstick or lip balm, limit the contact between your lips and the surface of the glass. Alternatively, remove your lipstick before starting the meal. 

Similarly, avoid touching the glasses with greasy or soiled fingers.

Drinking glass etiquette worst mistakes​

The worst mistakes in glass etiquette concern cleanliness and hygiene. Avoid:

  • Presenting unclean glasses.
  • Touching the rim or the inside of a glass with your fingers.
  • Soiling glasses with your lips or fingers.

Other common mistakes that make you look impolite and can upset your guests are:

  • Overfilling glasses.
  • Drinking with food in your mouth.
  • Using the same glass for more than one beverage.
  • Not holding a wine glass by the stem.

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