What is a Collins Glass? Everything You Need to Know

Ever wondered why some cocktails taste better in certain glasses? Let me introduce you to the Collins glass, a staple in any well-stocked bar. This tall, narrow glass isn’t just for show; it plays a crucial role in enhancing your drink experience.

Named after the classic Tom Collins cocktail, the Collins glass typically holds between 10 to 14 ounces. Its unique shape helps maintain the effervescence of carbonated mixers, making it perfect for drinks that need a bit of fizz. Whether you’re a casual drinker or a cocktail enthusiast, understanding the importance of the Collins glass can elevate your mixology game.

Key Takeaways

  • Versatile Drinkware: The Collins glass is ideal for a variety of cocktails and beverages, including effervescent drinks, layered cocktails, mocktails, and more.
  • Unique Design: Its tall and narrow shape helps preserve the effervescence of carbonated mixers, enhancing the drinking experience.
  • Capacity and Aesthetic: Typically holding between 10 to 14 ounces, the Collins glass accommodates ample ice and mixers, offering an appealing presentation.
  • Historical Significance: Named after the Tom Collins cocktail, the glass has been a bar staple since the mid-19th century for drinks needing carbonation.
  • Comparison with Highball Glass: Despite similarities, Collins glasses are taller and better suited for fizzy drinks, while highball glasses are wider and often used for simpler mixed drinks.
  • Care and Maintenance: Proper cleaning, drying, and careful handling can preserve the longevity and appearance of Collins glasses, ensuring continued use.

Understanding the Collins Glass

Origin and History

The Collins glass traces its origin to the mid-19th century. Named after the Tom Collins cocktail, this glass gained popularity in the United States. The Tom Collins, a gin-based drink, was first mentioned in a 1874 edition of the New York Herald. Bartenders found that the tall, narrow structure of the glass enhanced the presentation and kept carbonated drinks fizzy longer. Over time, the Collins glass became a staple in bars and restaurants, especially for fizzy cocktails.

Unique Features and Design

The Collins glass stands out due to several key features. Typically, it holds between 10 to 14 ounces (295 to 414 milliliters). Its tall and narrow design helps preserve the effervescence of carbonated mixers. This makes it ideal for drinks that require fizz, like the Tom Collins or a Vodka Collins. Unlike a highball glass, it’s slimmer and slightly taller, offering a distinct aesthetic appeal. The glass also provides ample space for ice, which keeps drinks cold without diluting them quickly.

Uses of a Collins Glass

Popular Drinks Served in a Collins Glass

A Collins glass frequently serves specific cocktails. The Tom Collins, made with gin, lemon juice, sugar, and soda water, exemplifies its use. Similarly, the Vodka Collins, substituting vodka for gin, fits perfectly. Another popular option is the Mojito, a mix of rum, mint, lime, sugar, and soda water. Additionally, the John Collins uses bourbon instead of gin. These beverages benefit from the glass’s tall, narrow shape by holding more liquid and ice, extending the effervescence and chilling duration.

Alternative Uses in Bartending

Bartenders apply Collins glasses beyond traditional cocktails. They use them for layered drinks, where the glass’s height enhances visual appeal. For example, a Tequila Sunrise layers orange juice and grenadine, making it an attractive choice. Collins glasses also accommodate mocktails, like a Virgin Mojito, ensuring a sophisticated presentation. Furthermore, bartenders use them to serve iced teas or sparkling waters, providing an elegant alternative to standard glassware. Thus, the Collins glass’s versatility extends its role in various beverage presentations.

Comparing Collins Glasses to Other Drinkware

Collins Glass vs. Highball Glass

Collins glasses and highball glasses often look similar, but their differences are notable and impact the drinking experience. A Collins glass is typically taller and holds between 10 to 14 ounces, while a highball glass usually holds between 8 to 12 ounces. The height of the Collins glass helps maintain carbonation in cocktails, making it ideal for drinks with fizzy mixers like Tom Collins or Mojito. Conversely, highball glasses, wider and shorter, are better suited for highball cocktails like the Gin and Tonic or Whiskey Highball where a larger ice volume is common, thus balancing the straightforward mix of spirit and non-carbonated ingredients.

Why Choose a Collins Glass Over Others?

Opting for a Collins glass enhances certain cocktail experiences. The narrow, tall design preserves carbonation, allowing bubbles to rise slowly and making it perfect for effervescent drinks. Its capacity accommodates both ample ice and mixers, keeping beverages cold without rapid dilution. The Collins glass’s aesthetic form also adds visual appeal to crafted cocktails, accentuating layers or garnishes. Moreover, it’s versatile and not limited to alcoholic beverages, making it ideal for serving various drinks like mocktails, iced teas, and sparkling water. This flexibility, combined with its functional advantages in bartending, places Collins glasses as a preferred choice in many settings.

Care and Maintenance Tips

Cleaning and Storage

Clean Collins glasses promptly after use to prevent residue buildup. Hand wash with warm water and mild detergent to avoid damaging the glass surface. Use a soft sponge to remove any stubborn spots. For deep cleaning, soak in a mixture of vinegar and water.

After cleaning, dry the glasses with a lint-free cloth to avoid water spots. Store them upright on a shelf or in a cabinet to prevent dust accumulation. If stacking is necessary, use a non-slip layer between each glass to avoid scratches.

Avoiding Common Damages

Avoid temperature shocks by not transferring Collins glasses directly from hot to cold environments. Thermal stress can cause cracks. Handle the glasses with care, avoiding excessive force which could lead to chips or breaks. Opt for a padded drying mat or a dish rack with cushioned sections to prevent abrasive contact during drying.

When transporting, use a padded container designed for glassware. This minimizes movement and potential impact damage. By adhering to these care tips, Collins glasses will maintain their appearance and functionality for a longer period.


The Collins glass isn’t just a vessel; it’s a crucial tool for any cocktail enthusiast or professional bartender. Its design ensures drinks stay fizzy and visually appealing while providing the perfect balance of ice and liquid. Whether you’re crafting a classic Tom Collins or serving a refreshing mocktail, using a Collins glass elevates the drinking experience. Proper care and handling will keep these glasses in top shape, ensuring they remain a staple in your drinkware collection for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Collins glass?

A Collins glass is a tall, narrow glass typically used for serving cocktails. It holds between 10 to 14 ounces and is designed to keep carbonated drinks bubbly longer and offer space for ice without diluting the beverage.

What drinks are typically served in a Collins glass?

Common cocktails like the Tom Collins and Vodka Collins are served in a Collins glass. It is also suitable for mocktails, iced teas, and sparkling waters due to its functional design.

Why does the shape of a Collins glass matter?

The tall, narrow shape of a Collins glass helps maintain the effervescence of carbonated mixers. It also offers ample space for ice, keeping drinks cold without excessive dilution.

How is a Collins glass different from a highball glass?

A Collins glass is taller and narrower than a highball glass. This design helps preserve carbonation better and enhances the visual presentation of layered cocktails or garnishes.

How do you care for Collins glasses?

To care for Collins glasses, clean them promptly after use with warm water and mild detergent to avoid residue buildup. Store them upright in a cabinet or on a shelf, and handle them carefully to prevent chips or breaks.

Can Collins glasses be used for non-alcoholic drinks?

Yes, Collins glasses are very versatile and can be used to serve non-alcoholic drinks like mocktails, iced teas, and sparkling waters.

What is the best way to store Collins glasses?

Store Collins glasses upright on a shelf or in a cabinet. Ensure they are handled with care to avoid chipping or breaking, and avoid exposing them to drastic temperature changes.

Are there any special recommendations for transporting Collins glasses?

When transporting Collins glasses, use padded containers to prevent chips or breaks. This added protection helps maintain their appearance and functionality over time.