How to Chill Glassware When Mixing Drinks

Match the Glass and Drink Temperatures for Better Cocktails

Young male bartender mixing cocktail in an ice-filled pitcher, while a glass chills, full of ice.
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A cold glass is one of the keys to making a great cocktail and chilling your glassware should be one of the first steps you take when making any drink. By using a chilled glass, your cocktails will stay crisp and cool longer and the frost adds a nice aesthetic to the final presentation.

It is recommended that all highball and cocktail glasses be frosted, even if you only do a quick chill. There are three common and simple ways to chill glassware and you will never regret pouring your freshly mixed drink into one.

Just Freeze It

The preferred method is to use your freezer or refrigerator as it will ensure your glass stays colder longer. The freezer will make the glass nice and frosty while the fridge will simply give it a good chill.

  1. Put the glass in the freezer for a couple of hours or the refrigerator for three or four hours (a minimum of 30 minutes for either if you're short on time).
  2. Take the glasses out just before you pour the drink.

If space allows and you want to ensure that you have a chilled glass on hand at all times, designate a spot to store at least a few of your glasses permanently. Ensure they return there after cleaning.

Use an Ice Bucket

If a refrigerator is not available, fill an ice bucket with ice and plunge the bowl of the glass upside down into the ice. Leave this set for 15 to 30 minutes for a really good chill.

Go For the Quick Chill

If you don't have time to chill a glass using either of those two methods, fill the glass with cracked or crushed ice (ice cubes will do) and swirl it around. Allow this to sit while you mix the drink. Dump the ice and pour the drink into the glass.

  • The swirling works well with cocktail and wine glasses, chilling them to the rim.
  • For highball, old-fashioned, and collins glasses fill them to the rim with ice for a few minutes and then dump the ice.
  • Adding a little cold soda water can help as well. The theory is that the carbonation will speed up the chilling process.
  • This is also good for glasses that you have already chilled to ensure the chill lasts.

Is This a Waste of Ice?

Think about this: What is the one thing that is always within easy reach of a bartender? It's the ice bin. Let's face it, ice is cheap and it is essential to making almost every drink you'll mix up. Therefore, the quick chill is really not a waste of ice.

If you'd like to look at it a different way, think about the booze you're wasting by mixing what can become an inferior drink. No one enjoys a drink that gets warm or watered down before they've finished and this simple step combats that. 

When it comes to martinis and other "up" drinks, there is no ice to keep the drink cool. Anything you can do to keep it as refreshing on the last taste as it was on the first is a winning situation.

When Not to Freeze Glassware

There are a couple of scenarios in which frozen glassware is not ideal.

  • Crystal glassware is more fragile than other types of glass. It's best to use a delicate touch when chilling crystal and opt for the refrigerator or quick chill methods. Also, be sure that the liquid you're pouring is cold as differences in temperature can easily shatter the glass.
  • Beer is a tricky situation because the ideal serving temperature for beer is not universal. Plus, many beer aficionados find that most styles of beer lose flavor when served in a frosty pint or mug. Generally, light lagers are best in cold glassware and the rule of thumb is to serve ales a little warmer. Follow your own preference and drink whatever beer you have the way you enjoy it most.

What About Hot Cocktails?

The glassware temperature should always match the drink temperature. Just as you would chill a cold drink glass, warm up the glass for hot cocktails. This can be done quickly by filling a glass with hot water for a few minutes while you prepare ingredients to make the drink.