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Photo Courtesy of Cinematic Visions

Why Highball Glasses Should Be In Every Well-Stocked Bar

Finding a chic one isn’t a tall order to fill.
Roxanne Robinson Jun 21, 2021
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For Kentucky Derby fans, part of the fun is collecting the commemorative glasses that are released yearly with each race. Introduced in 1939—and designed to hold the famous mint juleps served at the annual horse racing competition at Churchill Downs—these highball glasses have inspired a collecting frenzy. Just notice the resale value, especially for sets. Rare, pre–World War II Derby glasses can fetch up to $16,000 while versions made from aluminum and Bakelite due to supply rationing during the war can also fetch upwards of $2,500. Boasting a storied past, highball glasses like these are still in demand today.

What Exactly Is a Highball Glass?

Mint julep glasses fall under the category of highball glasses. So, what defines this type of glass? Exactly where did it get its name? A highball glass typically holds eight to 12 ounces of liquid and it accommodates hearty servings of ice. The root of its name is a bit peculiar, especially in relation to today’s lifestyle.

In the glory days of rail travel, trains relied on steam locomotives to power them. A ball on the boiler pressure gauge would reach its highest point when the engine reached its maximum speed. Drinks at that time were served in tall glasses—presumably, to ensure that no spills occurred due to a speeding train. Another theory refers to early railroad signs with raised globes that signaled a clear track ahead. Suffice it to say, train travel is at the core of this name.

What Are Highball Glasses Used For?

As the name suggests, a highball glass is used to serve a highball cocktail. These are cocktails with an alcoholic base but with a larger amount of a non-alcoholic mixer. Think gin and tonic, rum and Coke, Seven and Seven, or the drink that started it all: scotch and soda. These glasses can also hold various new-fangled cocktails served on the rocks, but they’re also useful for virgin drinks. Anything that requires ice—such as sodas, iced teas, and iced coffees—also work nicely in these handy drinking vessels.

Editor’s Picks: Best Highball Glasses

Whatever you fancy, Nest Casa finds the style to suit your needs.

Clear Highball Glasses

These glasses speak to the purist looking for a simple, everyday highball glass. This is most aptly demonstrated in Nude Glass’s highball, which is devoid of detail save for an etching inside the solid base. The Pure highball from Schott Zwiesel ( available at Williams-Sonoma) also qualifies with its angled glass base. Orrefors’s City style and Nude Glass’s Big Top style both add a touch of graphic interest with bevel cuts and ridges.

Nude Glass

Club 4-Piece High Ball Glass Set
$44.00 BUY NOW

William Sonoma

Schott Zwiesel Pure Highball Glasses, Set of 6
$60.00 BUY NOW

Nude Glass

Big Top Modern Classic Clear Crystal Large High Ball Glass - Set of 4
$58.00 BUY NOW

Orrefors

City 4-Piece Highball Glass Set
$65.00 BUY NOW

Colorful Highball Glasses

On the other hand, those who love color will find that a highball glass is the perfect way to express their joy. Almost any color of the rainbow can be found in this category. Case in point: We are partial to the teal color of this Verdure highball, it comes in a total of 30 festive hues. Saint-Louis crystal’s Tommy highball comes in amethyst as well as eight other shades. It’s easy to collect a whole rainbow of colors. If a muted color scheme is your schtick, try these milky olive tumblers from Davide Fuin, which were inspired by his experiences with the Murano glass tradition as a boy. For a summer house or a bungalow in Florida or California, this Carlo Moretti glass in orange is perfect. It hints at the year the brand was founded, 1958, espousing the mid-century modern design movement.

Davide Fuin

Bosco Glass Tumbler
$100.00 BUY NOW

Verdure

6 Highball Glasses
$1,090.00 BUY NOW

Saint Louis

St. Louis Tommy Highballs
$475.00 BUY NOW

Luxury Highball Glasses

Despite their pedestrian uses, highball glasses can also be a luxury experience. They can even help you express a favorite design era, like the Art Deco period. The Oxymore highball from Saint-Louis crystal has a base that features recessed lines, creating the style’s demonstrative look. Likewise, the Deco style from Verdure features white 1920s–1930s fans that contrast with the colored base. Nest Casa loves amber, but there are 31 more colors to choose from. Capitalizing on a 1930s industrial era vibe, a set of two fluted Boyd highball glasses with ridged edges. Waterford crystal highballs in the Aria pattern featuring deep vertical cuts were made with the expert gin drinker in mind.

Saint-Louis Crystal

Oxymore Highball Glass
$170 Buy Now

Felicia Ferrone

Set of Two Czech Clear Contemporary Fluted Boyd Large Highball Glasses
$200.00 BUY NOW

Waterford

Gin Journeys Aras Hiball, Pair
$140.00 BUY NOW

Deco

Highball
$225.00 BUY NOW

Highball Glass Sets

Generally, one tends to buy glassware in sets. These sets are usually part of a whole collection of glassware to include wine glasses, water glasses and pitchers in the same pattern.  But a highball glass set is the perfect gift. Who wouldn’t feel proud to impress the host with a pair of these unique Tom Dixon Tank glasses featuring a gold base? Or with a pair of Fferrone’s May Collection highballs, which reimagine the meaning of stemware with ribbed domes (instead of stems)? Ralph Lauren’s highball from the Stirling collection (perhaps, a nod to the boozy Ad men of Mad Men) fits the bill for a classic take. Last but not least: Featured in the film Scarface, these Moroccan-inspired highballs with 22-karat gold detailing from 1965 could also be pictured right at home on a bar cart in Don Draper’s office.

Tom Dixon

Tank High Ball Glasses - Set of 2
$110.00 BUY NOW

Fferrone

May Collection Tall Glass - Set of 2 - Medium
$224.00 BUY NOW

Ralph Lauren Home

Stirling Glass
$125.00 BUY NOW

Culver Ltd.

22-Karat Gold Moroccan Themed Vintage Cocktail Highball Glasses, circa 1965
$650.00 BUY NOW
Roxanne Robinson
Roxanne Robinson is an award-winning Paris-based American journalist covering luxury and fashion industries with over 25 years of experience. I spent over 18 years at WWD, covering sportswear, accessories and fine jewelry. My career witnessed the shift from print media to the digital age. I gained expert knowledge of the design world, wholesale and retail markets as well as the marketing that supports them. I met endless creatives and business people who create luxury from inception to POS with the consumer. My work has appeared in Forbes.com, BoF, The Hollywood Reporter, CRFashionbook.com, The Jewelry Journal as well in-house publications and websites at Bally, Pomellato, Au Depart and Editorialist.com among others.
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