We Tested 8 Sphere Ice Molds and Found One We Recommend

We tested eight of the most popular sphere ice molds. While all of them were far from perfect, the one that used directional freezing yielded the best spheres.

Several sphere ice molds against a white, subway tile background
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

“At the end of the day it’s all about the ice in the cocktail,” says Josué Castillo, beverage director for Boston, MA’s Pazza on Porter and Next Door. Indeed, there might be no greater pleasure than seeing a boozy drink, like an Old Fashioned, being poured over a special type of ice like a big sphere. The showmanship of the ice ball, it’s rock-hard chill, the way it rolls around in the glass as you sip... it's a beautiful thing. Or, as Sire Negri, bar coordinator at Havana Beach Bar and Grill, notes: in “spirit-heavy drinks,” a single, big ice sphere offers a “better presentation and drink experience.” 

Key to that experience is the sphere’s slow rate of melt. “Standard ice cubes start to melt right away. The cocktail might be not that great because by the time it gets to the table, it’s watered down,” Castillo says. “I like sphere ice because it doesn’t dilute as fast as other types of ice.” This is especially true of clear sphere ice, which contains none of the fast-melting air pockets of cloudy ice. But the impressive globes that mixologists hand-carve at the best craft cocktail bars are not exactly practical in the home bar. At home, you want a sphere that you can simply pull from your freezer, courtesy of an ice mold that’s done the job for you.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Whether it be silicone trays, plastic-base models, pull-apart balls, or something more elaborate, the varying technologies of sphere ice molds are all imperfect, and human error is a likely accomplice to the shoddy tech. There is simply no guarantee that any spherical ice mold will yield you a perfectly round, seamless, dentless, dimple-less orb of ice. Luckily, many of the drinks you’ll be pouring over your sphere will be dark in color and will mask some of its imperfections. 

Though no ice mold is perfect, we tested eight popular sphere ice molds to find the ones that freeze mot effectively, form an aesthetically pleasing sphere, don’t retain off flavors, and are easiest to use. Our research revealed that one mold we tested was far better than all others for the appearance and even for the flavor of the ice.

The Winner, at a Glance

The Best Sphere Ice Mold: TINANA Crystal Clear Ice Ball Maker

An insulated box with thick silicone sphere molds, this product uses a method called directional freezing to yield crystal-clear balls, which are buried so deep within the mold and so untouched by air bubbles, that they avoid freezer smells that might mar their flavor.

The Tests

One small and one larger sphere ice side by side on a blue mat
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez
  • Filling Test: We filled the molds per the manufacturer instructions, evaluating how easy they were to fill and assemble, and noting the clarity and accuracy of the instructions. We then transferred the molds to the freezer, noting if the molds leaked and how much freezer space each took up. 
  • Ice Test: We froze the molds, then unmolded the ice. We observed ease of extraction and hardness, shape, and cosmetic uniformity of the ice.
  • Drink Test: We placed an ice sphere from each model into a rocks glass and poured an Old Fashioned over it, observing and sipping to test fit, looks, chill, and taste.
  • Dilution Test: We left the ice in the Old Fashioned for 10 minutes, then observed the rate of melting and the sphere’s appearance. We also tasted each cocktail to analyze dilution. 
  • Storage and Off-Taste Test: We made new ice in each model and left the molds in the freezer for one week. We unmolded the ice, and placed each sphere into an Old Fashioned, sampling it to test for any off flavors and aromas.
  • Cleanup Tests: We washed the spheres by hand twice, evaluating how easy they were to clean. 

What We Learned

Trial and Error, Rather than Manufacturer Instructions, Were Key to Success

A closeup look at 10 sphere ice balls
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

How do you properly fill a sphere ice mold? If you think you’d find the answer in the manufacturer instructions, guess again. We found these were unreliable. Success, while varied, came best through multiple instances of trial and error. 

We tried four types of sphere molds. First, there were the round silicone molds in two parts that got pushed together to form a sphere that you fill with water through a small hole at the top. The instructions for these molds tell you to fill them 80 or 90%. But, given that their holes are quite small and the molds aren’t see-through, hitting those percentages was anyone’s guess. And incompletely filling them lead to incomplete ice spheres. We found it was best to just fill them all the way to the top. 

Second, there were plastic-and-silicone molds, with a standing base and a cap that gets pressed into the base. Instructions varied for these. The Tovolo instructed to fill to the fill line and then press the cap on. But that also resulted in an incomplete sphere. Again, experience taught us that it was best to fill the base all the way to the top and then push the cap on. That gave us the best spheres.

The third type of mold was a silicone or plastic tray that made multiple spheres. The specific fill instructions worked well enough for each of these, but the ice removal instructions did not. As with the other types of molds, we were instructed to twist the molds in all directions to force the spheres out. But the halves of the molds stuck together, and the spheres clung to the bottoms. The mini-sphere trays even came with conflicting instructions. The booklet said twist. The box instructed to push. We weren’t quite sure what that meant, but no amount of pushing worked—easily or otherwise—on a rigid plastic form, anyway. Instead, we found running warm water over the mold or just letting it sit until the mold and sphere warmed up just enough that we could ease the ice out worked best.

A look at sphere ice being unmolded from a plastic tray
Even our favorite mold (shown here) was a pain to unmold.Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Finally, there was the TINANA insulated box mold. We could not, no matter how hard we tried, find the fill line the instructions insisted was there. So, we just winged it and filled the box to the top. An even bigger issue was the instructions for removal. They simply said to pull up on the handles on both sides. But this unit’s thick silicone parts fit so snuggly in the plastic container that these instructions proved futile. We finally figured out a hack for removal that involved all four limbs and a lot of leverage. It was awkward, but it worked. 

The lesson here is: read the instructions, but prepare to deviate from them. Make these molds your own. Experiment for the best results in filling and removal.

Silicone vs. Plastic Sphere Ice Molds

A hand holding a silicone sphere ice tray and it overflowing
Floppy, silicone molds with multiple spheres leaked everywhere.Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Pliable silicone and rigid plastic are the two standard materials for freezer-bound sphere ice molds. But these materials vary in performance depending on the form of the mold. The worst-performing molds we tested were tray molds made of soft silicone material. These floppy items leaked water at the seams between their top and bottom halves, and they had to be delicately placed in the freezer. If anything was placed on top of them, they would cave in, leaking water out of the top of the mold. Leakage within the freezer led to ice slicks and messiness. The thin silicone also tended to pick up freezer smells easily. 

Rigid plastic trays, on the other hand, have multiple advantages. Once you fill them and squeeze them together, they’re more secure than the soft trays. So there isn’t as much of a possibility that they will leak in the freezer. They're also stackable; you can place something on top of them, and they won’t cave in. They might not be as easy to twist in order to remove the frozen spheres, but twisting didn’t really help the spheres dislodge in the soft trays, either, so that’s immaterial. Finally, we found that they were more impervious to freezer smells.

Single sphere molds, on the other hand, do better when they’re made completely out of silicone rather than both silicone and plastic. The biggest reason for this is that these molds tend to get jostled in the freezer, even falling out of our full freezer onto the floor at points. When that happens, the rigid plastic parts of the mold tend to chip and break, which makes standing them up in your freezer or trying to stack them difficult. Overall, the Zoku and Tovolo models just don’t hold up over time and after usage. If you left them long enough, the silicone-and-plastic molds also tended to yield spheres that weren’t so much round as bulbous and oblong.

The round molds made entirely out of heavy silicone—in our tests, the Glacio Round Ice Cube Mold and the Chillz Extreme Ice Ball Mold, which are essentially identical—are fun to use and look like big rubber balls. You can fit a bunch in the freezer, and they’ll be durable. We’ve already addressed the problems with removing the spheres from them, and they tend to yield spheres with dimples where the holes are on the top of the mold and an extra ring of ice where the seam is. But, as we said previously, those imperfections can be masked in a darker drink. They will, however, pick up freezer smells.

As for clean up, every one of them was just fine hand-washed and in the washing machine. However, when it comes to the TINANA mold (which uses both silicone and rigid plastic to great effect) you’re best served removing the plastic box from the Styrofoam insulation before you throw it in the dishwasher, and even if you hand wash it, as that Styrofoam will degrade over time.

When It Came to Size, About 2.5 Inches in Diameter Was Best 

an overhead look at sphere ice of varying sizes
Sphere ice like the one in the bottom left of this image was just too small for a standard rocks glass.Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Old Fashioned is the ultimate rocks glass drink. In fact, a synonym for the rocks glass is the Old Fashioned glass. A wide, squat receptacle, this glass looks best with one big sphere rolling around in it. The spheres with the best dimensions were 2.5 inches across. At this size, the sphere nearly filled the glass, clanking attractively against its sides as we sipped, and keeping our cocktail frosty and potent. We liked the way the sphere rose up out of the drink like an iceberg, melting more slowly than square ice cubes would have. The bigger spheres held up after 10 minutes in a drink, especially if they came from the base-and-cap molds, which had the advantage of not creating a seam through the middle of the ice sphere, a weak spot in the results from the round molds, where the sphere tended to melt more quickly. 

We tested three molds with smaller-sized spheres. The TINANA spheres measure out to be 2.36 inches; this was not enough of a difference to matter, so they’re effectively as good (and, in so many ways, better) than other spheres of a full 2.5 inches. The spheres for the Houdini Large Sphere Ice Tray Mold were only 1.75 inches in diameter, which proved awkward in a rocks glass. One sphere was not enough to keep the drink cold or to look attractive in the glass. When we added a second sphere, it sat uneasily on top of the first, almost completely above the surface of the drink, and it hit us in the face when we sipped. 

One mold made 33 marble-like spheres of 1-inch in diameter each. They’re effectively mega-pebble ice, and they are not appropriate to a rocks glass unless you use about 10 of them at once. These spheres are much better suited to a highball glass, where they look delightfully like giant boba (the tapioca balls in bubble tea), and they melt less quickly than crushed ice does.

Clear Ice Was the Clear Choice

Two clear ice balls in their black plastic tray with a hand holding the tray up
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

No sphere ice came out pristine. There were dimples and dents, cracks and seams. Some were more oblong or bulbous than spherical. And cloudy spheres emerged from every mold, with the exception of one: the TINANA. The clear spheres that the TINANA mold made were superior in many ways. In the glass, they looked fantastic, light bouncing off them reflectively, the drink showing clear through to the other side. The mold insulates so well that freezer smells didn’t affect the ice, and clear ice tends to taste better anyway because it's free of the air bubbles and pockets that help give cloudy ice freezer flavors. 

Plus, when you’re making cocktails for friends, why not wow them with the great party trick of clear ice? Many craft cocktail bars make clear ice by freezing water in a cooler that's filled to the top. The ice freezes from the top downward. Due to the insulation of the cooler, the bottom portion of the ice block freezes last, and the air bubbles get pushed downward into that portion. So only the bottom portion ends up cloudy. That’s if you freeze the entirety until rock solid. If you don’t freeze it all the way, then the bottom portion will remain unfrozen, and you can just turn the cooler over and pour that portion of water off. You’re left with a solid, clear block of ice. That’s called directional freezing.

The TINANA works exactly this way, except it inserts spherical molds into the top part of the “cooler,” so that the clear ice freezes in sphere form. The cloudy ice is left in a solid block at the bottom of the insulated box. You must either melt that with hot water, or leave it to melt on its own at room temperature. If you time it correctly, that portion will still be watery when you pull the mold out of the freezer, and you can easily pour it off. But it would take much practice to get the timing just right to achieve that result.  

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Sphere Ice Mold

Four sphere ice cubs in their tray with their insulation beside them
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

“Always clear!” is Negri’s ice sphere mantra. So when it comes to ice molds, he says, “any one that uses directional freezing method would be good.” Our tests found that he’s right. The directional freezing method of the TINANA renders big, crystal-clear orbs of ice with superior looks and flavor.

The Best Sphere Ice Mold: TINANA Crystal Clear Ice Ball Maker

What we liked: The clever, insulation-meets-ice mold technology of the TINANA uses directional freezing to achieve four spheres that are so clear, you can see your cocktail straight through each of them. Since clear ice is devoid of the air bubbles of cloudy ice, it captures less of the freezer smells that might be lingering, and it tastes better. Plus, it looks great. It also melts uniformly, keeping its shape and clarity as it wanes. It’s a cut above any other ice we achieved in the other molds. As per the manufacturer instructions, it takes a full 24 hours to make ice with this mold, but the wait is worth it.

What we didn’t like: At nearly 24 square inches, this mold hogs freezer space. It’s also cumbersome to remove the frozen spheres, and we couldn't do it per the instructions. Instead, we had to wedge it between our knees upside down and yank on both side of the silicone molds until it slid out. If the plastic box slid out of the Styrofoam insulation along with the molds, we had to wedge the cold plastic box between our knees and yank on the molds some more before they dislodged. However you are able to remove the ice, make sure to do it over something that can take spills, in case the bottom half isn’t fully frozen yet. We also recommend letting this mold rest for a bit at room temperature or running it under warm water, which will make ice removal easier.

Price at time of publish: $60.

Key Specs

  • Materials: Silicone, plastic, styrofoam
  • Size: 8.46 x 7.48 x 7.3 inches
  • Number of molds: 4
  • Capacity: 2.36 inch diameter spheres
  • Cleanup: Dishwasher-safe (not the styrofoam insulation, though)
A front-on look at the Tinana clear ice maker sitting on a white surface
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Competition

  • Zoku Set of 2 Silicone Sphere Ice Molds, Stackable: The term “stackable” here is stretch. In truth, they didn't stack easily, and we had trouble making full, round spheres with this mold, though the spheres did release more easily from it. 
  • Houdini Large Sphere Ice Tray Mold: This was the worst of all the molds. Its flimsy silicone material made it too floppy to handle, and it leaked all over the place. The spheres, if they come out well, which wasn't a guarantee, were an awkward 1.75 inches in diameter—too small to use just one in a rocks glass, too large to use two.
  • Glacio Large Ice Sphere Mold Tray: This mold tends to leak at the seams, and the seal between halves is just not tight enough, so you get spheres that look like Saturn. It also tends to pick up freezer odors.
  • Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds: This is another one that sits in the freezer awkwardly and that has rigid plastic parts that can break. Also, the manufacturer will lead you astray with instructions that result in half a sphere. It tends to yield lumpy spheres.
  • Glacio Round Ice Cube Molds: If you don’t follow the instructions and fill it up to the top, you can get a relatively nice sphere that will probably still be dimpled and seamed. It’s durable and fun to work with, even though prying it open and prying out the sphere is a chore. You need to give the mold time to warm up and relax, or you must run it under warm water. It does tend to pick up freezer smells over time.
  • Round Ice Cube Tray with Lid, with Container Mini Circle Ice: This is a fun little kit with two trays making 66 ice marbles (we wouldn’t call them spheres, even though they’re round) that you can drop into the plastic box and scoop out with the plastic scoop that comes with the trays. However, this is not a mold for making spheres for Old Fashioneds or anything you’d put in a rocks glass. Use it for highballs.
  • Chillz Extreme Ice Ball Molds 2 Ball Capacity: See our comments for the Glacio Round Ice Cube Molds because this is exactly the same product, just branded differently.

FAQs

Do you use ice spheres in the same way you would use cubes?


Ice cubes are the all-purpose workhorses of the bar. You use them in shakers and mixing glasses, and you can use them in any size or shape of glass. But the standard ice cube is nowhere as marvelous as an ice sphere. A sphere is a specialize kind of ice. It’s a presentation ice, not a working ice. You drop it into a rocks glass and pour a shaken or stirred drink over top it. It melts more slowly than ice cubes do, and it looks fantastic and sounds fantastic in the glass. Extra-large, clear cubes can be fun, especially if you have an ice press that you can use to brand them. But they don’t roll around in the glass like a sphere does.

Do ice balls freeze in the same way/same amount of time as cubes? 

Freezing time all depends on the size of the ice and the amount of insulation in the mold. If you’re working with a standard ice tray for cubes, you’ll get a faster freeze that any spherical mold because the cube tray is open at the top and made out of metal or thin plastic. Spherical molds are closed, so there’s more insulating material all around the ice, and thus the ice freezes more slowly. However, if you’re freezing tiny spheres and huge cubes, the tiny spheres might freeze faster simply because they’re so small.

What’s the key to clear ice? 

The key to clear ice is insulation on all sides of the mold—except one. This leads to a type of freezing called directional freezing. The parts of the ice that are most insulated freeze last, and the last part to freeze is the part that ends up with the cloudy air bubbles in it. The rest of the ice will be crystal clear. That’s the idea behind the TINANA. The extra insulation on the sides and bottom allow for directional freezing. The sphere molds sit at the top of the box, where they freeze first and, thus, clearly. The water at the bottom of the box catches all the air bubbles, and it freezes into a cloudy block.

We Tested 9 Coupe Glasses—Here Are the Best Ones

We tested 9 of the most popular coupe glasses by serving cocktails in them, chilling them, and cleaning them.

Three coupe glasses of varying sizes against a white background
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

While drinks poured over ice, like an Old Fashioned, work best in short, squat rocks glasses that you can wrap your whole hand around (this warms the drink and helps with dilution), "up drinks" or those served sans ice (like martinis) are a different story. These drinks, which are strained, require a glass with a stem. This keeps your hand well away from the vessel so your body temperature doesn’t warm up the drink and muddy the flavors. There are two basic styles of stemmed glasses: the martini glass and coupe glass. There are good reasons to grab the latter.

Essentially a small, shallow bowl on a stem, the coupe glass originated, by most accounts, in 17th-century England, where it was used for Champagne. When the classic cocktail era came about, the coupe glass was adopted for stronger drinks to great effect. 

“Any drink that you’d serve straight up can go in a coupe, shaken or stirred, without any ice,” says New York–based mixologist and beverage consultant Paula Fidler Lukas. This includes martinis, Negronis, and Manhattans.

The roundness of the coupe’s bowl adds an old-timey elegance, but there are also practical reasons to choose a coupe glass over a V-shaped glass.  For one, with a V-shaped glass, your hand often wanders up to the angled bowl, which is a natural shape to hold onto. “Coupe glasses fulfill the stemmed aspect such that the drinker’s hand does not warm up the liquid contents,” because you grab the glass by its stem, staying well away from the bowl, explains Frederic Yarm, author, blogger, and general manager at Boston, MA’s Drink, an award-winning cocktail bar. “Coupe glasses also have vertical sides, so they eliminate much of the sloshing of V-shaped cocktail glasses.” 

The short of it is, a set of coupe glasses are an essential (and nice-looking) home bar addition. As we discovered during our testing, the best coupe glasses combine elegance and durability; they’re not too gossamer-thin that they seem as if they’d break on contact, but they’re also not too heavy. We also liked glasses that weren’t super large—you’re making a cocktail, not a bowl of soup.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Coupe Glass: Cocktail Kingdom Leopold Coupe

Also available at Cocktail Kingdom.

“I prefer a shorter, thicker stem. They're sturdier and tend to break less,” Lukas says. The Leopold is an exemplar of this genre of coupe. At only six ounces in capacity, this is a small glass, but that makes it just the right size many "up" drinks. Given the thickness of the material, it’s not the most beautiful coupe glasses out there, but it’s durable. It stacks well in the dishwasher, and it fits into nearly any cabinet. Plus, its stem is still long enough that you can still keep your hand shy of the bowl.

The Best Larger Coupe Glass: Bacador Champagne Coupe Glass

Many of the bigger coupe glasses we tried were so thin-walled that we feared breakage over time. Not the Bacador. It’s thinner than the Leopold, but not so thin as to crack in our hands when we wash it. As for its stem, it fits Yarm’s criteria perfectly. As he says, “While a thin stem is elegant, that often shortens the life of a glass through use and washing; therefore, something around 1/4-inch thick is perfect.” Plus, although this is a big one, its tapered bowl helps displace some of the liquid, compensating somewhat for the scant look of a smaller cocktail in a larger glass.

The Best Budget Coupe Glass: IKEA Storhet Champagne Coupe

You simply can’t go wrong with the price of this glass. Its shallow bowl can be a problem if you’re sipping for a very long time, as it tends to dissipate the chill of the drink. However, its ever-so-slightly concave, curved walls help direct the drink’s aroma up to your nose, making for an aromatic sip. And though the stem is rather thick, it actually feels good to grip, and it’s reasonably proportionate to the base and bowl.

The Tests

Two party fully coupe glasses sitting side by side
We wanted to find glasses that were comfortable to drink from, the right size, shape, and thickness, and more.Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez
  • Martini Test: Stir a martini over ice and strain it into the glass to observe its appearance. Taste it to observe aroma and flavor.
  • Temperature Test: Take martini’s temperature when poured and 15 minutes later to observe how well it retains its chill.
  • Daiquiri Test: Shake a daiquiri over ice and strain it into the glass to observe its appearance. Add a lime wheel to the rim of the glass to observe how it looks and stays. Taste the daiquiri to observe aroma and flavor.
  • Cleaning Test: After each test, hand-wash the glass to observe how easy it was to clean as well as durability. We also machine-washed appropriate glasses to observe durability.

What We Learned

Size Mattered, and Bigger Wasn't Better

one small and one large coupe glass side by side, both with the same amount of liquid in them
The same amount of liquid in two sizes of coupe glasses looks vastly different.Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

If you do a search for vintage coupe glasses online, you’ll find many that are on the smaller side. Though the cocktails of the 1990s were super-sized, pre-Prohibition cocktails were not. Big on flavor and potency but small in measure, they were poured into glasses appropriate to their size. There’s a romantic, old-timey vibe to drinking out of a smaller coupe. Chilled beforehand, a smaller coupe glass helps keep the drink colder longer, too, though a smaller drink will probably be finished before it warms up. 

Both the martini and the daiquiri that we made to test the coupe glasses were based on 3-ounce builds. After dilution, they didn’t get over four ounces in size. Poured into a glass twice that size or more, the drinks generally looked too short. With many of the bigger coupe glasses, the lime wheel didn’t even break the surface of the daiquiri when it was propped on the rim, which wasn’t a great look. As Josué Castillo, beverage director for Boston’s Pazza on Porter and Next Door, explains, “I prefer a glass to look full, or people tend to feel it’s short on alcohol.” Cocktail Kingdom’s Leopold Coupe Glass, we found, was truly the ideal size.

Bowl Shape Was More Important than the Stem

An up close shot of a full coupe glass's bowl
We found bowls that flared slightly inward concentrated aromas best.Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

A stem is a stem is a stem. Clutching 9 different stems on 9 different glasses, we came to the conclusion that most stems are just fine for the holding, though we did find three possible problems with the stem: 1) It’s so nubby that your hand ends up wedged against the bowl of the coupe glass. That issue did not come up, except in a roundabout way with the Godinger Champagne Coupe (see below), which was unbalanced in all sorts of aspects. 2) The stem is so thick and ungainly in proportion to the base and the bowl, that the glass is out of whack (again, we cite the Godinger). And 3) The stem is so thin that you fear it will break. The Riedel and the Nude Glass threatened such a scenario.

A bigger concern was the shape of the bowl. It’s the bowl that holds the cocktail, and after all, the glass is simply a vehicle for the sip. With a “slightly deep” bowl, “there tends to be less spillage,” says Lukas. The bowls that worked best had high sides that concentrated the liquid’s aroma and sheltered it from maximum exposure to ambient temperature, helping to retain its chill. Bowls that were shallower and wider threatened spills, and they dissipated the chill, warming the martini and daiquiri too quickly. After 15 minutes, the drinks had increased in temperature by nearly 30 degrees; they begged for an ice cube. 

A bowl that flared slightly inward concentrated the aroma of the drink best, allowing it to rise upward, which enhanced the flavor of the cocktail. But the biggest concern with the bowl was its size. If it was too big—and many of them were—it dwarfed the cocktail, making it look like a half a drink rather than a whole one. That’s a major disappointment when you’re anticipating a nice, substantial-looking sip.

Elegance Must Be Balanced by Durability

An up close shot of the rim of a coupe glass
Our favorite coupe glasses balanced being both delicate and durable enough.Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Some of the coupe glasses we tested were so thin-walled, we were afraid they’d crack when washing. While none did, we can’t say if this would be a constant over time. We’d feel insecure using glasses as thin as the Reidel if we were throwing a house party. But some coupe glasses, the Bacador chief among them, bridged the divide between durability and chic with a slightly thinner material and a longer, more slender stem, while still feeling substantial and sturdy.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Great Coupe Glass

a cocktail being poured in a coupe glass from a cobbler shaker
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Yarm sums it up nicely with some of his criteria: “I look for elegance in shape, the proper thickness of glass such that it feels good on the lips when sipping, and a nearly vertical lip for both liquid handling and glass sturdiness.” But we’d also add size. You want it not too big that you have to make a monster martini to fill it.

The Best Overall Coupe Glass: Cocktail Kingdom Leopold Coupe Glass

Also available at Cocktail Kingdom.

What we liked: A terrific little workhorse of a coupe glass, the Leopold is just the right size for a 4-ounce cocktail. Its compact bowl holds in the chill, keeping the drink nice and cold for a long time. The steep walls of the bowl—nearly Nick-and-Nora-like—keep your hand well in the clear of warming the drink, even though the stem is short. And there’s less risk of breakage with its thick, squat, yet not inelegant design.

What we didn’t like: If you’re having one of those days when you need a double, this glass won’t work because it’s just too small. It’s so diminutive, in fact, that a lime wheel dwarfs it, looking downright silly on its rim. And it’s not for you if you’re the type that likes your glass bowl butterfly-wing thin.

Price at time of publish: $40.

Key Specs (Per Glass)

  • Capacity: 6 ounces
  • Stem length: 3.75 inches
  • Weight: 4.72 ounces
  • Width of glass from edge to edge: 3.25 inches
  • Number in set: 6
The cocktail kingdom coupe glass against a grey and white background
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Best Larger Coupe Glass: Bacador Champagne Coupe

What we liked: The thickness of the material and the height of the stem toe the line between elegance and sturdiness. You feel sophisticated drinking out of it, but without fear of easily breaking it.

What we didn’t like: You probably want to serve a 6-ounce drink in this one. Though the tapered bowl helps displace some liquid, a 4-ounce pour still looks like someone drank half your daiquiri.

Price at time of publish: $37.

Key Specs (Per Glass)

  • Capacity: 11.5 ounces
  • Stem length: 4 inches
  • Weight: 4.22 ounces
  • Width of glass from edge to edge: 4.25 inches
  • Number in set: 4
The bacador coupe glass against a grey and white background
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Best Budget Coupe Glass: IKEA Storhet Champagne Coupe

What we liked: For the price, this sturdy, ample glass performed well enough to have us ordering more of them. Though its bowl is larger than others, it’s still shallow enough that the 4-ounce martini and daiquiri we served in it didn’t look too short. The slightly concave sides hold the drink in place nicely; you just don’t have to worry about it sloshing. It might not have kept the drinks as cold as others, but it’s good for bigger parties. With such a sturdy, solid design, including a rather thick stem, you don’t have to worry about breakage (though at this price, it’s not a big deal to replace it).

What we didn’t like: Though the concave sides help funnel the aroma of the cocktail, the wide bowl counteracts that efficiency, and it tends to dissipate the chill of the drink. Also, the thickness of the glass was too much for the lime wheel, which flopped off the rim and into the daiquiri.

Price at time of publish: $4.

Key Specs (Per Glass)

  • Capacity: 10 ounces
  • Stem length: 3.75 inches
  • Weight: 6.67 ounces
  • Width of glass from edge to edge: 4 inches
  • Number in set:
the IKEA coupe glass against a grey and white background
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Competition

  • Riedel Veritas Coupe: Lukas calls Riedel coupe glasses “beautiful.” With their signature, paper-thin crystal with its tall, slender stem, they enhance the look of a home bar. But the bowl was entirely too big and wide to keep a reasonable-sized cocktail cold, and breakage was a risk.
  • Barconic Coupe: While these were very sturdy, we found that the bowl was too wide and shallow to keep drinks adequately cold over the 15-minute test interval.
  • Libbey Paneled Coupe: If you’re going to go for texture, then you care about looks, so why choose one that looks so machine-made with a seam down the middle of the bowl? The bowl was also too shallow to keep drinks chilly over several sips.
  • JoyJolt Bloom Coupe Crystal Glasses: Though we liked how the tulip shape funneled the aroma of the cocktail upwards, our glass cabinets just aren’t tall enough to stow this coupe glass, and the bowl of the glass was so deep that a 3-ounce cocktail looked tiny in it.
  • Godinger Champagne Coupe Barware Glasses: It looks more like something you’d use to serve sherbet than a cocktail, and it was so heavy that was cumbersome to use. Plus, there was just nothing elegant about sipping from that extra-thick glass.
  • Nude Glass Savage Coupe Glasses: Though it’s not quite as delicate as the Riedel, this glass was tall and thin enough that we were afraid of breaking it during serving or washing. Its bowl was also so shallow that drinks warmed up too quickly in it.

FAQs

What exactly is a coupe glass and why is it called that?

A coupe glass is a stemmed cocktail glass with a fairly round bowl with straight sides, rather than those angled in a V-shape like a modern-style martini glass. It’s basically a small, wide bowl on a stem. There are a few theories as to its name, but the most probable one is that it is named for the French word for “cup,” which is “coupe.” 

What would you ideally use a coupe glass for?

Though originally designed in the 1660s to hold Champagne, the coupe glass isn’t everyone’s favorite for sparkling wine, as the bubbles tend to dissipate quickly in its open bowl. Many argue it’s better, in fact, for cocktails that are served “up,” i.e. without ice. With its old-timey feel, it brings pre-Prohibition-like flare to brandy crustas, sidecars, Manhattans, daiquiris, Negroni variations, and even martinis—particularly ones served small and wet, as they were historically imbibed.

How big is a traditional coupe glass?

Compared to the monstrous, V-shaped martini glasses of the 1990s, vintage coupe glasses are on the smaller side—usually four or five ounces. But the optimal size depends on who’s serving the drinks. Yarm prefers a 5.5-ounce glass “for a 3- or 3.5-ounce build with proper dilution,” he says. Lukas agrees. Castillo likes his glass a bit bigger; seven ounces is his sweet spot. “Anything smaller would be too little for a full cocktail to fit, and anything bigger would make the cocktail look like it’s missing liquid,” he notes.

We Tested 9 Muddlers to See Which Ones Were Best for Making Cocktails

We tested 9 muddlers to find the best for juicing citrus and muddling herbs. Our research showed the grip, head, and size of the muddler mattered.

a number of muddlers oriented vertically on a marble countertop
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

There’s nothing like aromatics to amp up a cocktail. And a muddler is an essential tool for breaking down ingredients directly in the shaker or mixing or serving glass. “If you are making mojitos, smashes, caipirinhas, and variations of those cocktails, then you would definitely need a muddler,” says Lynnette Marrero, head of education for Bar Convent Brooklyn. “Most at-home ice is not strong enough to break up the herbs by shaking alone.”

You might think that a muddler is just a blunt cylinder, that all of them are similar citrus-smashing sticks. But, as we found out after testing 9 popular models, not all muddlers are equal. Some look cool but fail. Others don’t look cool and also fail. And some are too large, while others aren't large enough. The best muddlers are ergonomic and efficient—capable of extracting oils and juices without embittering drinks.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Muddler: Barfly Muddler

Made of nearly indestructible composite material, this 12-inch muddler was tall enough to muddle ingredients at the bottom of even the most massive mixing glass. Its tapered design allowed it to fit any size of hand. And its ever-so-slightly convex head sporting gently beveled edges rocked and rolled against ingredients, efficiently extracting—but not over-extracting—their flavorful contents.

The Best Wooden Muddler: Cocktail Kingdom Cato Muddler

Cocktail history buffs will enjoy the backstory of this muddler: It was designed by drinks historian David Wondrich in homage to the ‘toddy stick’ used by famed 19th-century mixologist Cato Alexander. Though it’s handsome, on first glance, the muddler might look too thin and short. But, as it turns out, when you’re muddling a drink in a highball glass or other serving glass, it’s just the right size. In testing, its tapered head worked within the walls of the vessel to muddle limes and massage plenty of aromatic oils from the mint to result in a balanced mojito.

The Best Muddler with a Textured Head: OXO SteeL Muddler

“I prefer a stainless steel muddler,” says Manhattan-based bartender and beverage consultant Paula Lukas. “They tend to be sturdy and easy to clean. I look for a muddler that's easy to grip with a bit of weight to it and a grooved head.” That, as we discovered, perfectly described the OXO, of which Lukas is a fan. The contoured, nylon grip provided a comfortable fit and leverage. The large, blunt grooves on its wide head quickly worked juice out of fruit and broke down delicate leaves without destroying them.

The Tests

Three muddlers on a marble surface
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez
  • Citrus Test: With each muddler, we muddled two lime wedges to see how well the muddler crushed and juiced.
  • Herb Test: With each muddler, we muddled six mint leaves to see how well the muddler extracted oils from the herbs and how they were broken down.
  • Cocktail Test: With each muddler, we made one mojito to see how every model worked when building a cocktail in a glass, and how it affected the muddled ingredients in a cocktail.
  • Usability Tests: Throughout testing, we evaluated how comfortable the muddlers were to hold and use.
  • Cleanup and Care Tests: After each test, we cleaned the muddlers by hand. At the end of testing, we ran each dishwasher-safe muddler through the dishwasher to see how well it held up. We also treated each wooden muddler with food-grade mineral oil, as per manufacturer instructions, to see how well it cured.

What We Learned

A Muddler's Head Shape Made All the Difference

An overhead look at a muddler muddling mint leaves in a glass
Our favorite model, shown here, had a slightly convex head, which allowed it to muddle ingredients efficiently and properly.Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Citrus, as it turned out, was like Goldilocks when you’re muddling it. You can over-muddle or under-muddle it with the wrong tool. The right model muddles it just right, so you don’t end up with too much of the bitter oils of the pith in your cocktail.

Some of the muddlers we tested had a blunt, flat heads, which made muddling citrus more difficult and resulted in us pressing too hard on the lime wedge and, therefore, extract too much bitter juice. Flat-headed muddlers also did nothing to break down mint leaves; they simply pushed the flat leaves down into the bottom of the glass without coaxing out their oil. For smooth heads, tapered, convex, or beveled designs worked better. They muddled the juice and oils from the ingredients in a much more efficient, organic way.

There Was Such a Thing as Too Much Texture in a Muddler Head

A front-on look at two textured muddler heads
The larger OXO model (right) had teeth that were duller and wider, which meant it didn't tear the mint.Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Muddlers such as the ones from Hiware and OXO have toothy grids in their heads. This textured pattern is designed to make it easier to breakdown ingredients. But the sharper or denser the texture, the less finesse the tool has. “I am not a fan of the ones that have teeth,” Marrero says. “These are usually more rigid, and the spikes on the bottom are hard to clean and are too aggressive.” We found her remarks rang true for muddlers with smaller heads full of sharp, tight teeth. They forced bitter oils out of the citrus, overwhelming the mint in the mojito, and left the mint in bits and pieces that stuck to the muddler and floated unpleasantly in the drink. The OXO muddler, on the other hand, had a broader head with larger teeth that were less sharp. Its texture helped, rather than hindered, in making a balanced drink because it didn’t tear up the ingredients too much; it just made the muddling more efficient.

We Had Some Gripes with Some of the Grips

The OXO SteeL muddler on a marble countertop
The contours and grip of one our favorite muddlers (shown here) made it incredibly comfortable to hold and twist.Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

As testing showed, there were two considerations with the grip of a muddler. One was length. “A longer muddler tends to be more comfortable, and you don't need to use much pressure to muddle your ingredients,” Lukas says. “You're also keeping your hands farther away from the rim of the glass.” A 12-inch muddler like the Barfly made working in a pint glass or cocktail tin easy because it cleared the top of the vessel. Though there were shorter muddlers we liked, the leverage that a long-handled muddler provided helped save our wrists.

The second consideration was shape. “I like to look for a tool that is also ergonomic and allows me the comfort to switch from gently muddling fine herbs to also apply core pressure to release oils and juice from muddled citrus,” Marrero says. We found a handlebar-like contouring fit a clenched hand in perfect ergonomic fashion. A tapered grip was also good, as it accommodated different hand sizes.

Practice Makes Perfect

A GIF of a muddler muddling mint leaves in a tall cocktail glass
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Even with the best muddler, learning proper muddling technique is key. “Place your ingredients in the bottom of your shaker or mixing glass. Grip the muddler in the palm of your hand. Be gentle. Press, turn and release. You want to bring out the flavors of the fruit and herbs or mix the sugar into your cocktail,” Lukas says. “Over muddling will release bitter flavors into your cocktail and not in a good way.” 

The Criteria: What We Look for in a Great Muddler

A muddler on a marble countertop with text points around it
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez / Grace Kelly

The best muddlers have ergonomic handles suitable for a variety of hand sizes. Their heads are either gently textured, or they’re smooth and somewhat convex. Both head types help coax juices out of fruit and oils out of mint leaves and other ingredients without ripping them up or over-extracting. 

The Best Muddler: Barfly Muddler

What we liked: Made out of a tough, dishwasher-safe composite material, this muddler is practically indestructible. It won’t wear down with use or cleaning. Its size, shape, and weight just worked. Big but not heavy with a 12-inch, tapered grip that you could clench just about anywhere along its length, this muddler was incredibly easy to use. Its head was slightly convex and beveled so it massaged the right amount of juices and oils out of ingredients. The mojitos we made with it were perfect.

What we didn't like: It’s big. You need to hold onto smaller glasses so they’re not overwhelmed by it and tip over.

Key Specs

  • Length: 12 inches
  • Width of grip: 1-inch
  • Width of head: 1.5 inches
  • Weight: 7.72 ounces
  • Material: Composite
  • Care: Dishwasher-safe
The Barfly Muddler sitting vertically on a kitchen countertop
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Best Wooden Muddler: Cocktail Kingdom Cato Muddler

What we liked: Let’s face it; cocktails are sometimes best when mixed with a bit of romantic nostalgia, and this muddler, with its cool backstory, definitely brings it. With its old-timey appearance, it’s handsome, too, so it looks good on your bar. During testing, we found its petite size and shape to be helpful. Some bigger muddlers were so huge, they felt like they'd break a serving glass. This muddler worked with the glass: its tapered head pushing ingredients down and against the sides of the vessel to extract just the right amounts.

What we didn't like: Like all wooden muddlers, it’s fussy. Manufacturer instructions task you with rubbing it down with mineral oil twice over the course of two days before use and then periodically afterwards to keep it in fighting shape. Wooden muddlers also must be hand-washed. Finally, it requires care while using. Though Marrero is a fan of wooden muddlers, she says: “If using a wood muddler DO NOT TAP on the side of a metal tin because you run the risk of getting ‘splinters’ into your cocktail.”

Key Specs

  • Length: 7.5 inches
  • Width of Grip: 1-inch
  • Width of Head: 1.25 inches
  • Weight: 2.9 ounces
  • Material: Ipe (Brazilian hardwood)
  • Care: Hand wash-only; cure with mineral oil
The wooden Cato muddler on a marble surface
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Best Muddler with a Textured Head: OXO SteeL Muddler

What we liked: This muddler had the smartest grip of any we tested. Contoured like some motorcycle handlebars, its rubber-like, nylon grip was seriously ergonomic. When you’re twisting, it gave you wrist comfort and support. It’s made out of sturdy materials that are dishwasher-safe, and its head had just the right amount of texture to muddle, not destroy. Plus, it was thin enough to fit into slender glasses. 

What we didn't like: You really have to be a fan of textured heads to like this one. They take some getting used to because if you tend to press or twist too hard, even with a better-designed pattern of teeth like this one has, you’ll do too much damage to ingredients.

Key Specs

  • Length: 9 inches
  • Width of Grip: 1.75 inches
  • Width of Head: 1.75 inches
  • Weight: 3.88 ounces
  • Material: Stainless steel and nylon
  • Care: Dishwasher-safe
the OXO muddler on a marble kitchen countertop
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Competition

Plastic, Nylon, and Stainless Steel Models

  • Cocktail Kingdom "Bad Ass" Muddler: The giant among muddlers, Cocktail Kingdom's "Bad Ass" Muddler clocked in at almost 15 ounces. It was too heavy and with its flat head, is was surprisingly ineffectual for its size.
  • A Bar Above Black Cocktail Muddler: This model had a flat head and didn't finesse the fruit so much as smash it and over-muddle it. The large, bulbous grip can also be awkward for smaller hands.
  • Hiware 10 Inch Stainless Steel Cocktail Muddler and Mixing Spoon Home Bar Tool Set: This had such a deep-grooved, intensely textured head that it over-muddled citrus and delicate mint leaves, leading to a bitter, herb-flecked drink. 
  • Rabbit Springing Muddler: The Rabbit Springing Muddler proved that it was actually possible to over-engineer a tool as straightforward as a muddler. The “springload” action was far too gentle to muddle anything, and cleaning this one involved disassembly and the possibility of losing small internal parts.

Wooden Models

  • Fletchers' Mill Muddler: Handsome in smooth, blonde maple wood, Fletchers' Mill Muddler had a flat head that took a while to get going on the fruit, and that made the balance hard to control. You ended up pressing too hard and over-muddling citrus.
  • Twine Acacia Wood Muddler: You can’t be blamed if you’re worried you might get a splinter from the Twine Acacia Wood Muddler. The wood, even when treated, didn't seem to hold its integrity. The muddler itself felt too lightweight for the job, and its shape made it difficult to tell which way was up.

FAQs

Do you really need a muddler for cocktails?

If you are making drinks that call for mascerating citrus with sugar, smashing berries, massaging herbs, or any other application where you need to extract the essential flavors in a non-liquid ingredient, a muddler is key.

Can you use a muddler for anything else besides cocktails?

If you think of a muddler as what it is—a kind-of pestle without the mortar—it's a grinding, smashing, and massaging tool. So, you could probably use it to roughly grind spices or smash garlic in a pinch (just be sure to wash it really well afterwards).