The 'Straight Up' History of the Iconic Martini Glass

By: Kristen Hall-Geisler  | 
James Bond martini
James Bond is known for taking his martinis "shaken, not stirred." And the glass was designed to enhance the drink's flavor, too. Universal Pictures

The martini glass is one of the most iconic designs in barware, and maybe one of the most iconic designs of anything, ever. Its sloped sides, wide rim, spindly stem and round base are immediately recognizable.

You, of course, can drink anything at all out of it if you want to, but most people know that one thing belongs in such a striking glass: a martini.


Which Came First: The Drink or the Glass?

The martini cocktail was invented in the late 1800s, though its origins are murky. There's one theory about the drink being invented in the Occidental Hotel bar in San Francisco, where guests would enjoy a beverage before taking a ferry to nearby Martinez. But it's far more likely that it was called a martini because the first version used Martini vermouth.

Martini is still one of the most popular vermouths for making martinis, even 150 years after the company was founded.


The martini glass, on the other hand, made its debut at the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts in Paris. The design movement that came to be known as Art Deco was the theme of the expo that year.

The martini glass was intended as a replacement for the Champagne coupe, which has a stem and a shallow, rounded bowl. Martinis, and other cocktails like it, were served in coupes for decades before the new glass arrived on the scene.

martini glass
The martini glass is about as iconic as the cocktail itself. The history of the glass, though, is a little murky.


The Shape of Things to Come

The distinctive shape of the martini glass truly serves one purpose: to look amazing. There are some side benefits of a good-looking glass, though.

The stem is longer than you'll find on most coupes or other wineglasses, which keeps the heat of your hand far from the drink itself. Martinis are "shaken, not stirred," as James Bond insisted, with ice, and you want the vodka or gin and vermouth to stay cold as long as possible.


You can, of course, stir the ingredients with ice and then strain the cocktail into the glass, but if you can shake it like Polaroid picture, why wouldn't you?

The wide-open rim also allows more of the drink to come into contact with the air so it can "breathe," allowing its flavors to open up. Many other cocktail and wineglasses curve in at the rim, at least a little, reducing that aeration effect.

There's also a rumor floating that back during Prohibition, it was easier to toss the contents of a martini glass during raids on speakeasies. But if you toss a drink yourself, you'll realize how fast you can get rid of just about any liquid from any glass when you're trying not to get caught by the police.