The Best Drinking Glass

The lightweight but nearly indestructible Bormioli Rocco Rock Bar drinking glasses are our favorite all-purpose glasses (also available in ice, peach, and mint colors). We came to this conclusion after 28 hours of research and testing. In our tests, the Bormiolis withstood eight hours of freezing temperatures, boiling water, and other extreme abuse—we had to launch them off a roof into a concrete lot just to get them to break—and they do all of this without being so heavy that they’ll damage the floor or cause carpal tunnel. These are also sold under the name “Carley” at Crate & Barrel, but if you buy them straight from Bormioli Rocco they cost almost $1 less per glass.

The Bormioli Rocco Rock Bar glasses survived 42” falls on linoleum and concrete, stack neatly, and cost only about $3.33 per glass.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $21.
Six 12-ounce glasses will set you back only about $20. They’re stackable; they won’t scratch, cloud up, chip, or otherwise get destroyed in the dishwasher; and remarkably, they can accommodate hot and cold beverages equally well. They are available in sizes all the way from 16 oz. down to 2.5-oz. shot glasses, and there are even a few color options available.

Also Great
The popular Duralex Picardie tumbler is a little more expensive than our pick and didn’t survive a 42” drop on concrete, but people love the look and feel of the lightweight classic.
If our main pick is sold out or becomes unavailable, we’re also big fans of the Duralex Picardie tumbler for our runner-up pick. In general, they’re considered a design classic and they stand up to all the rigors of everyday wear and tear. They’re stackable, light, and comfortable to hold. They didn’t survive a fall on concrete (though they did survive a drop onto linoleum), and they’re a bit pricier than our top pick, but they’re a pleasure to hold and use.

Also Great
*At the time of publishing, the price was $30.
The Libbey Gibraltar glasses are affordable (12 for $35) and survived the concrete drop, as well as the hot and cold stress test. But they don’t stack and are much heavier than our other picks.
If you really want something economical and have room to spare in your cabinets, our step down pick is a decent option. The Libbey Gibraltar is a staple of the food service industry, and for good reason: At 12 for $35, you can’t beat the price. Like our top pick, they survived the concrete drop and passed our hot and cold stress tests, but they can’t stack and they’re incredibly heavy compared to the much lighter Bormiolis and Picardies.

(If you’re looking for a glass more geared towards wine or champagne, we have guides to those as well.)

Table of contents

Why you should trust me | Who should buy this? | How we picked and tested | Our pick | Flaws but not dealbreakers | The runner-up | Step down | The competition | Care and maintenance | Wrapping it up | Footnotes

Why you should trust me

With a 10-year restaurant career behind me, I’ve personally handled and subsequently broken just about every glass there is. I have several years of sommelier training, logged three years behind the bar in a winery tasting room, and still pour and educate at local events. In 2009 I published a collectible bar book with Chronicle Books.

Who should buy this?

Who knows where the glasses in your cupboard come from? They seem to just appear. As such, you probably already have a lot of things to drink out of. If you’re happy with the way things are, there is no need to buy more.

One set of six can do the job of your entire mix-and-match collection…
However, if you want to downsize (so hot right now) or need room in your cabinets, then this is a pretty inexpensive way to achieve those goals. One set of six can do the job of your entire mix-and-match collection, or if you need an arsenal of glassware for a house full of kids, they take up hardly any room when stacked. And the design is timeless—these shouldn’t ever go out of style or look out of place.

How we picked and tested

What could possibly set such an everyday object apart? We looked for existing reviews, but while there are plenty of product roundups, there was no research that I could find into the best qualities of the humble drinking glass. So we did our own.

Zachary Rudolph has been a glassblower for more than 17 years and knows a thing or two about crafting beautiful, delicate glassware. He currently teaches classes at the Bay Area Glass Institute in Santa Cruz. I asked him what design features make a good drinking glass.

“It can’t be too wide because you want to be able to get your hand around it. It should feel nice in your hand. It shouldn’t be too heavy and when you bring it to your mouth to drink, your lips should just fit right around the rim of the drinking glass. And it shouldn’t get in the way of your nose. You also want a nice thick bottom so when you set it down it’s not going to slide off the table.”

I’ve seen a lightweight glass hydroplane off a table a number of times, so this made sense.

Delicate, however, isn’t what really constitutes a baseline model for a working kitchen, and so the type of glass it’s made out of is important. We talk about crystal in our wine glass guide, a type of glass with lead oxide added. Crystal is fragile, and so not what we want. There’s straight-up “regular” glass, also referred to as soda-lime glass, as those are the base materials (sodium carbonate and lime) for making it. Also fragile.

Borosilicate is glass with boric oxide added. This makes the material more amenable to temperature changes. Pyrex Europe uses borosilicate, as does Bodum. It serves a great purpose in labware, like beakers and test tubes, but Sweethome writer Christine Cyr Clisset found while researching pie pans that the process by which borosilicate glass is made requires a more toxic process, which is expensive to clean up after, and therefore borosilicate is a little hard to find. We couldn’t find any widely available drinking glasses made of borosilicate other than the Bodums, which were too expensive for us to include. Also, drinking glasses aren’t meant to handle the extreme temperature changes involved in baking or stovetop cooking.1 So why buy something that’s toxic to make for a circumstance in which it’s not necessary? Plastic, while convenient, is also not suitable for drinking glasses.2

And then there’s tempered glass. Tempering is a process in which soda-lime glass is heated and cooled in a way that makes it more durable and break-resistant. And when it does break, it does so in a less dangerous manner, crumbling into dull (relatively speaking) bits, as opposed to shards, which is why we make car windshields out of it. This is what we’re looking for!

If you spend less than $2.50, you get glass that isn’t tempered, the kind you find at novelty stores…
We narrowed down the field with these criteria, plus a few of our own: It should fit in cabinets without taking up too much space (ideally it’s stackable) and into dishwashers with ease. And if possible, size options would be nice, so if you want to expand your collection, something will be available in the same style. We did not consider glasses only available in mass quantities, such as these Anchor Hocking glasses, because no matter where you look for them on the internet or in a store they’re only available in packs of 32. This ruled out a lot of options at restaurant supply chains.

As we narrowed down the field of options, prices automatically settled between $2.50-$5. If you spend less than $2.50, you get glass that isn’t tempered, the kind you find at novelty stores or discount retailers. If you pay more than $5 what you’re paying for is design, like these Welcome glasses from Crate & Barrel.

Our eight test subjects.

Our eight test subjects.

From the moment we had our eight finalists in hand, I devoted all of my energy to breaking them. I dropped each from a height of 42 inches onto a linoleum floor. Survivors then got dropped 8 feet. When our glasses proved too tough for that, I subsequently dropped them onto marble tile, concrete from 42 inches… the finalists wouldn’t say die until I finally got them to break dropping them from 8 feet onto a concrete surface.

And finally, with an apartment full of company for a week, I filled my cabinets with two of every style to see what people gravitated towards most.
I then did two very practical temperature tests. I pulled hot glasses from the dishwasher and immediately filled them with ice water. I took glasses that had been in the freezer for a few hours and filled them with boiling water, trying to get them to crack. Tempered glass is not meant to withstand these kind of temperature changes, so we don’t recommend doing this, but the day is going to come when you pull a warm glass from the dishwasher and fill it with iced tea. And your glass should be able to take it.

And finally, with an apartment full of company for a week, I filled my cabinets with two of every style to see what people gravitated towards most. I didn’t tell them anything about what I was doing. I just watched.

Our pick

The Bormioli Rocco Rock Bar glasses survived 42” falls on linoleum and concrete, stack neatly, and cost only about $3.33 per glass.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $21.
The Bormioli Rocco Rock Bar glasses are our favorites because they survived all but the most extreme of our drop tests and they are lightweight, dishwasher-safe, and extremely compact when stacked without ever sticking to one another. In addition, they come in a wide range of sizes and even a few colors. Lesser products can run anywhere from $5-$10 apiece, but these generally come in about $3.33 each. Should you need to replace one, they’re available all over the place. Amazon, Crate & Barrel, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target all carry these in various sizes.

You can verify your purchase by checking for the logo on the bottom.

You can verify your purchase by checking for the logo on the bottom.

Of the eight glasses we tested, there were four that I had to drop from 8 feet onto concrete to break. And of these four, two of them were from Bormioli. That’s a really good indicator that the craftsmanship wasn’t a fluke, since two completely different models both withstood the same testing. If you have finished concrete floors in your house and bump this off a table, there’s a good chance it’ll survive the fall. Ours survived from 42 inches, which is standard bar top or kitchen island height. Your kitchen table or countertops are more likely 36 inches.

The Bormioli Rocco Rock Bar glass hitting concrete from 42 inches up.

The Bormioli Rocco Rock Bar glass hitting concrete from 42 inches up.

Here are the complete results from our drop tests, with an X indicating that a glass survived:

drop_chartAnd as you can see, nothing could survive an 8-foot fall onto a concrete floor:

slomobreakIn addition, the Bormiolis survived both our hot-to-cold and cold-to-hot tests. Actually, every single glass we tested withstood these extreme changes in temperature, which was a neat discovery, if a little anticlimatic. So if you accidentally dump your ice-cold drink into a warm glass straight out of the dishwasher, you should be okay.

Another reason we loved the Bormiolis is because they weren’t that heavy. Instinctively I thought a heavy glass would probably not be ideal, because who wants to lift that beast over and over again? But in testing something I hadn’t even considered was brought to my attention—what about protecting your floor?

I had never, ever anticipated that something supposedly as fragile as glass would do serious damage to the surface it was dropped on, but in our very first round with a stone tile, a thin-walled, heavy-bottomed Schott Zwiesel completely shattered it:

A Schott Zwiesel glass is heavy enough to shatter a stone tile.

A Schott Zwiesel glass is heavy enough to shatter a stone tile.

That helped us weed out a lot of models, including the Schotts. And ultimately, this was the death knell for the other contenders that made it the furthest—the IKEA Pokal glass and the Libbey Gibraltar both look identical to the Bormiolis, but they’re heavier. A 12-ounce Bormioli weighs 9.6 oz. The same-sized IKEA weighs 13.5 oz., and the cooler-sized Libbey Gibraltar weighs 15 oz.

Maybe you don’t notice it much in daily life, and sometimes a weighty glass has a very satisfying heft to it. But side by side with a lighter option, over and over again I watched my guests put the heavy glasses back and fish around for the lighter versions, even going so far as to pull dirty ones out of the sink and wash them.

The Bormiolis also stacked better than anything else we looked at, fitting neatly and compactly together without getting stuck or chipping.

Left: Picardie Tumblers and Bormioli Rock glasses are champion stackers. Right: Ikea Pokal glasses and Libbey Gibraltars just can’t hang.

Left: Picardie Tumblers and Bormioli Rock glasses are champion stackers.
Right: Ikea Pokal glasses and Libbey Gibraltars just can’t hang.

And with this chart summing up how each model we tested performed in a number of criteria, it’s easy to see how much value the Rocks glass has to offer and where the competition begins to fall apart:

glass_qualityWith one exception (see our runner up) drinking glasses aren’t the kind of thing that garner a cult following, so outside reviews are hard to come by. But in addition to our own research, there are no fewer than eight separate product pages on Amazon for Bormioli Rock glasses, none of which are rated less than 4.5 stars. And on Crate & Barrel’s own product pages, the Carley’s (which are these exact glasses) reviews are resoundingly positive.

We tested 12-oz. glasses, which we consider an excellent all-purpose size. If you’re a beverage guzzler and want a pint glass, you’ll be better off with 16-oz. glasses, which our top two picks also come in.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Glass can still break. After all, it’s glass. The fact that we can drop it, heat it, chill it, bump it, topple it together, jam it in the dishwasher, toast with it, chuck it in cabinets, and pound it onto a table over and over again for years is kind of an everyday miracle.

Tempering a glass puts the outside and inside of the glass into tension—crudely speaking, it’s kind of pressing itself together, making it stronger. If something throws the tension in the glass out of balance it will break. (Constantly subjecting your glasses to extreme temperature changes can do this.) So if you’ve ever read about a glass just “spontaneously shattering,” that’s what happened—the pressure released and blew the thing apart.

If you look closely, in this slowed-down footage of one of our glass drops, it’s fascinating to watch a piece of tempered glass press itself apart long after the glass hits the ground:

The Duralex Picardie wreckage after a fall onto concrete. Notice the piece of glass in the center pressing itself apart due to tempered glass.

The Duralex Picardie wreckage after a fall onto concrete. Notice the piece of glass in the center pressing itself apart due to tempered glass.

This is a reality of the technology and can happen to any glass. The good news is that the dull-ish chunks that it creates are still way preferable to the razor-sharp shards and slivers of non-tempered glass.

The runner-up

Also Great
The popular Duralex Picardie tumbler is a little more expensive than our pick and didn’t survive a 42” drop on concrete, but people love the look and feel of the lightweight classic.
Right from the beginning, the Duralex French Picardie Tumbler seemed like the front runner. It’s the only glass we found that has actual reviews. It made the Saveur 100 a few years ago, The Kitchn loves it, and The Guardian once declared the Picardie one of the top 10 “classics of everyday design.” Six 12-oz. glasses are $24, or $4 each.

Remodelista has included them in their roundup, calling them “A French classic, well suited for drinks from wine to water.” And in an article about the Top 10 Glasses the Picardie is the winner, and their praises are sung here: “They’re simple, durable, versatile. They’re stackable, comfortable to hold, and the perfect weight. And, amazingly, they’re inexpensive.”

My houseguests reached for this glass more than any other I had.
However, the Bormiolis still have some advantages. For one, they tend to be cheaper, and if you’re buying several sets that adds up fast. The Bormiolis have a few more color/size/shape options, in case you want matching sets. While the Picardie survived a 42” drop onto linoleum, it didn’t stay intact on a 42” fall on concrete, whereas the Bormioli survived ridiculous fall after ridiculous fall.

What it comes down to is that the Picardie is the lifestyle brand; they’re the Pendleton, Filson, or Heath Ceramics of glassware. If those are the things you like, spring for the Picardie. Those few extra dollars will buy you a glass with a slightly thinner lip—a miniscule design detail that somehow does make a difference. My houseguests reached for this glass more than any other I had.

In addition, they were the only other glass (aside from the Bormioli Roccos) that stacked neatly. They’re definitely lightweight, and they survived our drop test up until we threw them onto the concrete, a fall which no glass should be expected to survive anyway. They weathered tumbles off tables and counters just fine.

Step down

Also Great
*At the time of publishing, the price was $30.
The Libbey Gibraltar glasses are affordable (12 for $35) and survived the concrete drop, as well as the hot and cold stress test. But they don’t stack and are much heavier than our other picks.
If our top pick is sold out, we think you’ll be happiest spending the few extra dollars on the Picardie Tumbler mentioned above. But if that doesn’t appeal to you and you’re trying to save some cash, the next best option would be the Libbey Gibraltar. I said earlier that the Picardie was the only glass with a cult following, but this is arguably another. It’s a staple of the food service industry, and its shape and ubiquity have even inspired a coffee drink in its honor. At 12 for $35 they’re incredibly economical, and like our top pick they survived the 42” drop onto the concrete floor and passed all hot and cold stress tests with flying colors.

But it has two large drawbacks. First, it can’t stack (and it’s a big glass to begin with). Second, we tested the cooler-size glass, which most resembled the size and shape of the Bormiolis, and they weigh almost a pound (15 oz.) each. It’s so heavy it’s basically a blunt weapon masquerading as glassware. This is an ultra durable option in a classic design, and my houseguests liked it well enough. But once until they discovered the much lighter Bormiolis and Picardies sitting right next to it, no one looked back.

Competition

IKEA Pokal – At only .59 cents each, IKEA products always create a tug of war between wondering if this is money well spent and whether it even matters since they’re just so darn cheap. These glasses did fine. In fact, the Pokal glass was one of the most durable I tested, making it all the way to the final round of dropping. But they are way heavy—13.5 oz. They do not stack. And in general, comment threads paint a picture of general ambivalence. We think you’ll be happier putting that $2.50 towards something that’s going to last.

Bormioli Bodega ($27 for 12) – These didn’t have the thick bottom we were initially after, but we decided to see firsthand if that was such a dealbreaker. They stacked but stuck together, which isn’t ideal either, so we set them aside. Nice basic glasses, but without the versatility that would make them best for most people.

Schott Zwiesel Convention ($41 for 6) – The biggest surprise in testing, I wanted to see how Schott’s Tritan glassware held up to being chucked unceremoniously onto a floor, and those razor-thin glass walls survived fall after fall. However, this is the glass that broke the floor, which put it out of contention. They also don’t stack and are by far the most expensive option, making them more suitable for their original purpose as barware.

Libbey Classic Collection ($46 for 16) – I wanted to consider these since they were from Libbey and because they come in extremely affordable sets with multiple sizes. Unfortunately, two arrived already broken in the box, and they didn’t survive a fall from any height.

Luminarc Working Glasses ($34 for 20) – All-around positive feedback on this Luminarc design led us to consider these, and the added benefit of having lids made them very attractive. But I set them aside the minute I saw them. The lip is so thick that it’s not pleasant to drink out of, and the glass itself is very wide. I can see how they are remarkable storage containers, but that’s exactly the problem: You feel like you’re drinking out of a storage container.

Care and maintenance

Don’t abuse these with temperature changes. We tested just to make sure that if you one day pulled it out of the dishwasher and filled it with cold liquid, it wouldn’t break on you, but tempered glass isn’t meant to withstand extreme hot/cold dynamics.

Wrapping it up

The Bormioli Rocco Rock Bar glass held its own against seven other very popular and extremely durable models, passing some pretty extreme stress tests with flying colors. The lightweight glasses stack well and come in a variety of versatile sizes. They’re affordable and well-stocked at many stores in the event that you need to replace them.

Footnotes:

1. Regarding the heating of tempered soda-lime, according to research done by Sweethome writer Christine Cyr Clisset: “This glass is actually extremely hard to break if you drop it or hit it against a counter—both Consumer Reports and World Kitchen acknowledge this. However, when it’s heated, tempered soda-lime glass expands just like regular glass. It won’t shatter immediately, like regular glass, because the pressure first releases some of the built-in stress. But it can potentially explode. According to Consumer Reports, a pamphlet put out by Corning in 1984 stated that soda-lime glass’s “resistance to high temperatures and sudden changes of temperature are not good.” Jump back.

2. Not to put too fine a point on it, but in terms of dinnerware plastic doesn’t last. It’s a miracle substance in many other ways, but when it comes to food consumption it has few advantages over glass.

Beware of food-grade polycarbonate. It’s a type of hard plastic widely used for greenhouses and safety lenses since it’s virtually unbreakable. It’s useful for these purposes—not having glass shatter all up in your face is a good thing—but this is the plastic that may contain BPA. Even if a product is labeled food-grade, that doesn’t mean it’s BPA free. BPA is only one of many plasticizers in plastics, and we don’t have much data on the effects of the others. But why even mess with them when there’s a better solution right at our fingertips?

Acrylic is another plastic of the #7 variety, meaning it’s made of a lot of different plastics and therefore a real pain to recycle. It is also not dishwasher safe—these are the glasses that develop hairline cracks from the heat and detergents. You’ll be throwing them away in no time. Jump back.

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Sources

  1. Zachary Rudolph, Glassblower with 17+ years experience, Interview
  2. PPG Education Center, Glass Topics, Heated Glass Comparison, http://educationcenter.ppg.com/glasstopics/heated_glass.aspx
  3. Christine Cyr Clisset, The Best Pie Plate, The Sweethome, November 10, 2013
  4. Polycarbonate, Wikipedia
  5. Tara Parker-Pope, A Hard Plastic Is Raising Hard Questions, The New York Times, April 22, 2008
  6. Understanding the Resin Identification Code, Californian’s Against Waste
  7. Landing Page, World Kitchen
  8. A New Formula, Consumer Reports, January 2011
  9. Dean Kaufman, Planning Countertop Heights for Kitchens and Bathrooms,, Kaufman Homes, November 28, 2011
  10. Chantal Martineau, 10 Coffee Orders To Step Up Your Game, Food Republic, January 24, 2012
  • Donald Allen

    There are quite a few reviews on Amazon of the Bormioli Rocco Rock Bar claiming they spontaneously explode.

  • Bryant Tran

    Love my Duralex Picardie glasses! Glad they made your list. Their feel on the lips is unmatched. Worth the price to me!

  • randomthoughts

    I’m a fan of borosilicate, and the wording above makes it seem like the glass itself is toxic, and not the manufacturing process, which is misleading: “So why buy something that’s toxic”

    But I agree for drinking glasses, it’s probably not necessary and I wouldn’t spend extra on it. For a pie plate, or anything going into the oven, I would. I have had tempered soda lime pyrex explode (implode, whatever) on me… it doesn’t take all that much and it is spectacular.

    I’ll have to get me some of the larger glasses.

  • http://www.2beerqueers.com infomofo

    2 Questions-

    1) Since you said these are the same as the Carley Crate and Barrel Glasses- now that the price has been raised for your glasses on amazon, and those don’t have free shipping, isn’t the crate and barrel option cheaper?
    2) Have you guys observed a “wirecutter/sweethome” effect on prices? This isn’t the first time that vendor prices seem to increase immediately after you give them a positive review.

    • http://LukeRB.com/ Luke Bornheimer

      Sample size of one here, but I have noticed that Wirecutter/Sweethome picks often tick up in price soon after their publication on the sites.

      I’m curious whether how much of that effect is demand increasing due to the posts and how much of it has to do with Amazon triggering the price up due to the piece (regardless of demand).

      Can anyone shed more light into this effect?

  • LivinInDC

    Hi, I’m the weirdo who likes heavy glassware.
    Seriously…. To me heavier is better. Personal preference I guess.

  • jj

    You mentioned “if you buy them straight from Bormioli Rocco they cost almost $1 less per glass.” How can you buy them straight from Bormioli Rocco?

  • John White

    Any thoughts on the 16 oz size standard bar “pints” that I see everywhere? Libbey 1639HT and Anchor Hocking 176FU ?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      We liked the Libbey Gibraltar & the Libbey Classic! In fact the Gibraltar was our alt pick.

      The Libbey Gibraltar glasses are affordable (12 for $35) and survived the concrete drop, as well as the hot and cold stress test. But they don’t stack and are much heavier than our other picks.

      However, the Anchor Hocking’s are only available in sets of 32 – made for bar & restaurant orders :(

      • John White

        Just to clarify, I’m talking about the straight-sided pint glasses, which are stack-able. You’re right that they want to sell them in sets. On the other hand, you can get the “JG Durand Pub / Mixing Glass” at the 99 cent store in the bar / glassware section. For 99 cents.

  • John123John

    Any plans on supplementary mugs section? I suppose that is pretty subjective though…

    My roommates and I have broken … 10 glass cups in the past few months (Liberty). I got these as soon as the review came out and they have been holding up great :) Also I think a very practical test could be 1-2 feet drops into a kitchen sink~

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Perhaps!