The Best Drinking Glass
The Duralex Picardie Tumbler is a design classic, and after an additional year of long-term testing we think it’s the best drinking glass you can buy. Durable, lightweight, and more pleasurable to drink from than anything we looked at, we came to this conclusion after 28 hours of research and flinging dozens of glasses off a roof to see which could survive the drop.
We have always recommended the Picardie, but it wasn’t always our top choice. We found less-expensive, more-durable glassware in our testing. But over the past year, as all our finalists sat side-by-side in our kitchen, the Picardie was the glass we reached for the most. It’s a pleasure to hold and use, and over time it became clear that the added cost was justified—it’s a well-crafted, balanced piece we used religiously while other options sat gathering dust.
Made in France of tempered glass that’s durable enough to survive an 8-foot drop onto a linoleum floor, a Picardie tumbler will withstand everyday wear and tear while providing the best drinking experience. They’re stackable, lightweight, and more comfortable to hold than anything else we found—no hefty, chunky bottom like a rocks glass, no wacky ridges on the outside to interrupt the feel of the piece on your fingers. Just a perfectly contoured glass. They didn’t survive a fall onto concrete, but we think the pleasurable experience of drinking out of this stylish piece outweighs whether it survived our most extreme abuse test. The best glass is the one you use, and houseguests and testers reached for this glass more than anything else. There are multiple sizes available, from 3 to 17 ounces, and two alternate color options with limited sizes in marine and amber.
Table of contents
Why you should trust us
I have been researching and writing about glassware for The Sweethome for three years, and with a 10-year restaurant career behind me I’ve handled (and broken) almost every glass there is. I did 28 hours of research and testing, cross-checked material science with our in-house science editor Leigh Krietsch-Boerner, Ph.D, and applied what I already know from testing more than 100 wine, Champagne, and bar glasses to reach our decision.
How we picked and tested
There are plenty of product roundups but we found no pre-existing research on the best qualities of the humble drinking glass, so we did two things: We researched the materials glasses are made out of, and we called up an expert glassblower.
Zachary Rudolph, an instructor at the Bay Area Glass Institute, told us a great glass “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, 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.” Many of us have probably seen a lightweight glass hydroplane across a wet table, so this makes sense.
Through research we also decided that a perfect all-purpose drinking vessel should be made of tempered glass, a process that heats and cools the glassware in a way that makes it more durable and break-resistant (read more about that here). And when it does break, it does so in a less dangerous manner than untreated glass, crumbling into dull bits (relatively speaking – it’s still glass), as opposed to shards. This is what a kitchen needs!
We narrowed down the field with these criteria and ruled out restaurant options, like these Anchor Hocking glasses, because no matter where you look for them they’re only available in packs of 32.
In addition, we did two temperature tests. We pulled hot glasses from the dishwasher and immediately filled them with ice water. We also took glasses that had been in the freezer for hours and filled them with boiling water. We were trying to get them to crack.
Tempered glass is not meant to withstand constant temperature fluctuations, so we don’t recommend doing this all the time. But it should still be able to withstand some abuse. When every mug in the house is filthy and the coffee must go in something, that glass needs to suck it up and do its job.
Finally, with an apartment full of company for a week, we filled the kitchen cabinets with two of every style of glass to see what people gravitated towards most. We didn’t mention anything about a test. We just watched.
In our break tests, the Picardie wasn’t the last man standing, but it did survive a fall from 8 feet onto a linoleum floor. That’s reasonable for something made of glass, so if you bump it off a counter that’s 3 feet high (slightly taller than kitchen table height) there’s a good chance it won’t break.
There were other options that could take a fall onto concrete, but they’re extremely heavy glasses. A 12-ounce Picardie weighs 9 ounces. The same-sized IKEA Pokal weighs 13.5 ounces, and the cooler-sized Libbey Gibraltar weighs almost an entire pound (15 ounces), more like a blunt weapon than tableware. These glasses are so heavy that drinking water out of them feels weird, like a mismatch of form and function.
All the glasses, including the Picardie, survived our hot-to-cold and cold-to-hot tests, so if you dump your ice-cold drink into a warm glass straight out of the dishwasher, it should be fine. The Duralex also stack better than any glass we looked at, nesting neatly together without getting stuck or chipping. We tested 12-ounce glasses, which are an excellent all-purpose size. If you’re a guzzler and want a pint glass, both our picks also come in a 16-ounce size.
From the beginning the Duralex Picardie seemed like the frontrunner. 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.”
Remodelista has included them in their roundup, calling them “A French classic, well suited for drinks from wine to water.” In an article about the Top 10 Glasses the Picardie is the winner, and their praises are sung at Apartment Therapy: “They’re simple, durable, versatile. They’re stackable, comfortable to hold, and the perfect weight. And, amazingly, they’re inexpensive.”
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, 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.
The Bormioli Rocco Rock Bar glasses survived all but the most extreme of our drop tests and they are lightweight, dishwasher-safe, and extremely compact when stacked. In fact, they were our former top pick, but over time we’ve come to notice how important the extra attention to detail is on the Picardie.
But the Bormioli are still one of our favorites and share all the best qualities of our top choice, just to a less refined degree. They come in a wide range of sizes and even a few colors and are less expensive than our top choice. Should you need to replace one, they’re available all over. Amazon, Crate & Barrel, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target all carry these in various sizes.
Of the four glasses that survived the most extreme drop, two of them were from Bormioli. So if you have finished concrete floors in your house and bump this off a table, there’s a good chance it’ll survive.
In addition to our own research, there are eight product pages on Amazon for Bormioli Rock glasses, none of which have an average rating of less than 4.5 stars. And on Crate & Barrel’s own product pages, reviews for the Carley (which are these exact glasses) are resoundingly positive.
Why are my glasses exploding?
Drinkware can be made of delicate leaded crystal, borosilicate, or non-heat-treated soda-lime. However, the most durable, all-purpose drinkware tends to be made of tempered glass. When a glass is pulled out of the furnace, the piece is set aside to cool down all at once. But tempering means the glass is cooled down in two steps––first the outside layer is solidified quickly with blasts of cool air, then the inside is left to slowly come to room temperature on its own. As the inside cools down, it pulls at the stiff, already cooled outer layer, which puts everything under tension—crudely speaking, the glass is sort of pressing itself together. This is what makes our top picks so durable.
If something throws the tension in the glass out of balance, like banging it roughly on a table, it will break. Constantly subjecting your glasses to extreme temperature changes can ruin the balance, too. And unlike untreated glass, which isn’t under any kind of pressure and just cracks in one place, a tempered glass will shatter completely, falling apart into tiny chunks. If you look closely, in this slowed-down footage of one of our glass drops, you can see a piece of tempered glass press itself apart long after the glass hits the ground:
So if you’ve ever read about a glass just “spontaneously shattering,” that’s what happened—the pressure released and blew the thing apart. It’s a reality of the technology and it happens, but it shouldn’t be common. We have had both of our top picks for more than a year and never had one break—if you find you have a set that keeps falling apart, it could be a manufacturing defect.
And while it’s never good to have a glass break on you, the small, dull-ish chunks that result from tempered glass breaking are actually good news—this is why tempered glass is known as safety glass, because it breaks into small pieces. Therefore no large sharp glass shards fall on you and cut you up and massively ruin your day.
IKEA Pokal – At less than a dollar each, IKEA products always makes us wonder—is this money well spent? And does it even matter since they’re so cheap? The Pokal glass was one of the most durable we tested, making it all the way to the final round of dropping. But they’re heavy—13.5 oz—and they don’t stack. We think you’ll be happier putting that extra few bucks towards one of our other choices.
Bormioli Bodega – Nice basic glasses, but they stuck together when stacked and don’t have the thick bottom we were seeking.
Schott Zwiesel Tritan Convention – A barware glass, we wanted to see how Schott’s Tritan glassware could survive getting thrown on the floor. We were surprised to see those razor-thin glass walls survive fall after fall. However, this is the glass broke the floor. They don’t stack and are by far the most expensive option.
Libbey Classic Collection – We considered these because they come in affordable sets. Unfortunately, two arrived broken in the box, and they didn’t survive a fall from any height.
Luminarc Working Glasses – The lip is so thick that it’s not pleasant to drink out of, and the glass itself is very wide. They’re neat storage containers (they come with lids), but that’s exactly the problem: You feel like you’re drinking out of a storage container.
Care and maintenance
Though we stress-tested our glasses, tempered glass isn’t meant to withstand extreme hot/cold temperature changes, so try to avoid abusing glasses that way. Porcelain and stoneware are better at handling hot liquids, so put your daily cup of coffee in those.
Photos by Eve O’Neill
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Originally published: November 17, 2015