In Search of a Perfect Drinking Glass

When our kids were little, hardly a day went by without someone spilling a glass of milk, juice or water. We were prepared – with sippy-cups, plastic cups, paper cups and abundance of paper towels. We knew that while the kids’ motor skills are still developing, ours are too sleepy to function as designed, and the kitchen is too small to allow the juggling circus we were trying to perform there. Still, there were days when I thought there is a spilling spell on our family. Then, I started blaming the cups. Plastic or paper – they were unbreakable but so light and unstable that just a light push would flip them out of balance.

Ever since, I have been preoccupied with the search for a perfect drinking cup. Take a simple, clear water glass. Every houseware store has a wide selection, every season brings new designs. But have you found the one that works for you? What qualities does it possess?

Learning from the kids’ plastic cups lesson, I defined my first requirement as stability on impact – the perfect glass should be difficult to take out of balance. This means it needs to have heavy and/or large bottom and/or thick walls. The retro-style glass pictured below was proudly purchased by my husband, and it seemed to satisfy my first demand. Was is perfect? Nope - too heavy to lift even for adults, and too bulky to store. Plus, while it may work well in a diner, I did’t like the look of it on my dining table.

So, stability was clearly not enough, and the list of properties of the perfect water glass started growing:

  • stable

  • not heavy

  • beautiful

I bought more and more: Ikea, Crate and Barrel, Cost Plus, Pier Import, Marshalls. Some were too short to hold the amount of water accompanying a meal. Some were too tall to fit in my kitchen shelves. Some broke on the first week, some I couldn't break as much as I tried to. A few years ago I thought I finally found it. The perfect glass: stable, light and elegant. The dips on the sides made for a sure and easy grip. I bought 12 only to realize that I can’t stack them, plus the cave-like space inside the glass doesn’t allow it to be cleaned well in the dishwasher.

Back to the list. The perfect glass should be:

  • stable

  • not heavy

  • beautiful

  • stackable and not too tall for efficient storage

  • large enough to hold 1 cup of water

  • cleaned well in the dishwasher

I read about a design exhibition in Copper Hewitt Museum in NYC that showcased elegant Swedish drinking glasses “which swell gently outward just below midpoint.” The swell was a special design feature to stabilize the grip so that the glasses could be comfortably held by people afflicted with neural or muscular disorders that produce numbness or tremors.

Credit: Karin Eriksson

These glasses would look nice on my dining table, they appear stable and easy to hold even for a child. But they seem too gentle for a daily hectic kitchen life.

I decided to go back to the simple solution and finally settled on something that looked OK, was moderately heavy, rather sturdy and looked promising to become the one and only.

At the store I went over my list:

  • stable – I sneaked a light push that didn’t affect the glass

  • not too heavy - yes

  • beautiful - OK

  • stackable and not too tall for efficient storage - yes

  • large enough to hold 1 cup of water - yes

  • cleaned well in a dishwasher – should be because it is smooth

  • not too gentle for a daily handling – thick enough yet not heavy

But guess what, some sandy grains are always accumulating at the bottom of the glass in our dishwasher. I suspect it may be too tall and narrow to be cleaned well automatically.

I am still searching for the one and only. But does it exist? Have you found one?


  1. We like these:

    They're high-quality polycarbonate, so they hold up well and survive the rigors of daily use. But best of all, they're narrow - just 3.3" - so they're easy to grasp and (and unexpected bonus) save precious space in the top rack of the dishwasher.

  2. Mike Leach posted on TheMathMom's Facebook page:
    The circumference of the rim should be [1+sqrt(5)]/2 times the circumference of the base, and the height of the glass should be inversely proportional to the derivative of the base area cubed.

  3. Dorothy - thank you for the link. I haven't considered polycarbonate. Sounds like a great idea reading your comment and Amazon reviews. Plus, they are bullet-proof :)
    Ordering them as my Thanksgiving present to my family.

  4. Thanks for the great post!

    I would like to suggest these:

    This Montessori catalog is designed "for small hands" and these glasses are a perfect example of how we can teach our children life skills earlier if we give them the right tools!

  5. I'd be really grateful for info about where to buy the glasses with dips on the side. My wife has Alzheimer's and we have some similar glasses (can't remember where they came from) which work well for her but only have two left.


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