The History of Rocks Glass

You’re having company and you have all the best snacks and alcohol. There’s just one problem. You don’t have glasses to put your drinks in so you can entertain in a cool, classy way. That’s where a rocks glass comes in. 

What is a rocks glass?

It’s a short thick glass that is mainly used for serving alcohol on the rocks, otherwise known as with ice cubes. Although the design is clear and simplistic, it can add some pizazz to an otherwise boring shelf. Plus, if you have some fancy bottles you’re showing off you want glasses that are on the same playing field. 


Rocks glasses are also sometimes called whisky glasses or even “lowball” glasses. The rocks glass can also be known as a tumbler and holds anywhere between 4 and 10 ounces of liquid. To confuse things even more, it’s also referred to as an “old-fashioned glass” because the drink by the same name is put in it.

Want to step up your rocks glass?

Then grab one (or two or three or an entire set) of our Elemental Recess series 10 oz. rocks tumbler. Unlike your traditional rocks glass, our rocks tumbler features a comfort grip that provides a sleek, comfortable sip.

no-slip grip on the Elemental Rocks Tumbler

It's also made with our TrueBarrier™ Technology featuring 18/8 food grade stainless steel with copper lined double wall insulation to keep your drink delicious and refreshing, and no metallic aftertaste.

Elemental Rocks Tumbler

The origin of rocks glass

Knowing all of the names the glass can go by is just as important as knowing where it came from. The rocks glasses started in the early 16th century however it wasn’t even made of glass originally. 


For the majority of alcohol drinking history, people drank from a quaich “quake”. The quaich is similar to a drinking bowl which has handles on both sides.

Here’s a fun fact. The word originates from the Gaelic word  “cuach” (cup) with roots in both Ireland and Scotland. These countries have native Gaelic speakers today and in addition, the language itself is relatively unchanged since it came to the British Isles 2,500 years ago. 

The rocks glasses of today differ from the original. They started as a short glass made out of wood with a solidly thick base.

This helps to prevent it from getting knocked over. It wasn’t until later that it got fancy with precious metals like silver, gold, and bronze. 

High-class individuals would also engrave either their family crest onto the drinking cups or intricate designs. The rocks glasses because a status symbol.

Even today, the rocks glass is considered a high-end, but inexpensive glass because it shows a refined taste and a sophisticated design. 

Evolution and status symbols

While the first quaiches were originally made of wood for function and access, they quickly became much more valuable. By the 1500s, it became common for people to show off their status by the intricacies of the carved metallic quaiches. While the lower class folk retained wooden bowls for drinking, the high-class used precious metals to show off their status.


As the glass’ symbolism became more popular, Scottish clan leaders began to use them for showing off their own wealth and power. They were also used to represent their hospitality towards their guests. At the time, it was considered a great symbol of good faith and friendship to share a quaich of alcohol with company. 

The creation of tumblers and mass production

In the early 19th century, production makers had an “a-ha” moment. They realized the glasses could appeal to more people if they made them out of glass. Since it was cheaper, bars also began to use them. 

It was around this time that the tumbler aspect was created. This would allow the drink to be easily tilted upright if wobbled or pushed over.

This was a game-changer since bars can get rowdy and getting bumped into is pretty common. Plus, it was a big upgrade to the original model since it fit easily into your hand. It was a win-win all around.

In the late 1980s, experiencing the flavor and smell of alcohol became extremely important. This is when the demand for rock glasses shot up.

But, it wasn’t until 2001 that these glasses were mainstreamed. Glencairn whiskey in Scotland officially introduced the glass to the alcohol market.

The company kept the tumbler’s solid base but improved its shape. The unique shape helps to keep the liquor’s aroma which gives people an exceptional sensory experience.

While some claim the best rocks glass is from Glencairn, many sellers have their own unique spin on the glass. 

The rocks glass: a versatile glass for alcohol lovers

Rocks glasses are the go-to for alcoholic beverages. They are a modern classic for any personal mini-bar. They can be used for many customizable drinks so they’ll never collect dust. Since they are made of tempered glass they’re also much more durable than your average glass.

Rocks glasses have a classic, clean design for everyday sipping as well as impressionable entertaining. The next time you want to impress your guests or give the hot gift at the next party you go to, the rocks glasses are the way to go.

A rocks glass is a good gift for the whisky or scotch-lover in your life. But if you want a great gift idea, give them an Elemental Recess series 10 oz. rocks tumbler.

Order one for them and one for yourself here.


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