Seriously, Can We Retire the Mason Jar as a Cocktail Glass?

The design makes for a dated and decidedly unpleasant drinking experience

May 29, 2024 3:00 pm
Moonshine bust, group poses with confiscated illegal liquor outside Johnson County Courthouse, 1951. Mason jars were used -- but our writer thinks the modern-day use of Mason jars is overrated.
Mason jars as part of drinking history? Interesting. Mason jars for today's cocktails? Annoying.
North Carolina State Archives/Flickr CC

Having grown up in the South, the Mason jar evokes very specific images for me, like canned fruits and veggies from my grandparents’ garden or moonshine discreetly passed around a gathering. But in the past decade, I’ve seen all manner of drinks served in the glass jars at bars and restaurants all over the country. Can we please stop it now? 

What Is a Mason Jar? 

The wide-mouth glass jar was invented by John Landis Mason, a tinsmith in New Jersey, in the 1850s to improve the canning process. The threaded rim allowed for the lid to create an airtight seal, making the contents safely preserved. But other companies quickly picked up the design, replicating it. 

After Mason’s patent expired, the Ball brothers formed a company in Indiana and quickly became the top-selling Mason jar company. Ball remains a leading brand, along with Kerr and Hazel-Atlas. The jars saw a resurgence during the “victory garden” era of World War II and again during the pandemic. 

Passionfruit mojito cocktail served in a mason jar with dry ice smoke and an orchid at Teleferic Barcelona, Walnut Creek, California
A passionfruit Mojito served in a Mason jar (with dry ice smoke) at Teleferic Barcelona in Walnut Creek, CA
Gado/Getty Images

The Jar as Glassware

In recent years, the jars have been used at bars and restaurants as drinking glasses. These establishments seem to want to evoke some sort of laid-back atmosphere, a farmhouse aesthetic. They might be used to serve a neon moonshine concoction named “Pappy’s White Lightning Lemonade” or “Bourbon Sweet Tea.”  

However, these glass jars were never meant for drinking out of, no matter the aesthetic they represent. The glass threads lead to an unpleasant sipping experience, and the wide mouth does little to highlight a cocktail’s aroma. The glasses are also difficult to garnish based on their shape and usually require a straw for easy sipping. The all-important lids aren’t even used, and don’t even get me started on the models with handles, a Frankenstein mix of the Mason jar and a beer stein. 

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Mason Jars at the Bar?

But it’s not just my opinion. “Mason Jars, to me, they just remind me of homesteading, and it seems very 2015 at this point,” says Evan Sewell, Director of Beverage for Signia by Hilton Atlanta. “I think people are moving more into a modern sleek style of glassware. But honestly, it’s really whatever to make the guest happy.” 

Gabe Sanchez, cocktail expert at Midnight Rambler in Dallas, understands the appeal but thinks there’s a time and place. “Mason jars are fun and everybody understands them, from young people to old people, but if you’re trying to do something elevated, that might not translate,” he says. “If you’re trying to be playful, it works. But as you get nicer spirits and more in-depth techniques, does it make sense to put it in grandma’s jelly jar or whatever? Probably not. You’re definitely planting a flag when you do that.” 

That’s not to say Mason jars don’t have a place. I’ve been known to sip wine out of a jam jar in the backyard or use them for cocktail shrubs and syrups, carefully sealed and labeled. But when it comes to choosing a vessel for my Old Fashioned in a nice bar, I’m sticking with a rocks glass. 


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