Cocktail Table vs Coffee Table: What is the Difference?

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When it comes to coffee tables and cocktail tables, there are differences as well as similarities when people refer to them. Both these tables fall under the same group of tables, called occasional tables, which consist of a wide range of table types.

In this post, we talk about these two occasional tables and what the differences and the similarities are. Many people will use the same term for the different tables, and others will call the same table by different names.

Stay with us and find out what the differences between these two table types are and how to distinguish them from each other.

A Quick Description

Coffee tables and cocktail tables are both relatively low tables typically used in the den or the living room. They are small tables used to put down hot or cold beverages to be served to your guests on occasions.

These tables are placed in such a position where the service can be placed on the table and still be easily accessible. The table that is placed in the middle of the living room, so everyone seated can easily reach for their beverage.

In the US, both types of tables are referred to as coffee tables, while in other regions of the world, they have different names.

Coffee table
Coffee Table

Similarities Between Cocktail Table and Coffee Table

As mentioned before, these tables are both low in profile so they can be looked down on while sitting on a sofa or loveseat. Normally they are placed in front of all of the chairs that are found in the den, living room, or family room.

In most environments, these tables are placed in the middle of the room, and all the seating is arranged around the table. The coffee tray or cocktail tray will then be placed on top of the table, and everyone will be able to reach for their cup or glass.

These tables are also quite useful to change the decor of the room by filling the room or use them for placement. Most of the time, these tables will have some form of decoration on top of them when not used for socializing.

Both tables are also mostly between 16 and 21 inches high and are selected according to the height of the sofa or other seating surrounding it. These tables are crafted from a wide variety of materials that include wood, plastic, and even a combination of materials.

They are also available in different shapes and colors and different surface sizes, depending on the use and company size.

Cocktail table
Cocktail Table

Differences Between Cocktail Table and Coffee Table

There are not a whole lot of differences between these types of tables, but generally, cocktail tables are rectangular or square. On the other hand coffee tables are then either round or oval in shape, but this distinction is not really agreed upon.

It is believed that the name referred to coffee tables comes from the time when coffee became quite popular. Before that time, many people referred to these tables as the tea table, and the term was used in early history.

Others say that today’s cocktail table was used as a place to serve tea in the Victorian era. While in the US, during the time of prohibition of alcohol, this same table became popular as the coffee table.

As you can see, there are not any agreed-upon differences between the cocktail table and the coffee table. It all depends on the personal use of the table, whether it is for serving coffee or to mix cocktails for a social gathering.

Coffee tables may also be small tables that are placed next to the seating in the TV room or living room to keep your beverage on.

Some Interesting Information

A device called Microsoft Surface may change the future of the coffee table and the cocktail table in our homes. It might not be just Microsoft, but other manufacturers will start to make a table with a touch screen on the top.

This type of device in the home of the future may completely change the whole picture of a coffee table in the den.


So when it comes to cocktail table vs coffee table, there are not many differences between these types of tables, only the shape of the table. What may also be seen as a difference is the use of the table: is it used for cocktails or to serve the coffee on?

Everything depends on the user of the table and the location where it is used for its purpose, so find one that suits your needs best.

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