What Is A Cocktail Pool? 2 Similar Pool Types

small black tiled cocktail pool in backyard with large gray stone paver deck and green grass lawn behind it

If you’re considering a smaller pool in your backyard you’ve probably heard some terms you’re not quite familiar with.  You might heard smaller pools called ‘spools’ or dipping pools, or maybe ‘cocktail pools’.  All these things generally describe the same thing.  But what is a cocktail pool particularly?  How does it differ from a dipping pool or a spool?

Cocktail Pool vs. Spool vs. Dipping Pool

First, let’s start by describing what a spool is.  These are commonly built in the southwest where the term originates from.  The word is a portmanteau (fancy word for combination of two words) of ‘spa’ and ‘pool’ to make ‘spool’.  In general, a spool is a large spa which can be heated up and used like a spa.  However, most of the time is just a small pool with benches.  A spool is usually somewhere around 8’ x 12’ or so, and can be circular, free formed, or angular in shape.  

A dipping pool can be the same size as a spool or somewhat larger, but will be deeper and will have less of a focus on seating and benches.  The purpose of the dipping pool is to jump in, cool off, and move on with your day.  These pools can be heated or not, and might have benches or not.  The important part is the dipping pool will be accessible, deep enough to cool off in, and not intentionally a social swimming environment.

What Is A Cocktail Pool?

Conversely, a cocktail pool is intended to be a social environment.  In a cocktail pool there will be benches at numerous locations around the perimeter, if not continuousThe cocktail pool will be somewhere in the 10-15’ width x 15-25’ in length.  The shape can be anything under the sun. 

what is a cocktail pool shown in luxury backyard compared to a spool with a stainless steel grill and large white wall nearby

The important part is the maximum depth will be in the 3’-6” to 4’ range.  This just so happens to be the ideal range for international resort pools with swim up bars.  This depth is perfect for most people to hold a cocktail in their hands without needing to hold it up high above their shoulders uncomfortably.

How Is A Cocktail Pool Different Than A Regular Pool?

A cocktail pool is meant to be a party destination.  Here are some good examples of cocktail pools. The place where you and your friends go to cool off in the summer and get a little tipsy.  It’s the pool design which most people will initially question, why would someone go through the expense of a pool and build one so shallow and so small with all those benches in the way?

Once you’ve experienced a cocktail pool, you understand the concept clearly.  It’s all about the pool being a fun and social environment where people can congregate, laugh, and have a good time with one another.  

Often a fire pit is a great feature to build into the patio next to the cocktail pool.  This helps take the edge off of those cooler nights where you want to keep the party going but don’t want to go inside.  

small rectangular cocktail pool with brown rocks and a waterfall surrounding it

How To Design A Cocktail Pool For Your Backyard

When choosing what is a cocktail pool to you, you first should think of how many people you want to have comfortably in your backyard.  Then you want to assume about half of them will swim, at any given moment.  Then consider around half will want to be socially connected, but not necessarily swimming.  For this reason, you will often see cocktail pools raised off the patio 18” or so. 

This makes the coping edge of the cocktail pool a bench.  By having the entirety of the perimeter of the cocktail pool where it meets the pool deck a bench, you increase seating and conversation zones. It’s important to make sure to include those not swimming with the conversations of those swimming. The same design theory is often used on built in spas on pool spa combinations.

What Is A Cocktail Pool Summary

Now you know how to answer what is a cocktail pool. However, you might still want to know how much does a cocktail pool cost?  We’ve explored this topic much further in another article. Although, to summarize we can that cocktail pools will end on the higher range of gunite pool costs. The beauty of cocktail pools i that they’re custom. However, this makes determining an accurate price very difficult.