The truth is there's not any substantial research I could find that found any difference between a coffee table and a cocktail table other than the letters that follow "co" in their names. They're both defined as low tables usually placed in front of a sofa used as a convenient surface for placing a glass or a mug.
I haven't done a very large survey and I think over the past several decades my theory has gotten a bit muddled but the difference seems to be more regional than anything else. It seems most New Yorkers, North Easterners and those on the West Coast refer to it as a "cocktail" table while those in the South and Mid-West give it the daintier moniker of "coffee" table.
So with no preference to coffee vs. cocktail I present some interesting tables I've admired with some special nods to our own designs.
Priscilla Monge, photographer
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, NYC