So You’re Having a Party? Here’s How to Know How Much Alcohol to Have on Hand

There’s nothing worse than running out of alcohol at a party. You typically want to ensure that guests are thoroughly boozed from the time they arrive to the time you send them off in their uber. Small parties are easier to estimate because if an extra bottle or two of wine doesn’t get consumed then you’re likely to finish it yourself in a matter of weeks days. But what about those 3 handles of vodka sitting in your cabinet post New Years? Have you even touched them since you swept up all the glitter from that night? We didn’t think so.

You’re going to have to do a little math.

A general rule is to assume guests will have two drinks during the first hour of the party, and one drink every hour after that.

(Number of guests) x (Estimated number of drinks per guest) = Total number of drinks

Now, think about the crowd and what you want to serve. Wine and beer only? A signature cocktail? Full bar for their mixing pleasure? It’s truly up to you, your budget, and what you think your guests will enjoy.

Figure out how you want to divide the total number of drinks among  your selection. If you are doing wine, beer and liquor and are feeling a little lost at this point, you can make it simple and say 1/3 for each. Simply offering wine and beer? The average party will have 60 percent of your guests drinking wine and 40 percent drinking beer.

Liquor

A one-liter bottle of alcohol yields about 20 mixed drinks. To figure out how many bottles you need, just divide the number of liquor drinks needed by 20.

To estimate the amount of mixers needed, figure about 1 quart (1 liter) of tonic water, soda water, or juice for every 3 guests who will be drinking liquor.

Garnishes are relatively inexpensive, so buying extra is encouraged. For staples like lemons, estimate 1/2 lemon for every guest at the party. For more specific items like olives or cherries, estimate 2 for every guest at the party.

Ice

Estimate one and a half pounds of ice per person. This will provide enough ice for drinks as well as any ice baths for wine or beer. Fill coolers with ice if you don’t have room in the freezer. Keep them conveniently near the drink stations or bar.

Wine

A 750-ml bottle of wine contains about 5 servings, so divide the number of wine drinks by 5 to come up with the number of bottles you’ll need.

TIP: For a sit down dinner with wine only, an easy assumption is half a bottle of wine per person. 

Champagne

One 750-ml bottle of Champagne fills 6 regular Champagne glasses. If you are having a Champagne toast, plan on one additional bottle of bubbly for every ten guests.

Beer

Consider each can or bottle one serving for your total number of beer drinks. Order more depending on who is attending and the type of party. For example, extra beer is essential at a Super Bowl Party or if it is at a party where guests can easily grab them. For large parties, a keg often makes the most sense. Check to see how large the keg is (it varies) and assume 8 ounces of beer for each drink.

Fully Stocked Bar

Um, wow. Please invite us. Also, this table from Epicurious should be your guideline:

Guests 10-25 25-35 35-60 60-100
The Spirits (bottles)
White wine 7 7 8 11
Red wine 2 3 5 6
Champagne 4 5 6 6
Vermouth dry 1 1 2 2
Vermouth red 1 1 1 1
Vodka 3 3 3 4
Rum 2 2 2 2
Gin 1 2 2 3
Scotch 1 2 2 3
Whiskey 2 2 3 4
Bourbon 1 1 1 1
Tequila 2 2 2 3
Brandy/cognac 1 2 2 3
Aperitif 1 1 2 2
Cordial 2 2 2 3
Beer (bottles/cans) 50 75 80 100
The Mixers (2-liter bottles)
Club soda/seltzer 3 3 4 5
Ginger ale 2 2 2 3
Cola 3 3 3 4
Diet cola 3 3 3 4
Lemon/lime soda 2 3 3 4
Tonic 2 2 3 3
Juice quarts
Tomato 2 2 3 3
Grapefruit 2 2 3 3
Orange 2 2 3 3
Cranberry 2 2 3 3
Extras
Grenadine 1 1 1 2
Angostura 1 1 1 1

Non-Alcoholic Options

Every bartender will tell you that the non-alcohol drinking population is much larger than you think. You should always have water on hand, but providing additional drink options like Coke and Diet Coke are nice. If you are having a party on a weeknight, consider upping this to even more options.

Check The Return Policy

Once you’ve made all your calculations, adding an extra bottle or case of popular beer won’t hurt. Check with the vendor you buy from as some will give refunds for unopened bottles. Return the following day, even if your hangover says otherwise.

Don’t forget: if your guests decide to be lushes for the night (more so than normal) and you see yourself running out of a crowd favorite, order Saucey and have your needs delivered to your door within 40 minutes.

Showing 5 comments
  • Derek dewitt
    Reply

    My wife and I are thinking about having a lot of people over for a party this weekend, so this guide was really helpful when it came to planning our alcohol order. I like that you suggest counting one can of beer as a serving. If there are a lot more people that I anticipate, I might have to order a keg like you suggested. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ellen Hughes
    Reply

    I never knew that you can expect a 750-ml bottle of wine to contain 5 servings, so you must consider dividing the number of your wine drinks by 5 so you can determine how many bottles of wine you’ll need. My sister is interested in celebrating her birthday in a country club. She mentioned that she doesn’t want to order too many drinks because she doesn’t want to spend more than what she can afford for her party. I’ll make sure to share your blog with her.

  • John
    Reply

    Just exactly what I needed

  • Christopher
    Reply

    How many bottles for around 70 guest

  • Lucia
    Reply

    This is extremely helpful – thank you!!

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