How To Estimate How Much Alcohol You Need For A Party?

One question I get that is almost as common as “How much do you charge for your events” is “how much alcohol do I need for my event?”  I’m sure you’ve all thrown little dinner parties at your house where you pick up a couple of bottles of wine and pair it with the steak you will be having right?  Let’s say that you decide to throw something a little bigger like a family reunion or wedding reception or anything where you will have more than 10 guests.  How do you figure out how much alcohol you will need?  I’ve thrown together a couple of basic ideas on how I’ve determined how much alcohol and mixers are needed for each event.  This takes a lot of basic math so please bear with me if the numbers are wrong – math was never my strongest area.  Once you have done this type of math a couple of times the numbers will come easy, you will almost automatically know how much per event.

First things first, you will need to know how many drinks you will be serving that night based on the length of the event.  I find it safe to assume that most guests will consume 2 drinks within the first hour, then 1 drink per hour after that. Here’s our first math problem


Number of Guests x Drinks per Guest

Ex: 4 hour event with 32 guests 32 x 5 = 160 drinks


This is where it gets fun, of those 160 drinks how many of them will be beer?  How many of them will be wine?  How many of them will be mixed drinks?  This is where you have to know your guests better than I do.  You will have to determine the future of your guest’s drinks.  Here’s a hint so you don’t stress yourself out over it – they will drink what’s available if they want to drink bad enough.


Hopefully, the next couple of paragraphs will help you determine by category how much of what you will need.  A standard bottle of wine is 750ml and each standard bottle will pour 5 (4)oz servings.  As a general rule that I’ve noticed if you are strictly serving beer and wine half of the party will drink wine and the other half will be drinking beer.  If this is indeed the case guesstimate that each person will be drinking half a bottle of wine each.


Ex: 32 guests 16 will be drinking half of a bottle each so you would need 8 bottles of wine.


I will generally round up, so if you need 8 bottles of wine, it might be a good idea to get 10 just in case and just to be safe.

For beer, kegs are definitely the way to go, you won’t go wrong with a keg – just make sure you have the keg to temp before the event starts are you will be serving a ton of foam and losing a ton of beer.  Generally speaking, a half-barrel keg is 15.5 gallons and will yield you with 200 cups of beer.  A quarter keg (or pony keg) contains 7.75 gallons of beer and will yield you with 100 cups of beer.  These numbers are based on 10oz glass pours.


If you are adding cocktails into the mix (get it, see what I did there?  Whatever) this could get a little tricky.  Most single spirit cocktails will contain 2oz pours – think gin and tonic or vodka soda.  If you are doing a double spirit cocktail you will be doing 1.5oz standard pour and a .5oz secondary liquor pour (think margarita).   One bottle of liquor will get you about 12.5 drinks.  So you would divide the number of liquor drinks by 12.5.


Ex: 32guests/12.5 drinks=2.56 bottles


Again, with the liquor just round up to be safe, I would go with 4 or 5 bottles of the liquor just in case.


For the mixers, I usually lean towards the side of 1 liter for every 3 guests. In closing, I want to emphasize again the rounding up.  It’s very important to round up, you never know what can happen that will throw these numbers off just a little bit and the last thing you need is to be stuck with not enough of something.  I’ve been using these numbers for many years and the only thing that really throws them off is basic things like the male to female ratio or the age ratio.  Take these into account as well – men tend to drink more beer and mixed drinks and women tend to drink more wine and lighter drinks.  Older guests may strictly stick with wine and beer and younger guests will lean towards cocktails.  There are different factors that fall into this, so I would recommend addressing it with the host as you go over the numbers.

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