Guide to Serving Alcohol

champagne in a bucket

How much alcohol to buy and what alcoholic drinks to serve is as basic to party planning as the menu.

To many of us serving liquor and how to properly mix drinks is a total mystery.

Peruse this guide for tips on amounts to purchase, bottle yields, and other valuable information.


  • Don’t skimp on the quality of the liquor you buy and serve. The higher the quality, the gentler it is on your system

  • Most people will be more then satisfied with whatever you serve...after all, it's free and someone else is pouring

  • For a larger function, consider hiring a professional bartender. This will also help with portion control and consumption monitoring

Safety Tips

The responsibility and importance of alcohol safety cannot be stressed enough

In some states, a host can be held criminally liable, if a guest becomes inebriated and then injures himself or others

Although difficult, keep an eye on how much is being consumed and by whom. Enlist the help of friends and designated drivers

Always have food and non-alcoholic drinks available and above all else...


What To Serve

If possible ask your guests about their favorite libations beforehand but the best and easiest course is to decide on what you can afford and what you are willing to serve.

Fun and Flavorful Drink Recipes

strawberry daiquiri

Light wines, wine spritzers, fruit flavored frozen drinks and Champagne are nice for a brunch or luncheon. Cocktail or appetizer only parties are open to a variety of beverages. Wine, beer and soda are of course your easiest options.

Mixed drinks can be as simple as a scotch and soda or as involved as a Manhattan. They require different types of spiritsl (liqueurs, variety wines), equipment (blenders, juicers, jiggers, strainers and pitchers) and, carbonated water, syrups and fruit garnishes.

More elaborate mixed drinks also require some "know how" and maybe even a little practice. If you have a friend who is comfortable making such drinks, make sure he/she is invited.

Dinner parties are the perfect occasion for wines and liqueurs. Liqueurs are distilled spirits combined with a sweetener and one or more aromatic flavorings such as orange, peach, coffee, cocoa and almond.

How Much to Serve

Obviously, the time of day and the type of party will factor into how much liquor you serve. The amount consumed at a evening holiday party will be much more then at an late afternoon birthday brunch.

As a starting point, assume 2 drinks per person for the first hour of the party, and 1 drink per person per hour for the remainder of the party.

These calculations assume a 5 hour party of 12 guests:

12 guests x 2 drinks = 24 drinks for the first hour of the party
12 guests x 1 drink x 4 hours = 48 drinks for the remaining 4 hours of the party
Total = 72 drink servings

Now, let's be realistic. We all have friends and family members who are not the least bit concerned with your drink per hour estimates and will drink until their heart's content. You gotta love 'em.  At the same time we also all have family and friends who are teetotalers or who drink very little.

It will all balance out in the end.

How Much to Purchase

How much you buy will depend on the type of booze the majority of your guests drink. If your guests are would-be wine connoisseurs, then you would purchase more wine then anything else.

The following chart is a starting point in calculating the number of bottles and types of alcohol to purchase.

It is probably better to have too much then to have to make a "beer run" in the middle of your party. Double the estimate for 24 guests or halve the estimate for 6 quests

Again, the chart is based on a 5 hour party with 12 quests = 72 total drink servings needed

Beverage Suggested Amount
White wine  3 bottles
Red wine 3 bottles 
Beer  6-8 (12 ounce) bottles 
Bourbon, Vodka, Gin, Rum, Scotch

1 bottle each; at least three types

Favorite sodas: cola, diet cola, 7-UP, Sprite, ginger ale, lemonade, tea 

1 liter each, especially if serving simple mixed drinks

Mineral Water  3 (1-liter) bottles
Tonic  1 (2-liter)
Ice (for drinks only, purchase extra for coolers, etc) 1/2 pound per person

Bottle Yields

Alcohol is probably the biggest party planning expense. With this in mind, consider the number of drinks per bottle/container of alcohol and spend accordingly. Use this chart with or without calculating the exact amount of spirits you will serve


Size of Bottle/Keg

Serving Size



750ml=25.4 oz

5 oz  5

1.5-L=50.7 oz

      5 oz  10


4 oz. 6


4 oz. 12
Whiskey, Rum, Scotch, etc 


1.5 oz. jigger 16

1.75-L=59.2 oz.

1.5 oz. jigger



   1/2   Keg

12 oz.






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