How to Stock a Bar for a Party or Event

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Stocking a Bar for a Party or Event. Get expert tips form professional caterers about about how much beer, wine liquor, and mixers to buy for your next party or special event.

I quizzed my caterer friends as to how they plan on the amount of drinks and how much to buy for cocktail parties. They use a formula that roughly estimates 10 people will consume 20 drinks at the average cocktail party. Make that 40 drinks if it's a full evening affair, usually including dinner. This is based on a typical 1.5 ounces shot of hard liquor.

So how many drinks can you get out of a bottle?

  • A 750 ml. Bottle will yield about 16 cocktails.
  • A liter bottle will yield 22.
  • a 1.5 liter bottle will yield 39.

For a party of wine drinkers
, plan on stocking 5 bottles (750 ml) for 10 people. You should get roughly 5 servings per bottle.

For beer drinkers, stock 5 six-packs for ten people, based on a twelve-ounce serving. If you have the budget and inclination, you can stock a full bar. However, a more budget conscious idea is to offer a selection of cocktails that can be made from one or two primary types of liquor or to limit yourself to a wine and/or beer party.

If you do want to stock a full bar, you could go wild purchasing all kinds of exotic liqueurs and alcoholic concoctions, but most people's imbibing needs can be met by having the following on hand:

  • Vodka
  • Rum
  • Gin
  • Scotch
  • Bourbon
  • Blended Whiskey
  • Tequila

If you've still got budget
and want to offer more cocktail choices, consider also stocking:

  • Kahlua® or other coffee flavored liqueur
  • Cr?me de Menthe
  • Cr?me de Cacao
  • Amaretto
  • Brandy and/or Cognac
  • Grand Marnier®
  • Drambuie®
  • B&B® (Brandy & Benedictine)

How About Mixers?
Forgetting the alcohol component, there are other important elements to the well stocked bar. Depending on the cocktails you plan on offering, you may need any or all of the following:

Juices -- orange juice, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice or V8, pineapple, lemon or lime juice (fresh squeezed when possible)

For fresh squeezed juices, you can estimate that the average lemon or lime will yield about an ounce of juice, an orange will yield between 1 1/2 - 3 ounces of juice depending on it's size.

Carbonated beverages - club soda, tonic water, cola, 7-Up or Sprite, ginger ale.

Flavoring ingredients - Angostura bitters for drinks like Old Fashioneds, salt, pepper or horseradish for drinks like Bloody Marys, confectioner's sugar for fizzes and flips, grenadine, simple syrup, cream of coconut, etc.

Trendy ingredients -- Keep your party hip by keeping up on the latest cocktail trends. As I right this the current hot mixer for vodka is the energy drink Red Bull®. Research what's current and have some on hand.

Dry vermouth -- If you plan on making Martinis.

Sweet vermouth -- If you plan on making Manhattans.

Salt or sugar for rimming cocktail glasses (as for Margaritas).

Milk, half and half, cream, whipped cream or possibly even ice cream.

Coffee -- For hot drinks and last call, no alcohol.

Garnishes like lemon or lime peel or wedges, cherries, olives, cocktail onions or celery stalks.

Ice, ice and more ice.

Don't forget enough glasses.

Click here to access the library of Cocktail recipes.