How to Stock Your Bar for a Party

Never Run Out of Drinks Again

Pink Lady Cocktail recipe ingredients

 The Spruce

If you are hosting a cocktail party, this may be the biggest question of the event. All of the other details like time, date, place, entertainment... those are easy! It is the fear of running out of drinks (and food) that gives hosts the most worry.

So, how many drinks per guest?

In party planning, the general advice is that guests will drink:

  • 2 drinks the first hour
  • 1 drink per hour after that

The other question for any host is: Will there be a full bar or a select cocktail menu?

Stocking for a Cocktail Menu

If you opt for the selective cocktail menu, then you have it easy:

  1. Decide which cocktails you will be offering.
  2. Determine the number of guests you can expect.
  3. Know how much of each liquor and mixer you need per drink.
  4. Use the tables in How Many Shots are in a Bottle to estimate how many bottles of each ingredient you will need. For the base spirits, add one extra bottle of each needed just in case (leftovers can go into your regular bar stock after the party).

Stocking a Full Bar

The full bar option is a little more complicated because you'll need a greater variety of liquor and mixers available so guests can order the drink they want.

The following chart is an average bar stock based on the number of guests in attendance. Of course, you can choose to eliminate any of these ingredients based on your guests. For instance, if you know that you will not have many martini drinkers in the crowd, eliminate or reduce the vermouth.

One great piece of advice: if the majority of people at the party are under 35 years old, increase the vodka, rum, and beer stock.

Bar Stock10-24 Guests25-34 Guests35-59 Guests60-100 Guests
Liquor Stock for a Full Bar
Brandy1 bottle2 bottles2 bottles3 bottles
Gin1 bottle2 bottles2 bottles3 bottles
Rum (white)2 bottles2 bottles2 bottles3 bottles
Tequila (blanco)2 bottles2 bottles2 bottles3 bottles
Vodka3 bottles3 bottles3 bottles4 bottles
Whiskey2 bottles2 bottles3 bottles4 bottles
Bourbon1 bottle1 bottle1 bottle1 bottle
Scotch (blended)1 bottle2 bottles2 bottles3 bottles
Dry Vermouth1 bottle1 bottle2 bottles2 bottles
Sweet Vermouth1 bottle1 bottle1 bottle1 bottle
Liqueurs (each)2 bottles2 bottles2 bottles3 bottles
Aperitifs (each)1 bottle1 bottle2 bottles2 bottles

 

One bottle of liquor in this chart refers to a standard 750 ml bottle. For some of the spirits, a recommended style is in parentheses—i.r. for rum, a white rum would be most universal.

Whiskey in this case is rather generic. It's typically best to stock a second whiskey, other than bourbon, that will appeal to most of your guests. A Canadian or rye whiskey would be a great option for mixing the average 'whiskey' cocktail. If you think your guests are partial to Irish whiskey, stock a bottle or two of that as well.

Choosing which liqueurs to stock is going to be a matter of personal choice. It would be best to begin with the essential and secondary liqueurs listed here. If there is a particular cocktail that you will be serving, be sure to stock any specialty liqueurs for that as well.

Aperitifs may be a good optional bottle to stock, particularly if dinner will be served at the party. The most popular option would be Campari. Aperol would be another nice addition.

Bar Stock10-24 Guests25-34 Guests35-59 Guests60-100 Guests
Mixer Stock for a Full Bar
Club Soda or Seltzer3 Two-Liters3 Two-Liters4 Two-Liters5 Two-Liters
Ginger Ale2 Two-Liters2 Two-Liters2 Two-Liters3 Two-Liters
Cola3 Two-Liters3 Two-Liters3 Two-Liters4 Two-Liters
Diet Cola3 Two-Liters3 Two-Liters3 Two-Liters4 Two-Liters
Lemon-Lime Soda2 Two-Liters3 Two-Liters3 Two-Liters4 Two-Liters
Tonic2 Two-Liters2 Two-Liters3 Two-Liters3 Two-Liters
Orange Juice2 Quarts2 Quarts3 Quarts3 Quarts
Cranberry Juice2 Quarts2 Quarts3 Quarts3 Quarts
Grapefruit Juice2 Quarts2 Quarts3 Quarts3 Quarts
Other Juices (each)2 Quarts2 Quarts3 Quarts3 Quarts
Grenadine (12 ounces)1 bottle1 bottle1 bottle2 bottles
Simple Syrup (12 ounces)1 bottle1 bottle2 bottles2 bottles
Sour Mix (12 ounces)1 bottle1 bottle1 bottle2 bottles
Aromatic Bitters1 bottle1 bottle1 bottle1 bottle

 

Other Juices: Included in this would be any specialty juices that you may consider stocking. Options may include tomato, pomegranate, apple, or any other juice that may fit a particular cocktail offered.

Learn more about sodas.

Bar Stock10-24 Guests25-34 Guests35-59 Guests60-100 Guests
Beer and Wine to Stock
Beer (bottle or cans)507580100
White Wine77811
Red Wine2356
Champagne4566

 

Stock a variety of beer. Offer at least two options and more if your guests are particularly fond of beer and could be considered connoisseurs.

The wine recommendations assume about a 5-ounce pour per glass and 750 ml bottles. White wine is typically more popular than red.

Bar Stock 
Garnishes to Stock
LemonsAvg. 1/2 lemon per guest - precut slices and, if you like, twists
LimesAvg. 1/2 lime per guest - precut slices and wedges
OlivesAvg. 2 olives per guest
CherriesAvg. 2 olives per guest

 

Garnishes are cheap so it is always best to overestimate.

Final Thoughts

The other key to any great drink is ice. Plan on 1 pound of ice per person and you will have enough for mixing drinks as well as keeping beer and wine chilled.

One last piece of advice that's vital to making everyone at the party happy: plan for and offer a great mocktail or two for guests that don't drink alcohol.