How to Stock Your Bar for a Party

How Much Liquor, Beer, and Wine to Stock for a Great Party

Overhead view of mojito making supplies
Karandaev/ Getty Images 

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.

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 primary 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 I always like to 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 will have 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 if you know you will not need them. 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 that I've used quite often is that 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
Whiskey*2 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
Liquers** (each)2 bottles2 bottles2 bottles3 bottles
Aperitifs*** (each)1 bottle1 bottle2 bottles2 bottles

1 bottle of liquor in this chart refers to a standard 750ml bottle. For some of the spirits I have included the recommended style in parenthesis () - i.e. for rum, a white rum would be most universal.

*Whiskey in this case is rather generic. It is 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 and 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 Wine**77811
Red Wine**2356

*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 750ml bottles. White wine is 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 over estimate.

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 is vital to making everyone at the party happy... Plan for and offer a great mocktail or two for guests that don't drink alcohol.