‘Tis the season for freaking out.
Whether it’s about executing a perfectly roasted (non-dry) turkey, avoiding lumps in your gravy, getting holiday shopping done on time, or figuring out how much wine you need to keep everyone happy at the party you’re hosting, opportunities for stressing out abound, in spite of our best intentions.
With regards to that last issue, though—that is, how much wine, or other drink, you’ll need for a party—thankfully there are some formulas that can help guide you (if you're looking for help finding a present for your mother-in-law, however, it'll have to come from elsewhere, sorry).
1) First, think about how long your party is likely to be.
I talked to friends in catering and liquor stores that help people with ordering for parties, and they told me that they have a rule of thumb for how much people will drink based on how long the party lasts: On average, people will have two drinks in the first hour and then one drink per hour after that. So, if you’re having a four-hour long shindig, for example, plan for guests to sip their way through five drinks.
In general I’ve found this to give a pretty generous estimate for how much you need, but standard party wisdom holds that it’s better to have some leftovers than to run out of drinks mid celebration.
2) Next, think about how many drinks you get from a bottle.
3) Finally, think about the break down of what you’ll be serving, and, just as importantly, who you’ll be serving it to. For example, your planning needs will be very different if you’re serving only wine compared to iwine, beer, and cocktails.
If you’re including cocktails, I’d strongly suggest coming up with a few signature cocktails for the event rather than trying to buy everything you’d need to host anything close to a full bar.
In my experience, many people avoid ordering cocktails if they have to come up with which cocktail they want to drink on their own—most of us choke as soon as we try to order and draw a complete blank (I do this and cocktails are my job).
On the other hand, I’ve hosted parties with people who typically are wine or beer drinkers, but because I had crafted a small menu of special cocktails for the event (or a fabulous bowl of punch), everyone tried and adored the cocktails and the beer and wine went virtually untouched.
I like having a menu of about three cocktails, one fruity, one fizzy and refreshing, and one boozy and either bitter or savory. If you have a small menu of cocktails, you can calculate and buy precisely what you need to execute those cocktails and you won’t have to have a panic attack because you ran out of Campari while being left with enough dry vermouth to last you a decade.
So there you have it. Plan your drinks menu, do a little math, and you can direct your stress-out energy toward something else that needs it!
How do you estimate the amount of alcohol to have at a party? Share your rules of thumb with us in the comments.