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Party-Ready Bar LEAD
Credit: Robert M. Peacock

Running out of alcohol mid-fête is one of the most dreaded party fouls for any hostess. When your event is in full swing, the last thing you want is a tableful of empty wine glasses, or to have to make a run to the liquor store. Also annoying (although not nearly as grim) is having a surplus of booze post-party—some of us simply do not have the need or the space for a 30-can case of beer and three full bottles of vodka.

Fortunately, we have a solution. Cookbook author Denise Gee recently debuted Southern Appetizers: 60 Delectables for Gracious Get-Togethers ($14; amazon.com), in which she breaks down bartending by the numbers. Given the South’s strong cocktail culture (Mint Juleps, Sazeracs, and Old Fashioneds, anyone?), it’s safe to say that Gee is a trusted source for all things spirits. Read on below for her top tips on buying the right amount of alcohol every time.


“One bottle equals 750 milliliters or 25 ounces, which yields five to six servings per bottle, depending on your pour (bartenders recommend planning on half a bottle per person).”


“Assume guests will drink about 12 ounces (one bottle) of beer every half hour to hour during the party.”


“Use 1½ ounces of liquor for each drink.”


“A 'fifth' bottle equals about 750 milliliters or 25 ounces, which yields about sixteen 1½-ounce pours.”


“One liter equals about 34 ounces, more than give 6-ounce servings.”


“Plan for 2 pounds of ice per guest for drinks with ice, plus lots more cubed or crushed ice for chilling beer and wine. Fill coolers with ice if you don’t have room in the freezer, but keep the coolers outside, since they have a tendency to leak water (and on occasion, need to be drained before adding more ice). For six guests, get 10 pounds of extra ice; twelve guests, 24 pounds.”


“Purchase or rent glasses or get your party-ware out of storage. Whether you’re using actual glass or plastic, expect guests to use multiples. For six guests, keep on hand 16 glasses; twelve guest, 30 glasses. Up those numbers when serving a variety of drinks (cocktails, wine, beer, aperitifs).”