How to Stock Your Party Bar Strategically

It happens to most of us, social sippers, wine connoisseurs, teetotalers alike. At some point, we all face the task of stocking a bar for a gathering, party, or event. And sometimes it’s intimidating deciding where to start, what to buy, and how to spend wisely.

Like many things in life, it’s important to know your audience. If you know what sorts of drinks they like the most, you’re in better shape than many. If not, here’s how to take the most educated guess:

The most economical route is to limit yourself to just wine and beer, but that’s not always the most fun. First, go through a mental checklist to determine how much is enough for a particular occasion.

Ask YourselfRule Of Thumb
What time of the day is the event?People sip more slowly during daytime events and hot weather gatherings.
What’s the occasion?A business event should result in less drinking than a birthday party.
What’s the venue?Bridal shower at home may mean margaritas, whereas Scotch may be better for a black tie affair.
How long is the event?Budget for 2 drinks per person for the first hour, plus one per person for two more hours.
How are people getting to the event?When people drive, cut 30% from your final figure.
How many drinks do you get from a bottle?
  • A liter bottle yields about 15 drinks.
  • A “handle” (1.75L) yields about 27 drinks.
  • A bottle of wine yields about 5 glasses.
  • A liter of wine yields about 6 glasses.
How many types of liquor are necessary?Vodka tends to be the most requested booze, by far. Start heavy on the vodka and supplement with other options. Think 6:1, vodka to all else combined.

Choose Your Booze

Limit options to “core categories.” You don’t need the spread offered at a full service bar. Think of 375ml options for the less fashionable items. If your Uncle Leo, the guest of honor, loves his Grey Goose, shell out the bucks. Otherwise, settle on lesser-known brands, as you’re looking for the quality in the bottle, not the talent of the marketing.

We’ve done some of the homework for you! Check out some of our favorite brands that tend to please the crowd the most (without racking up top shelf choices):

CategoryWe’re Fans Of
VodkaSobieski
RumDenizen
Whiskey: Scotch, Irish, CanadianHighland Stag, John L Sullivan
Orange LiquorGran Gala
TequilaLos Generales JR Blanco
GinBroker’s
BourbonEagle Rare
BrandyFundador
BitterCampari
Coffee LiquorStirrings Espresso
After DinnerMolly’s Irish Cream
Crowd Pleasing White Wine (1 selection)NV Artner Gruner Veltliner, Austria
Crowd Pleasing Red Wine (1 selection)’09 Cline Zinfandel, California
Crowd Pleasing Beer (1 selection)Stella Artois, Pilsner Urquell, Spaten Premium

In the Mix

Non-alcoholic mixers are essential for non-drinkers and imbibers alike. Keep your selection lean and cover the basics.

Mixers And SippersGarnish
Cola & Diet ColaLemons & Limes
Club SodaSimple Syrup
Tonic WaterOlives
Orange JuiceCherries
Cranberry JuiceBitters
Milk (not for outdoor events)
Pitcher of Unsweetened Iced TeaToothpicks

The Most Important Part

Water and ice are the backbone of a party. Pitchers of ice water placed on the bar remind people to hydrate. And, believe us—you don’t want to skimp on the ice. Figure a pound per person as a general rule. Summertime can warrant double. When making an ice bath to keep wine, beer, and mixers cold, combine ice and water for highest efficiency.

Cheers!

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    Wow! What a thorough post. Love it and will use it for sure as I’m a big fan of entertaining. Since this site is all about being money smart I thought I’d share my ICE TIP for your next party. Buying ice can add up when entertaining with drinks. http://www.stylebaggage.com/?p=403

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    Wow! What a thorough post. Love it and will use it for sure as I’m a big fan of entertaining. Since this site is all about being money smart I thought I’d share my ICE TIP for your next party. Buying ice can add up when entertaining with drinks. http://www.stylebaggage.com/?p=403

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    Wow! What a thorough post. Love it and will use it for sure as I’m a big fan of entertaining. Since this site is all about being money smart I thought I’d share my ICE TIP for your next party. Buying ice can add up when entertaining with drinks. http://www.stylebaggage.com/?p=403

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    Wow! What a thorough post. Love it and will use it for sure as I’m a big fan of entertaining. Since this site is all about being money smart I thought I’d share my ICE TIP for your next party. Buying ice can add up when entertaining with drinks. http://www.stylebaggage.com/?p=403

  • http://www.stylebaggage.com/ Nellene

    Wow! What a thorough post. Love it and will use it for sure as I’m a big fan of entertaining. Since this site is all about being money smart I thought I’d share my ICE TIP for your next party. Buying ice can add up when entertaining with drinks. http://www.stylebaggage.com/?p=403

    • DG

      Thanks, Mellene!
      The ice tip is great. I couldn’t agree more about the money saving aspect.

    • DG

      Thanks, Mellene!
      The ice tip is great. I couldn’t agree more about the money saving aspect.