Raising the Bar (or How to Purchase Alcohol for a Party)

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Liquid libations, while not the life of the party, do often contribute to it, and if you’re thinking about saving money by purchasing your own alcohol for a bartender to serve or even offering a self-serve bar you are probably wondering how much of what to buy! I’m happy to offer you this guide to created a well stocked bar at your next big shindig.

Let’s start with an estimated 100 person guest count for a standard call bar open for 4 hours. (A standard call bar would be all the typical classic drinks you might be able to order in an establishment minus some of the fancier specialty drinks like blended beverages, Mojitos, or “crazy college shots”)

1 bottle Campari

7 bottles Gin

3 bottles Rum

5 bottles Scotch

2 bottles Tequilla

1 bottle Vermouth (dry)

1 bottle Vermouth (Sweet)

8 bottles Vodka

2 bottles Whiskey

** bottles of liquor are 750ml


9 liters club soda

14 liters Coke

12 liters Diet Coke

7 liters Ginger-ale

8 quarts each: cranberry, orange, grapefruit juice

7 liters Sprite

7 liters Diet Sprite

1 case tonic water

This will set you up for a fully stocked standard call bar for 100 people for 4 hours; however, if you’re going to include wine and beer, I suggest reducing the amount of liquor and mixers by two thirds and planning on buying 8 cases of assorted beers, 18 bottles of red wine, and 13 bottles of white ¬†wine. Another great resource for drink planning is this Drink Calculator from Evite ūüôā

Is it always most cost effective to¬†purchase¬†all the alcohol for your bar? First, your caterer must be willing to serve alcohol that you purchased (preferably without a corkage fee). If they do in fact allow you to furnish all the alcohol without charging corkage fees, then be sure to shop around for discounted bulk deals for sodas, beers, and wines (and if you’re not in Washington – go to Costco for the liquor!). A word of warning: though you will pay significantly less per bottle if you purchase your own supplies, most caterers charge “on consumption” for bar packages, which means they’ll only charge you for what your guests consume (by the open bottle). This may end up saving money in the long run if you’re worried about over purchasing and being left with tons of alcohol on your hands.¬†Conversely, this will likely eliminate the possibility of running out of liquor if your guests end up imbibing more than you expected. Just food for thought…

Remember that Washington State requires that a banquet permit must be purchased and displayed at any private event where alcohol is being served (you can pick this up for $10 at any state liquor store).

Always celebrate responsibly!!!

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