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Planning your party: estimating drinks

When you’re planning a party or function, you need to avoid the embarrassment of running out of drinks. A professional caterer can give you an accurate estimate of how much you’ll need to serve your guests, but if you want to make a rough calculation you can do it by following a few simple rules. 

For the purposes of this calculation, assume that a ‘drink’ is any one serving — a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail. Obviously, these drinks are actually different sizes, but this pattern holds roughly true for all of them. Most caterers estimate that an average guest will consume about one drink per hour over the length of the party. The only exception is the first hour, when consumption is higher; a typical guest will drink two drinks during this period. 

Ideally, then, you’ll need one drink per guest plus one drink per guest per hour of the event. If your party lasts for four hours and you have 20 guests, you’ll need five drinks per guest for a total of 100 drinks. Add a few on for a margin of error if you feel unsure, although do remember that most events have less than 100 percent attendance — invited guests often don’t turn up, while uninvited guests rarely do. 

Now that you know how many drinks you’ll need, it’s time to translate that into stocking your bar. A standard 750-ml bottle holds five typical restaurant servings of wine; simply divide the expected number of drinks by five to get the required number. The more choice you offer, though, the more complicated things can get. You’ll need to estimate what proportion of your guests you think will want to order different types of drink; will people prefer red wine to white? Wine to beer? If you’re serving cocktails, what mixers will you need? Even if you simplify by limiting yourself to just one or two types of alcoholic drink, you’ll need to offer a non-alcoholic alternative of some kind. It can be tricky to estimate the number of non-drinkers among your guests, so allow extra as a margin for error. This is where the experience of a professional caterer can be very useful. Visit a site like to learn about the services a professional catering company can provide to help make your event run more smoothly.

Event planning presents a lot of challenges; if you’ve never done it before, it can be difficult to estimate the demand for everything from food and drink to space and parking. Once you’ve done a few events, you’ll have the experience you need to estimate accurately and confidently.