Party Math: Figuring Out How Much Beverage to Serve at Your Event

Party Math: Figuring Out How Much Beverage to Serve at Your Event

Everything is ready for your event: the invitations have been sent, the menu is planned, and the space is decorated. You even made up a playlist of the perfect party music. Nothing else to worry about, right? Not so fast! Unless the only libation you’re serving is water from the tap, you still need to give some thought to your beverages.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over my years of entertaining, it’s that recipes have serving sizes, but many beverages don’t. And even if they do, it’s hard to predict how much your guests will drink. Well, here’s our handy, quick-and-dirty guide to keeping the liquid flowing. Get ready to do some beverage math!

beverage math

Alcohol

Let’s start with the easy stuff: your alcoholic offerings. I say these are easy because they tend to come in standard sizes and you don’t have to brew any of it yourself (unless you want to, in which case, please do!). You’ll want to estimate approximately one drink per person, per hour of the event. For this article, let’s pretend you’re hosting a three-hour dinner party for 12 people.

I really think wine is one of the easiest beverages to buy for a party. One standard 750ml bottle yields six glasses of wine, so you don’t have to think very hard to do the math (thank goodness). Over a three-hour period, for instance, 12 guests will probably consume 36 servings of wine, which translates simply to six bottles.

beverage math

Beer — and hard cider — can be easy or complicated, depending on how many people you’re serving. Unless you have some prolific drinkers in your midst, a smaller crowd will do just fine with individual bottles. Larger gatherings, however, might require a 7.5 gallon pony keg, which has about 80 servings, or even a full 15.5 gallon keg, which has approximately 165 servings (that would serve 26 and 55 people, respectively, over a three-hour event). For our hypothetical party of 12, we’ll buy enough cases of beer to equal 36 bottles.

beverage math

Hot Beverages

This gets a little trickier as beverages like coffee and tea need to be brewed — and therefore require a bit more forethought (and math).

Good quality, loose leaf tea is sold by the ounce, with each ounce making between 10-15 servings (based on a 6-ounce teacup). That doesn’t sound too complicated until you remember that you have to brew the tea, which means you’ll need to measure out the right amount of water to make it. So let’s break that down!

We’ve already stated that one ounce of tea makes 10-15 servings. If each serving of tea requires one teaspoon of leaves (depending on how big you make your scoops), then that means we have about 12 good teaspoons of tea on our hands. If each serving (teaspoon) requires six ounces of water to brew, that means we need 72 ounces (9 cups) of water to brew one ounce of tea.

Still with me? Great! Back to our three-hour party for 12. Assuming this is a tea party, we’ll stick with the one serving per hour rule. That translates to 36 cups of tea, which means we’ll need three ounces of loose leaf tea and 216 ounces of water (27 cups, or a little over 1.5 gallons). If you’re serving the tea as an accompaniment to a dinner party, you’re pretty safe preparing for one serving per person, total, as not everyone will even want tea. For our little party, that means we can conveniently use the same math as for one ounce of tea.

beverage math

Coffee, unlike tea, is sold by the pound and it also uses more water to brew — generally speaking, a whole 16 ounces of water per ounce of coffee beans. If a typical serving of brewed coffee is eight ounces, that means we get two servings of coffee per ounce of beans. An entire pound, then, would yield 32 servings.

Speaking of servings, you should expect your guests to consume approximately one cup per person, per event (unless this is a brunch, in which case double it). For the guests at our event, we’ll brew a pot with 6 ounces of coffee beans and 96 ounces (12 cups) of water for a total of 12 servings.

beverage math

Other Non-Alcoholic

Okay, back to the easy stuff: your other non-alcoholic drinks like soda, lemonade, and punch. I’d estimate one drink per person, per hour of the event, plus one more each. In other words, if the party is three hours long, plan on each person having around four servings of their chosen beverage. That doesn’t mean each person will have that many drinks; some will have more and some will have less. But if you can figure out an average, you should have plenty to go around.

A 2-liter bottle of soda will give 10 8-ounce servings, while beverages that come in gallon containers will yield 16 8-ounce servings. That comes out to four drinks per person during our three-hour party, which means we’ll need five bottles of soda or three gallons of juice or a mix of both to total 48 servings.

Whew that was a lot of math. But now that it’s out of the way, it’s time to pour yourself a drink and go enjoy the party!

Party Math: Figuring Out How Much Beverage to Serve at Your Event

Ciaran Keast

Ciaran Keast loves art, semicolons, books, cats -- and all the tea, ever. When they're not posting tea photos on social media, you'll catch them at almost every Plum Deluxe event.

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