Classic Hacks: Figure Out Exactly How Much Alcohol You Need For A Party

Buying alcohol is one of the hardest parts of planning a party, whether it's a barbecue with your neighbours, a sedate dinner party or a raging birthday party that's set to continue into the early hours of the morning. Luckily, this easy formula is a simple way to work out how much booze your guests may be consuming.

Buying alcohol for an event is always a bit of a balancing act. Buy too much and you'll be drinking the same cheap wine and beer for weeks ad possibly breaking your budget, too little and you'll be running the risk of having to make a last minute trip to the bottle-o halfway through your party.

Back in 2009 we unearthed this helpful video from Howcast, showing not only how much alcohol to buy, but also what types of drinks you should buy, and in what ratios. Luckily our drinking habits haven't changed too much in seven years, so it should still help with your planning:

As a rule of thumb, you should allow two drinks per guest for the first hour of your party and one drink for each additional hour. It’s also important to keep in mind the kind of party you’re throwing because an evening cocktail party will likely require more spirits than a lunch get-together. The post says that if you allow four drinks per guest, you should be amply covered.
Howcast also says that a guideline for a large party (which they don’t define beyond that label) is 50% beer, 25% wine, and 25% liquor, which you should then adjust depending on if your party guests drink more wine than beer and so on.

Some big bottle shops will also offer party refunds — where if you end up buying too much alcohol, you can bring the excess back for a full refund of their value. If you're buying a large enough volume of alcohol, call around to find out who will offer this sort of deal.

Of course, the easiest (and cheapest) way to do it is just to get your guests to bring their own alcohol — though this approach isn't always appropriate.

Lifehacker's Classic Hacks is a regular segment where we dig up the most popular, useful and offbeat advice from our archives and update it for your modern lifestyle.


    WTF? As a rule of thumb, you should allow two drinks per guest for the first hour of your party and one drink for each additional hour.

    This is a BAC formula, not a party formula. What you're saying is that no matter what party I go to, I'll be able to safely and legally drive home...

      I does depend on the party but you are likely to have a fair number of people driving so that is a maximum they will drink. Other people will not drink at all or have 1 or 2
      So that leaves extra for you. This ratio doesn't work if you start dividing guest into groups.

        Going to be an awkward party if the drinkers and non-drinkers are prohibited from mingling. :/

        This could also depend on the location. I live in Potts Point and there will be zero people driving to my party - there is no parking, and the majority of my friends (30-40yr olds who live and work in the CBD) do not have cars anyway.

      Oh, I thought I skipped over the line where you multiply that by 5. Worst. Party. Ever.

    Some of the best parties I have been to had no alcohol at all. So irrespective of how much you WANT, the amount you NEED is NONE.

      Yep. Came to say the same thing. You don't NEED any alcohol at a party. It doesn't seem like it's going to be a very fun party if alcohol is needed.

      You and I obviously go to very different parties... Booze is a social lubricant generally some gets it going; and more makes it awesome!

      Half a kilo of blow, a dozen strippers, and you have yourself a party!

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