Trying to figure out how much glassware and alcohol to order for a party can be an angst-filled decision. You definitely DO NOT want to run out—but how much is enough? There is an actual rule of thumb for deciding these things and if you don’t mind doing some simple math you can come up with some safe estimates.
How Many Guests and How Long is the Party?
The general rule of thumb is each guest will have one cocktail per hour. So, all you do is multiply the number of guests by how long the party will last. If you have 100 guests and a five-hour party, plan for 500 drinks to be served.
Know Your Bar
There are three types of bars: open bar, limited bar, and cash bar. An open bar is the most gracious for guest, you can assume more alcohol is going to be consumed with an open bar. Some party planners assume guests will drink an extra drink during the first two hours at an open bar. A limited bar offers a selection of drinks, usually limited to beer, wine, and maybe a single signature cocktail. These are easier to manage and a lot easier to plan for glassware—we will get to that later. Finally, a cash bar is when guests pay for the alcohol themselves. When guests pay you can definitely assume they will drink less.
Types of Glassware
First, you can always go with all-purpose glasses and skip the drink-specific glassware. If you do decide to get specific glassware for the various drinks that will be served, you will need—at the minimum—an assortment of wine glasses, bar glasses, and all-purpose glasses. The wine glasses are strictly for wine, nothing else. The bar glasses are for your hard liquor drinks: scotch, whiskey, etc. All-purpose glasses serve as glasses for the occasional beer drinker that wants it in a glass, or for water and sodas, etc. A general breakdown after you have come up with the total number of drinks served is 60% wine glasses, 30% all-purpose glasses and 10% bar glasses. The Party Place has a great selection of standard glassware to choose from, or for a little bit more, you can stock your party with acrylic barware.
Stocking Your Bar
With a limited bar, the guesswork is done for you. White wine, red wine, beer, mineral water, bottled water, a lemon lime soft drink, and a cola—don’t forget to include diet versions of the soft drinks.
If you plan on having a full bar you may want to consult with an experienced planner. There are good resources out there that list the fundamentals of hosting a full bar. The Knot has a great article on How To Stock Your Wedding Bar and Better Homes and Gardens has a great list of essential options at a full bar. You can even find an interactive alcohol and glassware calculator at the Savory Chef.