Beyond the Wine Aisle

How Much to Buy for a Party

This question comes up all the time, so I will give you some pointers. It is really embarrassing to run short but it is also stressful on your pocketbook to have too much left over.

Before buying anythin, confirm with the Retailer that he will take back any items that have not been opened or damaged. Since you are going to be spending a pretty good amount of money with that Retailer for your party or event, make sure you get this return policy commitment from the owner or manger of the store, not the part time clerk.

Ask for and keep a detailed a receipt showing all items purchased, date purchased, amount paid and method of payment.

These next steps are up to you and totally in your control:
- Put someone in charge of how many bottles are open at the same time. It is so easy for someone to just open another bottle instead of walking across the room to pour from one already open.
- Store all unopened bottles in a place away from the party and have someone in charge of releasing the bottles to be opened. This is not inferring that your guests will steal the bottles… but it will give you better control over how many bottles are opened unnecessarily at the party thus preventing you from getting a refund by returning them in an unopened and undamaged condition. This advice goes for all beverages including mixers and soft drinks.

Champagne or Sparkling Wine: either beverage is perfect for any event. We Americans seem to have the idea that these beverages are only for special occasions. Most of the rest of the world have been enjoying them everyday. Serving Champagne or Sparkling wine is a wonderful to create a beautiful atmosphere. Both also stimulate the taste buds.

How much to buy? Served 5-6 oz per glass you will get 4-5 servings per bottle. Most Champagnes and Sparkling wines come in 750ml bottles which is 25.4 oz. Figure that about half the people will have at least two servings, so that would be 2 to 3 people per bottle… then add another 2-3 bottles for those who will be so impressed by you a serving Champagne or Sparkling wine that they will not switch to another beverage.

Wine: Every party or function is unique. Consider carefully who is attending. Do you know their preferances as to wine, spirits, beer or (totally acceptable) just soft drinks. Here is a simple formula for buying enough wine used by the industry to make sure you do not run short:

# of guests x .5 x # of hours / 60 = the number of (12 750ml) cases needed

So, now comes the question of how much of each type of wine to buy. You should consider the type of party. Who is attending, are they wine drinkers, do you know some of their preferences? You should also consider the cuisine and the season when choosing the selection. If it is an outside event in the summer or at least warm weather, chances are that your guests will consume more white or rose wines. A fall or winter event with heavier food will require more reds.

In any case you should have a variety of wines ranging from sweet to dry. White Zinfandel or Riesling, even Pinot Grigio are good choices for your guests who prefer the sweeter wines. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, White Bordeaux, white Spanish wines are excellent and safe choices for the drier wines.

Your red wine varieties should range from light to fruity, such as Pinot Noirs, Beaujolais and also Shiraz, Argentinean Malbec, or yes even Merlot. And Italian Barolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Spanish Rioja for the guests preferring fuller bodied and dryer red wines.

Above all you the host should also have a white and a red wine that is your signature wine, they do not have to be unduly expensive wines. They should not easily be available but speak volumes about you - your personality - the party you are throwing. It will be a point to remember about your function. Don't have a large supply of these wines for the party, let them beg for more. You will also have a lot of fun and learn a lot about your own wine tastes, looking for those wines way before your party happens.

Liquor: There too many variables to create a formula for which Liquor to purchase for a party. The quantity needed depends on the variety of liquors offered, length of time of the party and if you are also serving wine and beer too.

Right now these sprits are popular at parties and in this order: Vodka, Rum, Bourbon, Tequila, and Single Malt Scotch. There are numerous choices and Brands available in all price ranges. This little chart might help you decide how much Liquor you will have to buy for your party or event:

375ml 8.5 servings per bottle (1.5 ounces per serving)
750ml 17 servings per bottle
1 Liter 22 servings per bottle
1.75 Liter 39.5 servings per bottle

Ahh Beer: You always have to have beer. Again you have to gauge your guest list and calculate how many are strictly beer drinkers. If your party is primarily beer oriented then you might want to use this formula used by professional party planners:

# of guests x .5 x (# of hours-1)/24 = # of cases needed (24/12 oz)

The most cost effective way to buy beer for a party is Keg beer. It does limit your variety available for your guests and remember, you cannot get a refund on beer left over in kegs, kegs must be keg cold at all times. This chart may help you make your decision of whether or whether not to serve keg beer:

1/6 keg = 2.4 (24/12oz) cases 58 - 12 oz servings
1/4 keg = 3.5 (24/12oz) cases 84 - 12 oz servings
1/2 keg = 7.0 (24/12oz) cases 168 - 12 oz servings

Sodas and Mixers: Today it is perfectly acceptable to drink a non-alcohol drink at a party - not the case 20 or 30 years ago. So you will have to have soft drinks which need to consist of diet sodas, caffeine-free sodas and bottled water. The Soda formula is this:

# of guests x .40 = # of liters needed

The Mixers should be mostly Tonics, Club Soda and some Ginger Ale. The Mixer formula is:

# of guests x .20 = # of liters needed

It is always a good idea of course to have various fruit juices, teas and coffee, and tons of ice.

The above are only guidelines. Every party or event is so unique that a lot of thought and planning needs to go into it. I hope this helps you. If you have any experiences that have worked for you, please share them here. We get a lot of questions on this subject.

The biggest problem with throwing the greatest, perfect party is - you can then expect all future parties to be at your house.

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