When hosting an event, you need to consider how many beverages per person to provide. This includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. In a separate article, we will address how much alcohol per person is necessary for your event.
Types of beverages
If you search for a drink estimate online, you typically come across alcoholic drink calculators. Alcohol is only one type of drink available at events. As you probably know, others include:
- Carbonated beverages (soda, tonic, mineral water, sparkling juice)
There may be other beverages not listed here that are local, cultural, or just preferential. In the Southern United States, sweet tea is served almost everywhere, and you cannot host an event without it. My family in the US tends to prefer cream with their coffee, while in Ecuador, a typical coffee is served with milk.
How to Estimate
You will need to have an accurate estimate of how many beverages your guests will consume. A rule of thumb is that your guests will consume approximately two (2) drinks per hour. I understand that this sounds like an enormous amount of liquids for a person to consume. But be aware that this number can be tough to estimate. Many people put down half-finished drinks that are then cleared by staff, even though the guest intended to return to their drink.
Thus many people order two (2) drinks per hour, even though they only end up drinking about one and a half. This is especially prevalent at events with children who tend to order a drink, have a few sips, then run off with friends. Once they get thirsty again, they have forgotten that they even have a half-full glass and ask for another.
The estimate above includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. A standard assumption for alcoholic beverages is two (2) drinks the first hour, then one (1) drink per hour per adult.
Therefore, at a shorter event, you will need to provide a greater proportion of alcoholic drinks than non-alcoholic drinks. As the event gets longer, many people will switch from drinking more alcohol to less. Thus the proportion of alcoholic beverages of total drinks will decrease.
Some Drink Math
Below are examples of a 3-hour sport watching party for a person who drinks alcohol and one who does not.
|Hour||Alcohol drinker||Non alcohol drinker|
|Alcoholic drink||Non-alcoholic drink||Alcoholic drink||Non-alcoholic drink|
|1||2 – beer||0||0||2 – soda|
|2||1 – beer||1 – water||0||2 – soda, water|
|3||1 – beer||1 – water||0||2 coffee, water|
Examples of a 5-hour wedding for a person who drinks alcohol and one who does not:
|Hour||Alcohol drinker||Non alcohol drinker|
|Alcoholic drink||Non-alc. drink||Alcoholic drink||Non-alc. drink|
|1||2 – cocktails||0||0||2 – soda|
|2||1 – champagne||1 – water||0||2 – sparkling juice, water|
|3||1 – wine||1 – soda||0||2 – water, soda|
|4||1 – mixed drink||1 – coffee||0||2 – water, soda|
|5||1 – mixed drink||1 – water||0||2 – water, soda|
For the 3-hour sport watching party, each person will have six (6) drinks. However, the person who drinks alcohol will have four (4) alcoholic drinks and two (2) that is non-alcoholic (67% alcoholic). Meanwhile, at the 5-hour wedding, there will be a total of ten (10) drinks, with six (6) alcoholic drinks and four (4) that are non-alcoholic (60% alcoholic).
Therefore, for your 20 person sports-watching party, you will need 120 drinks (20 people times 6 drinks each), while for the 200 person wedding, you will need 2000 drinks (200 people times 10 drinks each).
As shown in the examples above, many people drink water while drinking other things. It is not easy to estimate water consumption because water is refilled at many seated events before the guest’s glass is empty. Water is counted in this estimate because there will be many events where tap water is not potable so bottled, or filtered water will need to be brought in. Plus, the calculation is necessary for a glassware estimate.
The starting quantity is four (4) ounces (¼ pound) of ice per drink. It fits nicely in an eight (8) ounce glass with plenty of room for the drink. Keep in mind that some drinks use more, some use less, and some don’t use any at all (such as beer, wine, or hot drinks). But using this as a starting point, for each guest at your 5-hour wedding in the example above, you will need enough for 10 drinks, which is 2 ½ pounds each. If you have 200 people at this wedding, you will need 500 pounds of ice! Even for your 3-hour sports-watching party, you will need 30 pounds of ice (20 people times six (6) drinks each times ¼ pound of ice).
This quantity does not include ice that is needed for chilling. If you choose to chill with ice rather than a refrigerator, you will need more.
As with all estimates, this quantity greatly depends on your climate (humid or dry), the weather (hot or cold out), the location (inside or outside), and culture. You will need more ice for an outdoor event on a hot and humid day than you will for one inside when the weather is mild. I know that I personally use more ice in my drinks when I am visiting family in Florida than I do at my home in the mountains.
Also, the United States is an ice-heavy culture. In the US, you will need to specify that you do not want ice in your drink at many restaurants. In many other countries, you need to specify if you do want ice (if available). So this estimate may seem low for the US but relatively high for other countries.
As mentioned above, some guests are not very good at keeping track of their drinks, so having enough glassware is crucial.
The starting assumption is that at any given time, a guest will be drinking from one glass, a second will be getting washed, and a third will be in stock at the bar for the next drink. That gives you a minimum of three (3) glasses per guest. However, the usual estimate is 3-4 just to be on the safe side. But that is generally for events that do not have seating.
For seated events, estimate 5-6 glasses per guest. Why do seated guests need more? Because it is more likely that they will be drinking multiple drinks at the same time. As a seated event, there will usually be a water glass at the guest’s seat that is always in use. Also, that guest may be drinking a beer at their seat when a glass of champagne is handed to them for a toast. In that case, there are already 3 glasses in use at the same time. However, at seated events, glasses are more likely to be reused for a refill than washed between each drink. Water, wine, tea (hot water), and coffee will generally be refilled. Juice, carbonated beverages, milk, beer, and mixed drinks will be served in a clean glass.
How much of each drink?
How much of each type of drink really depends on personal preferences, family culture, and geographical location. At events that have lots of children, more milk is likely to be drunk. In Europe, more people tend to drink mineral water than in the US. Ask your planner for recommendations if you are unsure about how much of each drink is required. If you are planning this on your own, just use your judgment.
Drinks can be an important component of your event. Having enough drinks on hand makes sure your guests will never be thirsty. And when planning, get on the same page as your client with our client portals.