By Kelly Sutton, Lifehacker
Stocking a bar is a difficult task. Stocking a bar for $100 is even more difficult. Let's take a look at three different methods for gearing up your liquor cabinet for parties of various sizes on the cheap.
(Note: Now is a good time to remind everyone of the dangers of alcohol. College is definitely a time to make mistakes, but please—for the love of God—do so safely. You don't need to be a college student to invite 15 of your closest friends over for some drinks, but like it or not, alcohol is an integral part of most people's college experience and good things (like new friendships) can come from it. This is one of the more popular posts on HackCollege, and it's also one of my favorites. —Kelly)
- Number of People
- Length of Party
This is a lot of stuff. Take everything with a (margarita) grain of salt and make changes as you see fit. No party is exactly the same; likewise no party has the same requirements. And (depending on your state's liquor laws, taxes or store) prices vary.
Building the Bare Bones Bar:
Before having a solid house party, you need a good foundation. If you want a full-out bar, you'll need all of these things, but pick and choose depending on the situation.
The essentials (some of which you only buy once in a blue moon):
- Tonic water
- Sour mixes
- Soda water
- Ginger ale
- Light cream
- Lime juice
- Triple sec
Stuff that you probably already have but need to get if you don't:
- Ice (about a pound per person)
- Juices (OJ, cranberry)
The essential liquor combos:
- 2 lights
- 2 darks
$100 Bar for a Cocktail Party (10-15 People)
With a cocktail clam bake, quality of alcohol is key. Dumping Monarch rum into a potentially delicious daiquiri is just plain unacceptable. You won't be able to stock a bar with every alcohol you can imagine and still afford the mid-shelf liquors that any cocktail party needs. We chose alcohols for covering your cocktail party drink bases, rather than providing the ability to make that obscure drink out of your friend's iPhone drink mixing widget. Gin and Tonics, not Sex on the Beach.
For a cocktail party with less than 15 people, you will need 4 to 5 fifths of booze. For a well-rounded bar, we recommend:
First Priority - Spirits:
- Vodka, 750 mL ($14-$19): Smirnoff, SKYY or Finlandia
- Rum, 750 mL ($14-$18): Sailor Jerry's, Captain Morgan, Barcardi
- Gin, 750 mL ($15-$23): Seagram's, Beefeater or Bombay
- Whiskey, 200 ml ($8-$12): Jack, Jim Bean, or Johnnie Walker
Second Priority - Beer and Wine:
- Classy Beer, 12 pack ($16-$20): New Castle, Guiness, or something along those lines
- Kickass Cheap Wine, ($5-$8/bottle): See our interview with Gary Vaynerchuk of WineLibraryTV at the end of the HackCollege Podcast Episode 18 for some great recommendations.
The spirits here will equate to roughly 2.5 liters of 80 proof booze. That's 56 shots for those keeping track. With the beer and wine, that means each person is getting the D.A.R.E. equivalent of 4-6 drinks per person depending on how many people attend.
The number of fifths bought can be increased if your fans aren't fans of beer. Or if you refuse to serve gin, just balance everything out. Remember though: you aren't building this bar for yourself, but for all of your attendees.
$100 Bar for a Soirée (30 People)
Unfortunately, this is tough. You'll be forced to skimp on quality to come in under budget. So, do one thing and do it well. You'll want to choose 1 or 2 drinks that you'll be serving and stick with those. Long Islands are too complicated. Instead, think Screwdriver or Slow Gin Fizz. Plastic handles will be your best friend for the 30-person soirée. Here is an example:
Our target here is 5 drinks per person. Here's your standard White Russian recipe:
- 2 shots vodka
- 1 shot coffee liqueur
- 1-3 oz. milk
Vodka tends to be much less expensive than coffee liqueur. Once the party's over, vodka is going to be much more flexible in mixing other drinks in the future. But if you insist on drinking the Dude's drink, go for it. The results will be delicious.
A note: Kahlua is going to destroy your budget. Side with another coffee liqueur. We prefer Copa de Oro for our wallet-friendly White Russians.
$100 ingredients for White Russians:
- 2 handles Vodka ($20 each)
- 1 handle Copa De Oro ($17)
- 2 gallons milk ($8)
- Remainder on beer ($35) (perhaps the milky Guinness?)
Mix your drinks right, serve in small Solo cups and you've got yourself a soirée.
The 100-Person Rager on a Budget
Those who have left college needn't keep reading. If you're just going to get crazy for a night, you can't really have a budget — but you should know what you're getting yourself into. If you're planning on having a rager with 100 people for about 6 hours, you'll spend about $380 in the cheapest situation, given the breakdown below. This allots each person a drunkness of 7-8 drinks.
- 2 kegs ($100-$140 a piece): This is the mainstay of college drinking. You'd rather run out of liquor than beer.
- 9 handles, varying alcohols ($15-$20 per jug): If you really want to class it up, you'd get 19 fifths instead and vary your liquor brands even more. If you're too lazy to tend a bar, buy the same amount, and mix up some Jungle Juice.
- 5 standard box wines ($9-$12 per box): This might offend some people, but it'll only account for about an eighth of the budget/ham-boned-ness at your party.
For more information on pricing and drink recipes, visit this site or consult "The Official Harvard Student Agencies Bartending Course."
The school-bound productivity nuts at weblog HackCollege will be joining us all week to offer their perspective on making the most of your Back to School regimen.
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