Cocktail Party Quantities?

Dear Cooks –

I am having a cocktail party next week but I never know how much food and drink to buy. It seems like I either have way too much or end up running out to the store mid-party. Can you help?

Thanks –

Party Girl

Dear PG –

Great question! Here are some guidelines as far as how much to have on hand for a cocktail party:

Hors D’oeuvres:

  • 12 pieces per person (6 if there will be dinner served)
  • If you are hosting less than 45 people, plan on 6 types of hors d’oeuvres (8-10 guests, 3 types and 14-16 guests, 4 or 5 types); for more than 45, 8 types.
  • Have half hot and hot cold hors d’oeuvres to keep the food circulating and to free up your oven.


  • Figure 3-4 drinks per person (usually 2 the first hour and 1 per hour after).
  • (1) one-liter bottle of liquor serves 22 cocktails.
  • For a party with up to 60 people, buy 7-8 bottles of white wine and 3-5 bottles of red. For 60-100 guests, up the white wine to 11 bottles and red to 6 bottles.
  • For liquor, vodka and rum are the most popular spirits – have 2-3 liters on hand of each, then one liter of other liquors you will stock.
  • 3 cases of beer for up to 60 people is a safe estimate.
  • Remember to have bottled water, seltzer, juices and soda on hand for non-drinkers and for mixers, as well as sliced lemons, limes, olives, cherries, and onions.
  • Count on 1 1/2 pounds of ice per person (for cocktails and ice baths)

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