Restaurant Consulting

How to Calculate the Liquor Cost Per Drink in Your Bar or Restaurant

By Daniel Kezner

Beverages, particularly liquor sales, represent a significant revenue stream in bars and restaurants. The financial success of these establishments often hinges on the accurate calculation of drink pricing, analysis of liquor sales, and, ultimately, liquor costs per drink. Incorrect drink menu prices can lead to financial instability as higher pour costs quickly erode profit margins. In this article, we’ll explore the intricacies of serving drinks through liquor cost calculation, how to lower liquor costs, how to price cocktails, and ultimately, how to create a cocktail menu that contributes to the gross margin of your business. It is essential to get your alcoholic beverage program right. We hope to provide you with the knowledge to lower your pour costs, ensuring profitability and customer satisfaction.

Understanding Liquor Costs and Their Importance

Liquor costs are pricing calculations that your establishment pays to create the drinks you sell. Compared to other products you sell, liquor costs can yield substantial profits due to its typically high markup. To capitalize on these benefits, it’s crucial to set drink prices correctly so your beverage costs are within the normal range for the hospitality industry. Accurate drink prices account for the cost of liquor, additional ingredients, and a reasonable profit margin. It ensures competitiveness in the market while safeguarding your bottom line. Proper pricing strategies boost profitability and enhance customer loyalty by providing value.

How to Calculate Liquor Cost Per Drink Using a Simple Liquor Cost Formula

Following industry standard liquor cost calculations and drink pricing is crucial. Liquor cost is not just what you should charge for a single drink. It includes service size, menu engineering, pour costs, and how you purchase alcohol. A straightforward formula to determine the price of a drink involves adding the cost of liquor and additional ingredients, then multiplying by a drink price multiplier. This multiplier helps set a competitive yet profitable price for each drink based on your desired profit margin and liquor cost percentage. Here is a basic formula to calculate liquor costs within the pricing strategy of your beverage program

Drink Price = (Cost of Liquor + Cost of Additional Ingredients) x Drink Price Multiplier

Calculating Straight Liquor Costs

Straight liquor drinks, shots, and beers are often the backbone of a bar’s offerings. These drinks have the advantage of requiring minimal additional ingredients, making their cost calculation relatively straightforward. To set competitive prices while ensuring profitability, consider the base cost of the liquor and apply a consistent multiplier. This approach simplifies inventory management and pricing strategies. It will also lower liquor costs by keeping drink prices within the proper price range.

Example

Let’s take a look at how we price a shot of tequila with salt and lime. If the cost of tequila is $2.00, lime $0.15, and salt $0.05, using a drink price multiplier of 4 (this would get you a 25% Cost of Goods), the liquor cost formula would be:

Tequila Shot Price = ($2.00 + $0.15 + $0.05) x 4 = $8.80

You could then easily round that up to $9.00.

Calculating Simple Cocktail Costs

Simple cocktails, like those from the top 100 lists, offer great margins due to their popularity and the balance between liquor and mixer costs. Offering well-priced, popular cocktails can significantly enhance your establishment’s appeal and improve beverage costs. When calculating the pour cost, you need to consider both the price of the liquor and the mixers.

Example

Let’s take a look at how we price a tequila sunrise. Assuming the cost of tequila is $1.75, orange juice $0.85, grenadine $0.30, and a drink price multiplier of 4:

Tequila Sunrise Price = ($1.75 + $0.85 + $0.40) x 4 = $12.00

Calculating House Cocktail Costs

House cocktails present an opportunity to showcase creativity, offer unique drinking experiences, and increase your cocktail pricing. These typically require a more detailed cost analysis due to their diverse ingredients. Consider the cost of these ingredients and how the cocktail fits your overall menu pricing strategy. Unique, well-crafted house cocktails can command higher prices and enhance profit margins.

Example

Let’s take a look at how we price a hypothetical house cocktail. If the cost of liquor is $2.00, Ingredient 1 costs $0.50, and Ingredient 2 costs $0.65, with a drink price multiplier of 5:

House Cocktail Price = ($2.00 + $0.50 + $0.65) x 5 = 15.75

Tips for Optimizing Liquor Cost and Drink Price

You need to consider several aspects when optimizing liquor cost and overall pour cost. First, we have to create the correct liquor list with costed recipes. We then need to ensure our bar team is making the drinks properly. Finally, we have to measure our results by properly conducting a proper inventory program. 

  1. Adjusting prices based on seasonal availability and demand of other bars can help you capture higher margins during peak times. If the serving size or pour size changes at all, you will want to review the recipe with the new per-ounce pour cost entered in and adjust the drink prices.
  2. Training staff on proper pouring techniques is crucial for reducing overpouring and waste. You should also train your staff on if/when it is appropriate to provide free drinks. It is always best to create specific rules around giving free drinks and always make sure your staff rings things in for inventory purposes.
  3. Regular inventory checks ensure that you clearly understand your stock levels and help you minimize waste and theft. If you want to improve your pour cost, let your staff see leadership participating in inventory and reviewing why there were potential variances. An accurate beginning and ending inventory is also essential if you want to trust your bottle counts.

Common Mistakes in Calculating and Pricing Drinks

Many establishments struggle with common pitfalls that affect their profitability. Avoiding the following mistakes will help to create a healthy liquor cost.

  1. Underestimating the cost of mixers and garnishes can lead to pricing that doesn’t fully cover the cost of goods sold, reducing profit margins.
  2. Not adjusting prices based on actual pour cost fails to account for fluctuations in ingredient costs, affecting profitability. There is excellent software available that reports drinks’ profitability as prices fluctuate. This software works great for any alcohol, including beer and wine.
  3. Ignoring the impact of shrinkage and waste can lead to a significant underestimation of actual costs, harming your bottom line.

Proper Liquor Costing Can Make the Difference Between Success and Failure

Your liquor sales are important. Establishing an accurate beverage cost by monitoring your liquor cost percentage is foundational to the success of any bar or restaurant. By adhering to the principles outlined in this article, you can ensure that your drink prices remain competitive and your pour cost percentage is within a proper range. Remember, the effort you put into calculating your liquor costs and pricing your drinks correctly can significantly impact your business’s financial health. We encourage ongoing training and regular inventory management and always be open to adjusting your strategy to meet market demands. Additionally, you can test your menu/concepts with a pop-up bar or restaurant. Here’s to the success of your bar or restaurant!

Meet The Author

Daniel Kezner

CEO / Owner
From training staff to designing kitchens to refining brands, we’ve done it all during our 25+ years in the industry. And we can help you get it done too. We’ve developed the strategies to make it work....and that’s what makes us the consultants who can help you get where you want to be.
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