Knowing the cost of shots at the bar will help you gain a perspective on your bar’s inventory. If you want to operate a bar but aren’t sure what to charge for drinks, you’ve come to the perfect spot. Starting a bar can be profitable if you price the alcohol correctly.
A shot of alcohol can range from $4 to $15, depending on the establishment and the quality of the alcohol offered. The cost per shot of alcohol and the liquor markup imposed by the establishment is used to calculate their liquor pricing. The more upmarket the bar, the more pricey the drinks will likely be.
In this post, we will explore how much liquor is in a shot, how many shots are in a 750ml bottle, and how to price shots at your bar.
How Much Liquor Is in a Shot?
Let’s get to the basics first by looking at some questions:
- How much liquor is in a single shot?
- What is considered a standard shot?
Unfortunately, there is no standard definition of how much liquor is in a single shot. Utah is the only state that teaches bartenders to consistently pour shots at 1.5 oz (44ml).
Remember that there isn’t a standard-sized shot glass, so some will be more or less than a standard one-ounce shot.
For accuracy, you should use a jigger to measure your liquor accurately, but make sure you purchase a jigger that will fit your definition of what a standard shot is in your bar.
Some bars calculate a standard shot as 1 oz (30ml), while others may say their standard shot is 1.5 oz (44ml) or even 0.75 oz (22ml).
For our purposes, we’ll take a standard shot at 1.5 oz (44ml) because we’ll show you some calculations later on how to calculate your shot prices for your bar.
Most cocktail recipes call for 1.5 oz in their recipes, and that’s what we based our standard shot on.
Calculating Shot Costs
To determine the cost of a shot at a bar, we’ll need to look at a few factors first, which we’ll break down below.
Cost of Liquor
The “bottle cost” is the bar’s purchasing cost per single bottle of alcohol. Pricing is determined by a number of criteria, including the brand, quality, kind of alcohol, and the size of the bottle.
A good entry-level whiskey will cost less than a decent mid-level whiskey. However, a premium single malt will cost far more than an entry-level or mid-level whiskey.
We’ll use the mid-level whiskey to calculate the price per shot of whiskey because most pubs stock it.
To put things in perspective, let’s look at the prices per 750ml bottle:
- The mass-produced Southern Comfort Original retails for around $12 and is especially popular as a shot.
- Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee whiskey, a staple in many bars, costs anything between $17.99 and $24.99.
- Luxury bottles such as Buchannan’s Red Seal 21-year-old whiskey will set you back anything between $170 and $200.
How Many Shots Are in a Bottle of Liquor?
A 750 ml is equal to 25.36 ounces, which will give us approximately sixteen 1.5-ounce shots per bottle (25.35 ÷ 1.5 = 16.9).
Because there is always some spillage while pouring liquor, no matter how careful a bartender is, let us suppose that a 750ml bottle of alcohol will pour; an estimated average gives you 16 shots of alcohol.
How Much Are Shots at a Bar?
Finally, we get to the question we set out to answer—how much is a shot at a bar? We need to remember bars pay wholesale prices for their liquor, but for our purposes, we’ll use retail prices to do our calculations.
To put this all into perspective: a 750ml bottle of Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky retails for around $30. This will give around 16 shots of whisky. When you serve it straight up or on the rocks, the base cost per shot will be $1.875. Usually, bars round up the cost of shots to the nearest half or full dollar, giving us $2 per shot. This is called the pour cost.
But we’re not quite done yet. Bars also need to cover various expenses such as insurance, lease, utility bills, and paying their servers and bartenders a living wage.
Thus, they will add a markup on the shot prices of between 400 and 500% to make a profit, or the house works on a 22% pour cost.
Taking the pour cost of 22%, we will arrive at the cost of Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky of $9 per shot (2 x 22% = 9). Remember, we’ve worked at retail prices and not wholesale prices.
Wholesale prices, the average price per shot will be around $5 to $15, depending on the type of drink and the quality of alcohol served.
What About Cocktails?
Now that we’ve established a base cost for our shots, we can quickly examine the cost of mixing up a cocktail—let’s take something simple like a Martini.
The classic dry martini calls for a 2.5 oz gin, a half ounce of dry vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters.
We’ve broken down the prices in the table below—remember, we’re using premium gin, which attracts a higher retail price.
|Ingredient||Amount Needed||Bottle Cost||Shots per Bottle||Ingredient Cost|
|Hendrick’s Dry Gin (750ml)||2.5 oz||$34.99||22||$3.98|
|Martini & Rossi Extra Dry Vermouth (1 liter)||0.5 oz||$9.99||22||$0.23|
|Peychaud’s – Aromatic Cocktail Bitters (5 oz)||1 Dash (10 drops or 1ml)||$7.99||15||$0.55|
When we add it all up, we arrive at the following totals:
|Base Cost per
|Total Cost per
As you can see, a bar is an exceptionally profitable business, but keep in mind that they also have a lot of overheads and expenses to take care of and stay afloat.
Consumers: look around your favorite bar before you grumble about the high cost of shots at the bar. Everything inside requires a financial investment.
You can pour shots or mix cocktails at home for far less money, but you’re also paying for the environment as well as the talents and service of the employees.
Bar owners: while owning a bar can prove to be an exceptionally profitable endeavor, keep in mind to overcharge your clients and seek fair profit margins—that way, you will stay in business, pay your bills, and pay your employees a living wage while bringing joy to countless patrons.