How Much is Inside a Cocktail?

How Much Do Cocktails Cost to Make at Home?

After wowing my friends and co-workers with the sandwich calculator, some started wondering about the price of homemade cocktails. You see, if you are bothering to make and bring a sandwich to work, maybe you should be mixing drinks at your desk instead of those $10 mojitos at Centerfolds on your lunch break.

I drink beer. It is easy to figure out how much beer costs. The same goes for wine.

For cocktails, the central ingredients are easy to figure. Gin, rum, tequila, vodka and whiskey come in 1.75 liter bottles. That converts to 59 ounces of alcohol, so a $13 bottle of plain rum divides down to 22 cents per ounce. That's the heart of any cocktail, and these first calculations are the easiest.

  • Essex Place Gin $11.99 20¢ per ounce
  • King's Bay Rum $12.99 22¢ per ounce
  • Bandolera Tequila $16.99 29¢ per ounce
  • Popov Vodka $12.99 22¢ per ounce
  • Kessler Whiskey $14.99 25¢ per ounce

But you need more than just these five to make most cocktails.

(Although you can come close to a Long Island Iced Tea)

Cocktails get complicated very quickly. There are a ton of different drinks, and everyone seems to have a different idea of how they should be made. Browsing through recipes, a few ingredients keep popping up, such as triple sec and pineapple juice, but these are unique recipes, so they try to throw in unique ingredients.

  • Triple sec $4.99 for a 750 ml bottle - 20¢ per ounce
  • Pineapple Juice $3.89 for 64 oz bottle - 6¢ per ounce

Special liquor, such as vermouth and Kahlua, and mixing liquor, such as peach schapps and lemoncello, are sold in 750ml bottles, which is about 25 ounces.

One ounce is the basic building block of a cocktail recipe.

I always thought that a shot glass held one ounce, but almost all of them hold more, probably because an ounce is such a teeny amount of liquid. Note the empty space on the top and bottom of this ounce.

Flat-bottomed shotglasses, even little ones, often hold two ounces.

For this project, and the cocktail calculator which follows, I scouted prices in many locations, from Costco and Safeway to liquor stores and BevMo.

Elite, or "top shelf" name brands are common for the five main liquors, gin, rum, tequila, vodka and whiskey. I think that is really weird. Wouldn't a top-notch orange juice make a bigger difference in the taste of a screwdriver than a top-notch vodka?

Mixing your own, choosing top shelf liquors is about twice as expensive, but almost always below $1 per ounce.

  • Vodka
  • Generic 22¢/oz.
  • Ketel One 54¢/oz.
  • Gin
  • Generic 20¢/oz.
  • Tanquerey 51¢/oz.
  • Whiskey
  • Generic 25¢/oz.
  • Jameson 44¢/oz.

Juice is a popular ingredient for cocktails. I was surprised to find so many different juices in common recipes.

  • Cranberry Juice - 9¢/oz.
  • Lemon Juice - 12¢/oz.
  • Lime Juice - 18¢/oz.
  • Grapefruit Juice - 10¢/oz.
  • Orange Juice - 3¢/oz.
  • Pineapple Juice - 6¢/oz.
  • Note that grape juice is not used for cocktails.

The Amazing Cocktail Cost Calculator