How much ice does my event need?

This question we field more than any other.  Face it, there is really nothing more embarrassing or stressful than running out of ice in the middle of an event.  This is a good indication of poor preparation. Having to order emergency ice is a woeful position.

Running out of ice typically leads to a chain reaction of increasingly stressful side effects.  No more ice? Now you can’t make cocktails. What happens when you cannot serve cocktails? Now you have a run on beer and wine.  Things can go south in a hurry.

Basic advice: stock enough ice that you do not run out, but not so much that it becomes a burden. In a pinch, a conservative estimate is two pounds per person, per hour.   That may seem like a lot of ice, but compared to an event going haywire due to a lack of frozen water, ice is pretty cheap.

Understanding how crucial this variable is, often we simply order extra ice known as contingency ice.

Chiseling away to determine ideal quantities

Determining the ideal quantity of ice is as much an art as it is science.

When we estimate ice needs for an event we factor in several different variables.  Namely:

  • Indoor or outdoor?
  • All the same ice,  or different kinds of ice?
  • What is the size of the glass, and preparation of the drink?

Newsflash: Ice melts

Outdoor events use a large amount of ice just to keep the other ice cold.  A general rule of thumb is to plan on an additional 50% ice versus a comparable indoor event.

For multi-day outdoor events, a cost effective solution is to rent an ice trailer that you can lock and pull from any time of day.  For example, this setup was used with great success during Bacardi No-Commission on the hottest day of the year in the Bronx. Having ice on demand was awesome.  

Ice is ice is ice…right?

Sure, ice is frozen water, but that is where the similarities end.  Ice comes in all shapes and sizes. This presents a number of problems due to constant degradation once the temperature rises above freezing.

When working with multiple types of ice (‘hotel ice’,  crushed, Kold Draft, pebble, flake, etc.) storage is a crucial factor.   Where will the ice be stored? How well will it keep? How much will it sweat, and where will that discharge go?

Effectively, the smaller the ice, the more surface area you have for warm air to melt it.  We recommend that when working with ‘small ice’, don’t hesitate to order 100% more than your estimate (remember: you DO NOT want to run out).  Ice is cheap, and you can easily dispose of excess.

The challenge is having a place for storage without causing any damage.

You need to factor in displacement

The final factor in estimating your ice requirements will be the size of glass.

Often times, the cocktail recipes use a ‘standard’ volume single serving.   Combining different types of ice, preparations (dilution), and glass size could yield a wide variance in the actual number of servings.  What we need to determine is the displacement value.

An example is helpful for illustrative purposes.  Say you are making a Fitzgerald cocktail (a Gin sour on the rocks, with a bitters float), here is the process:

  • The recipe is 2 oz Gin, 0.75 oz simple syrup,  and 0.75 oz lemon juice. (3.5 oz liquid volume)
  • Shaken and strained,  this cocktail will yield about 4.25 oz liquid volume after dilution.   
  • When served on the rocks (say Kold Draft),  the ice will take up about half of the space in the glass.
  • This recipe with this preparation and this ice would need a 9 oz glass (full to the top),  or a 10 oz glass with a comfortable amount of headspace.

Different preparations also merit consideration.  Drinks are built, rolled, blended, stirred, etc.  Different preparations have different dilution values ranging from as low as zero percent (sometimes water is in the recipe) to as high as 50%.  This not only affects the overall liquid volume of the batch, but also the total amount of effective servings based on your glassware of choice.

Customizing solutions so you don’t run out of ice.

Using this methodology, a series of formulas were developed as a guide to incorporate your requirements on a very granular level.  This process is customized to your needs, using guest count as the dependent variable. We calculate ice needs based on preparation, glass size, type of ice, and effective number of servings.  Our goal is not only ensuring you have enough ice, but are not left having to dispose of excess waste.

Get in touch with Jason to ? out about ice!,  text or call 9175535409.

About author

WHAT I DO: I help bars, craft spirits brands, hotels, and event managers to glorify their brands by providing high-end cocktail expertise, hospitality consulting, and winning operations management. Working in the space where craft meets commerce, I can put together creative, develop go-to-market strategies, promote your brand to bartenders, develop trade advocacy initiatives, and put together back end financials. I develop concept designs, effective marketing platforms, and turnaround strategies. HOW I DO IT: I am a craft cocktail personality and event planner with 10 years of experience bartending, training bartenders, writing menus, setting up cost-effective operations, communicating brand messages to trade, and leading the bartending community. WHO I WORK WITH: • Craft Spirit Marketing Directors and Brand Owners seeking fresh go-to-market strategies • Hospitality Executives and Owners for bars, restaurants, and hotels • Marketing and PR Agencies for Events and Targeted Marketing • Struggling bars seeking a turnaround specialist MY FAVORITE CALL: “Hi Jason, I’ve got this amazing spirit. I want bartenders to know what it is and how to use it.” WHY IT WORKS: I am uniquely positioned in the industry because of my work experience, industry connections, and leadership. I’ve got my ear to the ground, and as a nano-agency, I’m an agile specialist with expertise that bigger, more conservative agencies can’t match. WHY I’M DIFFERENT: As a bartender by trade, I’m a skilled organizer with great communication skills and attention to detail. I build delicious drinks, strong teams, and successful events and businesses. I can produce high-end cocktails en masse at a festival, make them for a photo shoot, train your staff to make them, or convert your struggling bar into a winning concept with a killer story and world-class drinks.
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