Last Updated:
April 25, 2024

How to measure liquor bottles for inventory: A 10 step guide

Learn how to accurately measure your liquor bottles for inventory with our step-by-step guide. Avoid overpouring and save money for your restaurant.
How to measure liquor bottles for inventory: A 10 step guide
Bogdan Patynski
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Table of Contents

Knowing how to measure liquor bottles for inventory effectively is essential for any bar manager. If you’re looking to take your bar to the next level and significantly improve operations, you first have to make sure you have the strongest possible foundation. This starts with a solid inventory process.

Luckily for you, this easy-to-follow guide is the perfect place to start. We will walk you through all the steps to accurately and effectively measure your full liquor inventory. Whether you consider yourself a beginner or an advanced inventory-taker, following this guide will ensure you’re doing everything you need to be successful.

What is bar inventory?

Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page, first. Bar inventory is the process of counting your liquor stock and cross-checking those numbers with invoices and sales records. In other words, bar managers conduct inventory to ensure they have enough product on hand to create menu items, but are not overstocking product. With this process, they can also detect if employees are over-pouring or giving away too many free drinks.

For many bar managers, figuring out the best strategy for counting liquor is especially tricky since product is often sold by the shot. A popular, but ineffective method, is counting by simply eyeballing how much liquid is remaining in an open bottle. That being said, there are many ways to handle inventory, some good and some bad. Keep reading to learn how to measure liquor bottles for inventory, the right way.

Why should you care about bar inventory?

Liquor inventory management is so important that even doing the bare minimum will make a big difference for your establishment.​ ​Once you learn how to measure liquor bottles for inventory effectively and regularly keep track of what you have on hand, you will immediately start seeing results. You’ll be able to prevent yourself from over-pouring and over-ordering supplies, and running out of bottles. On top of that, you’ll easily be able to tell if your bartenders are giving out free drinks and ultimately wasting your resources.

But, you can even take inventory management a step further for more benefits. Having a running catalog of the products you use, order, and run out of quickly gives you insight into your customer’s preferences so you can better plan your menu and promotions. A smooth inventory process also helps cut down on stress and wasted time by streamlining the process for placing purchase orders, setting pars, and more.

Breaking It Down: The Only Beverage Inventory Management Guide You’ll Ever Need

To start, close your eyes and imagine yourself standing in your bar. Or maybe you’re reading this from your bar, in which case just open your eyes and look around.

In your real or imaginary bar, take note of where you store products. It might include a front bar, back bar, storeroom, walk-in cooler, or all of the above. You’ll need to count inventory everywhere product is located.

Next, take note of the date on the calendar. This is important because inventory needs to be consistent to be effective. So, if it’s the first Sunday of the month, you should take inventory every Sunday. If you don’t need to count weekly, count on the first Sunday of every month.

Now you’re ready to get started.

How do you calculate liquor inventory?

Using Excel or pen and paper, create an inventory spreadsheet that works for you.

Organize it by area of the bar and list alcohol in the same order it is stored so it’s easy to track. Add columns for alcohol type, brand, and bottle size and, depending on how large your storage areas are, consider adding a column to track which area of the bar each bottle is stored.

Once your spreadsheet is ready, start counting.

If you have access to a scale, use it for the most accurate way to measure bottles. If not, The easiest way to manually count inventory is to go bottle-by-bottle and visually note how much liquid is left by rounding to the nearest tenth, i.e. half full or one third full, and list this for each bottle on your spreadsheet. This process is called “tenthing” by people who enjoy using jargon.

Repeat the “tenthing” process.

Do this for each area of your bar that you determined existed when we started the process. Make a note whether your measurements refer to one third of a case, a bottle, or a keg, etc. If you have access to a magic wand, or even just another employee to split the work with, it will help speed up the process.

Add everything up.

Once you’ve counted and tenth-ed your way through the entire bar, add up the totals for each category.

Make notes for your own recollection.

Remember at the beginning when you made note of the date on the calendar? Now, you should literally make a note because you’ll need to repeat these steps again in the exact same way in order to give you a beginning and ending inventory count.

At the end of the inventory period, you will do these counts again and repeat the same process.

This will leave you with a beginning and an ending inventory count. It is also important to keep track of all invoices and sales so you know what product you received. Why? Great question! That part is next.

How is inventory usage calculated?

You have all the data, so let’s dive into the most essential bar inventory formula: calculating usage.

Add up totals from your first inventory session.

Using your handy new bar inventory spreadsheet, add up the total amount of liquor, beer, and wine you counted in your first inventory session. That’s your starting inventory. Give it a column because you won’t want to forget this number.

Repeat the process for the second inventory session.

Next, add up the total amount of liquor, beer, and wine you counted in your second inventory session. Write this number down too.

Make a record of your deliveries.

Finally, add in any new product you received or sold in between your first and second inventory sessions. Reference your invoices and sales for this information. Record the totals in your spreadsheet. This is your received inventory.

Use the bar inventory formula for the last step.

Then you simply plug those totals into this formula:

starting inventory + received inventory - ending inventory = usage

That final number, usage, is the point of this whole process. Once you know your usage number, you can start reaping the benefits inventory management has to offer. You can ensure you’re pricing your drinks accurately, efficiently placing purchase orders, and cutting out expensive habits like rush orders, dead stock, and over-pouring.

Inventory is time-consuming and far from glamorous. But, practicing regular inventory will not only allow you to optimize the business operations mentioned above but also increase your bar’s profits and customer satisfaction.

After you know how to measure liquor bottles for inventory, you’ll not only be less likely to run out of customer favorites, but you’ll also be able to stay ahead of changing customer tastes and industry trends. You can also explore other options like bar inventory apps.

Tired already? Us too. Bar inventory software can help.

If you went through the process of learning how to measure liquor bottles for inventory listed above and immediately wanted to bang your head against the wall, you’re not alone. Beyond just being annoying, manual inventory opens the door for human error and missed opportunities. That’s why many bar managers turn to software instead. There are dozens of benefits when you switch to software instead of filling out endless inventory forms by hand. These include:


Let’s be real, no one likes math. Software not only automatically completes formulas for you, but it can also automatically detect red flags and place purchase orders.


Clipboards and Excel spreadsheets often can’t travel with you the way software and apps can. Download your new system onto all your devices so you can take inventory with you easily and quickly.

Fewer (or zero) mistakes

It’s easy to see how manually counting inventory and visually estimating how much liquid is in a given bottle might not be the most accurate way to do things. Many software options come with scales and POS integrations so you have the peace of mind that your data is correct.


Add multiple users so all employees involved in inventory can log in and track inventory, without interrupting the process of others. Generate reports with clear takeaways for how your bar can improve. The ease of software applications is undoubtedly one of their biggest benefits.

Smart technology

All the data gathered through inventory is incredibly valuable but it can also be incredibly overwhelming and confusing. With software, you can pass off the hard work of understanding all the numbers and nuances and skip straight to the part where you get actionable insights to better your business.

What’s next? Do what’s best for your bottom line.

If you’ve made it this far, you hopefully understand the importance of knowing how to measure liquor bottles for inventory and the leg up inventory software provides. What you might not know is that with WISK, you get the best bang for your buck. It's a program that’s designed to not only help your business get organized but to help it thrive through tools that optimize your drink prices, create more profitable drink recipes, and set you up for success in the long term. WISK has everything you need and more.

Don’t wait another day to get started. Visit https://www.wisk.ai/for/wisk-bar-management-software for more details or sign up for a free trial below.

See your ROI flourish as you perfect the art of measuring liquor bottles for inventory. By mastering this essential skill, you're not only reducing waste but also ensuring your bar's profitability for years to come.

If you like this blog, don't forget to check out our list of the most popular gin, brandy, whiskey, vodka, and wines of 2022.


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