How To Calculate Liquor Cost in Your Bar or Restaurant

12 Minutes Read

How Should You Manage Liquor Costs in Your Bar or Restaurant? Here's What You Should Know and How It Affects Bookkeeping.



Running a restaurant is a delicate balancing act. While enticing customers with delicious food is vital, a thriving bar can significantly boost your bottom line. But how do you ensure you're not losing money on every drink served?

Understanding your liquor cost percentage is indispensable. This article is your guide to calculating your liquor cost, a metric every restaurant owner, from seasoned veterans to enthusiastic newcomers, should master.

Further reading: What Does A Bookkeeper Do?

How do you calculate liquor cost?

What Do I Need To Know About Understanding Liquor Cost?

Liquor cost percentage, also known as pour cost, is the percentage of a drink's selling price that it costs to make. For instance, if a beverage costs $1 to make and is sold for $5, the pour cost is 20%.

What Is The Importance Of Liquor Costs?

Understanding your liquor cost percentage is vital for ensuring your restaurant or bar is profitable. It helps you gauge how much you are spending to make and deliver each drink, allowing you to identify areas for cost savings and improve your profit margins.

What Is The Industry Average For Liquor Costs?

The average pour cost percentage for beverage programs in bars and restaurants ranges between 18% and 24%. But, this can vary depending on the type of alcohol and specific menu items.

How Do I Calculate Liquor Cost?

Step 1: Calculate the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

The first step in calculating your liquor cost is to determine the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) for your beverages. COGS represents the total cost of the liquor that was sold over a specific period. To calculate COGS, use the following formula:

COGS = (Beginning Inventory + Purchases) − Ending Inventory

  • Beginning Inventory: The inventory value of your liquor at the start of the period.
  • Purchases: The total cost of liquor purchased during the period.
  • Ending Inventory: The value of your liquor inventory at the end of the period.

Step 2: Calculate the Total Sales Revenue from Liquor

Next, determine the total sales revenue generated from liquor sales during the same period. This is the income earned from selling alcoholic beverages, which you can find in your sales reports or point-of-sale system.

Step 3: Calculate Liquor Cost Percentage

Finally, calculate the liquor cost percentage using the following formula:

Liquor Cost Percentage = (COGS/Total Sales Revenue) × 100

How to Use Liquor Cost Formula

1. Determine Liquor Cost:

  • Total cost of liquor purchased in a month: $5,000

2. Calculate Liquor Sales:

  • Total liquor sales in the same month: $20,000

3. Liquor Cost Percentage Calculation:

Liquor Cost Percentage = (Total Liquor Cost/Total Liquor Sales) × 100  

Liquor Cost Percentage = (5,000/20,000) × 100 = 25%


  • The liquor cost percentage for the restaurant is 25%, indicating the cost efficiency of the liquor inventory.

What Are Strategies for Managing Liquor Costs?

Why Should I Standardize Drink Recipes?

Standardizing drink recipes ensures consistent portion control and helps manage beverage costs. By having a set recipe for each drink, you can ensure that each pour is accurate and avoid overpouring, which can increase costs.

Why Should I Monitor Inventory Regularly?

Performing weekly bar inventory enables you to spot anomalies in your bottle usage and stock value. Tracking liquor inventory regularly allows you to keep inventory levels lower, reduce waste, and shrinkage, ensuring you don't lose money unnecessarily.

Should I Negotiate with Suppliers?

Negotiating with suppliers for better deals on bulk purchases can significantly reduce your product cost. Building strong relationships with suppliers can lead to discounts and special offers that can positively impact your bottom line.

Why Should I Track Sales Data?

Tracking sales data provides insights into tangible cost savings by identifying popular drinks and allowing you to adjust pricing accordingly. Understanding which drinks are selling well and which are not can help you make informed decisions about your menu.

What Are The Benefits Of Training Bartenders on Proper Pouring Techniques?

Training bartenders on proper pouring techniques is essential to minimize overpouring. Proper training ensures that every dollar of beverage sales generated costs the business the appropriate amount, protecting your profit margin.

Further reading: Important Tips For Managing a Restaurant Balance Sheet

How Do I Reduce Liquor Cost Percentage?

  1. Calculate Costs Per Ounce: Use a pour cost calculator to determine the cost per ounce. This data enables you to protect your profits by pricing drinks accurately.
  2. Track Liquor Sales: Liquor sales contribute significantly to your revenue. Knowing "what’s your liquor cost" is essential. Liquor cost enables you to protect your profits and get your liquor cost under control.
  3. Analyze Bottle Costs: For instance, a bottle of vodka that generated costs the business 20 cents per ounce should be tracked meticulously. This specific type of alcohol can significantly impact your overall costs.
  4. Understand Tangible Costs: Tangible cost data, such as the cost of goods and labor needed to make each drink, is essential. A drink is significantly less profitable if these costs are not managed well.
  5. Implement Cost Management: Use the insights from cost calculations to manage your inventory. Happy hour food menu prices should reflect these insights. Key metrics to track includes liquor pricing and liquor pours.
  6. Limit Free Drinks: Providing free drinks should be limited as these costs include tangible expenses that affect overall profitability. Use it to manage your overall cost structure effectively.

How Do I Manage Liquor Costs in Bookkeeping?

How Should I Track Liquor Purchases in Bookkeeping?

Record the cost of all liquor inventory as part of your bookkeeping process. Keeping accurate records of your opening inventory and subsequent purchases helps maintain an understanding of your liquor cost.

Why Is Tracking Liquor Sales Important?

Recording revenue from all liquor sales is equally important. This data provides a clear picture of how much you are making from each liquor item sold and helps you manage your business priorities in the restaurant industry.

Why Should I Regularly Analyze Data For Bookkeeping?

Regularly analyzing your data allows you to identify trends and areas for improvement. It helps ensure your restaurant is profitable by providing insights into tangible cost savings and spotting any issues early on.

Why Should I Reconcile Inventory?

Ensuring physical inventory matches book inventory is integral for accurate bookkeeping. This practice, also known as a bottle book, helps you spot discrepancies and protect your franchise players by maintaining accurate stock levels.

How Are Liquor Costs Recorded in Financial Statements?

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

Record liquor costs under the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) on your income statement. This includes all costs associated with purchasing and maintaining your liquor inventory. Understanding the liquor cost formula helps in accurately calculating these expenses.


Record liquor inventory as a current asset on the balance sheet. Calculate COGS using the liquor cost formula: beginning inventory + purchases - ending inventory. This amount is then transferred to the income statement. Accurate inventory tracking is beneficial for restaurant operators.


Log all liquor purchases in your accounting system as they occur. This ensures an accurate record of expenses and helps track spending trends over time. Regularly look at the liquor cost to manage your finances effectively.

Sales Revenue

Record revenue from liquor sales on the income statement. This figure, combined with COGS, helps calculate the liquor cost percentage, providing insights into the profitability of your bar or restaurant liquor operations.


Adjust records for discrepancies found during inventory counts, such as spillage, theft, or other losses. Regular adjustments are part of best practices for managing liquor, ensuring your financial statements reflect true costs and helping to manage the gross margin.

What Are Common Challenges and Solutions Of Managing Liquor Costs?

Inaccurate Inventory Records

Use inventory management software to maintain accurate and up-to-date records. This helps in understanding your liquor cost and maintaining proper inventory levels.

Theft and Pilferage

Implement security measures like surveillance cameras and regular audits for theft prevention behind the bar. Regular checks help in identifying issues early and maintaining control over liquor items.

Over-pouring by Bartenders

Conduct regular training sessions for bartenders to emphasize portion control. Use measuring tools to ensure each drink is delivered as specified. This controls costs and ensures consistency in the beverages assigned to a liquor sales category.

Key Takeaways

  1. Track Inventory: Regularly count all liquor stock to know that for every drink served, you have an accurate inventory.
  2. Calculate COGS: Use the formula: (Beginning Inventory + Purchases - Ending Inventory) to determine the cost of the goods.
  3. Determine Sales: Record total liquor sales accurately to answer “what’s your beverage cost".
  4. Pour Cost Formula: Use (COGS / Total Sales) x 100 to find pour cost percentage and understand how to calculate it.
  5. Monitor Waste: Track spillage and over-pouring to get data insights into tangible cost.
  6. Adjust Pricing: Set prices to ensure you pay for the liquor and maintain a healthy profit margin, ensuring each drink is significantly profitable.

How can Taxfyle help?

Finding an accountant to manage your bookkeeping and file taxes is a big decision. Luckily, you don't have to handle the search on your own.

At Taxfyle, we connect small businesses with licensed, experienced CPAs or EAs in the US. We handle the hard part of finding the right tax professional by matching you with a Pro who has the right experience to meet your unique needs and will manage your bookkeeping and file taxes for you.

Legal Disclaimer

Tickmark, Inc. and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, tax or accounting advice or recommendations. All information prepared on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied on for legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own legal, tax or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. The content on this website is provided “as is;” no representations are made that the content is error-free.

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June 5, 2024


Ralph Carnicer, CPA

Ralph Carnicer, CPA


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