One of the more common terms thrown around in the world of whiskey and bourbon is “Fifth”. We hear it all the time, from frat houses to your buddy Steve’s 40th birthday bash, but what does it really mean? And when you buy a fifth, how many shots/drinks can you expect to make? So grab a glass of whiskey and let’s get started!

A FIFTH: WHAT IS IT? 

When your buddy says “fifth”, what he is referring to is a bottle of 750ml of liquor. It could be any liquor or drink, nothing specific, fifth is only referencing the size of the bottle. But why is it called “fifth?” Easy, because it is one fifth of a gallon. Or is it easy? How many milliliters are in a gallon? How many ounces are in 750ml? How many gigawatts does it take to time travel in a Delorean?! You didn’t think whiskey and math mixed did you? Well, it’s your lucky day because there’s a new tutor in town and his name might as well be Mr. Elijah Craig.

THE BIG QUESTION: HOW MANY SHOTS IN A FIFTH?

To answer this we need to define a few variables and apply a little systemic conversion to solve our little problem of how much whiskey you have left. So. How many ounces are in a shot? How many ounces are in 750ml? 

We’ll stick with the bartender standard for ounces in a shot. Your standard jigger is equal to 1.5oz of liquor. If you’re pouring at home the math likely isn’t going to work because we all know you’re going to add that little extra splash at the end but for the sake of consistency let’s use the professional definition. 1 shot = 1.5 ounces. 

Easy peasy, we’ll just divide a fifth of a gallon (not that any of us know that a gallon is 128 ounces anyways) by 1.5 and we have our answer. 

Not so fast my friend! The bottle doesn’t say “Here lies 1/5th of a Gallon of America’s Greatest Creation” does it? It says 750ml. Now what? Better figure out how many ounces are in 750ml. Of course, everyone knows that there are approximately 34 ounces in a liter… right? Well thanks to the Google search I performed (and you just double checked and noticed I rounded up for simplicity) we know that 750ml, or .75 liters, is 25.5 ounces.

So! 750ml = 25.5 ounces. One shot = 1.5 ounces. 

25.5 divided by 1.5 = you have 17 rounds of golden goodness.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Well first off, everyone loves a know-it-all and now that you’re armed with this information you’ll be the toast of the town. 

More importantly though, you have a party to throw and you have a budget to stick to. Plus, nobody wants to be remembered as the guy who threw the party that ran out of liquor before Steve passes out and the Sharpies appear for an impromptu temporary tattoo session. So do your best to get that headcount and use your handy dandy formula. 

For example: 25 people said “I’ll be there” after work on Friday. While we’re doing math, we all know about 20% of those are going to make other plans or decide to stay in and watch Friends reruns. So we’re down to 20 plus whoever’s cousin from out of town shows up.  

If you have 21 people attending the party and you expect each person to have 4 mixed drinks or shots after the keg is tapped. You would need alcohol for about 84 drinks. And you better add one extra because you know Steve is going to knock someone’s freshly poured drink over. 

85 shots/17 (number of shots in a fifth) = 5 bottles of whiskey on the checkout counter. 

Conculsion 

There you have it. Standard vs imperial measurements shouldn’t get in the way of you having a good time so just keep it simple and stick to one bottle of booze for every four friends who aren’t bringing their favorite bottle of Yellowtail wine.