vodka in shot glasses on rustic wooden table

Whether planning for a party or simply looking to be literate in alcohol vocabulary, understanding the lingo can be useful. Each term, such as a handle of vodka, or any liquor for that matter, versus a fifth of liquor defines how many ounces, milliliters or liters are in the package.

How Much Is a Handle and a Fifth?

A handle is 1.75 liters, 1,750 milliliters or 59.2 ounces. Though it is only a descriptive, rather than an accurate term, this is sometimes referred to as a half-gallon in the United States. This is the size bottle to buy multiples of if you're throwing a party since it yields roughly 30 servings per bottle.

A fifth, however, is a measurement of alcohol at 750 milliliters, or 25.4 ounces, though it stopped being the standard liquor size bottle in the United States in 1980. This term comes from the days when wine bottles were four-fifths of a quart, which is also one-fifth of a gallon. Though handles are now a more common measurement, a fifth is still common alcohol vocabulary and useful knowledge. A fifth is a prudent buy for a personally stocked bar for a small gathering of friends or when guests drop by.

How Many Fifths Are in a Handle?

Understanding that a fifth is 25.4 ounces, and a handle is 59.2 ounces, there are just more than two fifths in a handle. Two fifths equates to 50.8 ounces, meaning there are about 8.4 ounces in addition to the two fifths in a handle, which is a larger bottle and quantity of liquor. If looking to buy larger quantities, buying handles should generally be cheaper because they require less packaging.

To put all of these sizes into perspective, a tiny airplane bottle of liquor is 1.7 ounces. That makes a fifth of vodka or any other liquor roughly equivalent to 15 airplane bottles. Therefore, fifths can be thought of as containing about 15 servings, generally. A handle is almost 35 airplane-size bottles, and can be thought of as about 35 servings. Because the airplane bottles are not quite 2 ounces, the drinks would be slightly weaker, so make a more conservative estimate when calculating amounts for party guests.

Best Vodka for Parties

Smirnoff and Absolut are among the top five best-selling vodkas in the world. While they are frequently sold, they are not the highest quality. They are widely popular because they are cheap and they get the job done, making them a decent option when throwing large parties.

Svedka and Skyy brands are both adequate mid-range vodkas. Though these two are not of the highest quality, they are quite drinkable. Svedka is charcoal-filtered, making it highly refined and nearly flavorless when served over ice. Skyy is also highly refined as it is distilled four times before it is filtered three times.

Among the best vodkas available, Grey Goose and Finlandia are higher-end choices great for smaller gatherings of discerning drinkers. Grey Goose is unbelievably smooth to drink. Finlandia is a little different because it is barley-based and made with spring water. The taste is not much altered, but it is also exceptionally silky to drink.

How Much Liquor to Buy

Understanding how much liquor is in each specified unit allows hosts to plan how many bottles, handles or fifths are needed to make drinks for everyone at an event or party. This can be determined because one drink is typically made with 1.5 ounces to 2 ounces.

Hosts can expect each guest to drink two drinks per hour for the first two hours, then one drink per hour every hour thereafter. So, if planning a party that will last roughly four hours, assume each guest will drink 12 ounces of liquor over the course of the party. Liberally speaking, that equates to almost a fifth of liquor per guest.