Saturday, February 8, 2014

You Do The Math - The Best Alcohol Bang for the Buck

Are you a college student on a low budget looking for the cheapest alcohol?  And by "student" I mean graduate student over 21 years old.  If you are not 21, please leave this blog now.  Heck, if you ARE under 21, with the state of today's educational system, you probably can't keep up with the math, so you can legally keep reading.

Special invitations go out to those on food stamps that keep wasting tax payer dollars on expensive drinks.  Stop wasting my money!  Use this math to figure your most economical alcohol.

Let's start with cheap beer.  Milwaukee's Best Light is 4.1% alcohol, according to

As you can see at this website, there are way too many beers from just one manufacturer for me to do the math on all of them.  There are 10 times that many beers overall, and about 5 times that much wine, and almost that much hard liquor.  Way too much work for one man.  So, we'll use tricks to help you do the math on the fly at the grocery store.  These tricks start with a nice, even dollar.

MB Light costs $1.02 per ounce of alcohol.

You can find a 30 pack for $15, so that's 50 cents per 12 ounce (355 milliliters) can.  Since there are 3.785 liters per gallon, and 128 ounces per gallon, this 30 pack beer ends up providing you a scrumptious 14.76 ounces of alcohol for $15.  Obviously, that's around $1 per ounce.

$14.99 / (30 * 12 * 0.041) = $1.02 / oz

So, how does this help you when buying 6 packs?  If you left you cell phone at home, you need to do quick math in your head.  This impresses the chics, anyway.   Well, if you see a six pack for some kind of Steel 8, which is 8% alcohol, you know you are getting twice the alcohol per can.  But, it probably costs $7.50 plus or minus a dollar, so that means you are spending half as much money as with the above 30 pack.  Twice the alcohol, half the money.

Sounds good, but you are getting 5 times less beer, 6 bottles instead of 30 cans.   So, 4 divided by 5 is 80% of the alcohol per dollar.  The price is higher by the reciprocal, a factor of 5 divided by 4, or 120 percent. So that's $1.22 per ounce of alcohol.  Easy, huh?

How about those big cans of beer that stroke your ego?  All they do is fool you into wasting money.  They say 1 pint 8 ounces on the side.  Since a pint is 2 cups, and a cup is 8 ounces, the entire can is 24 ounces.  That's like 2 regular 12 ounce cans.  MB charges $1 for that.  These big ones cost something like $2.36 give or take.  Even if they are an "ice" beer, which run between 5% and 6% alcohol (see the above link), you're still paying too much by the tune of 2.36 times 4/6ths at best, more than 1.33 times as much.

Beringer White Zin costs about $2.34 per ounce of alcohol.

Let's try wine.  Prices vary wildly with all the sales, but let's use a 1.5 liter bottle of Beringer that cost $12.  It's 10% alcohol, or 20 proof.  So, multiply 1.5 L by the fraction 128 ounces per 3.785 liters, and divide by 10, and you get 5.1 ounces.

$11.99 / 5.079 oz = $2.34/oz

What a ripoff!  Is a smaller bottle better?  Let's say you find a 750 ml bottle for $8.99 but it has more alcohol proof, a whopping 12.5 percent.  Well, start out by seeing it's half as much wine to begin with.  Then realize that $9 is 3/4th of $12.  Then see that 12.5% is 25% more than 10%.  Confusing?  It should be, alcohol destroys brain cells.  But let me help you out.  I've been clean and sober for 30 hours.

So, your new factor starts at 2 (your getting half as much wine), then 3/4 ($9 instead of $12), then 1.25 (25% more alcohol).  Using this method, I stare at grocery shelves for a minute or two trying to figure out which cottage cheese to buy.  Multiplying them all together, 2 times 1.25 is 2.5, times 3/4 and we get 7.5 fourths.  That's between 6/4 and 8/4,  the latter of which equals two!   So, you are almost paying twice as much money per drop of alcohol.  Forget those 750 ml bottles.  They are basically two 12 ounce cans, anyway (355 ml x 2 = 710 ml).

Franzia Chablis costs $0.79 per ounce of alcohol.

What's the best deal?  The big jugs at 3 or 4 liters each are better than the smaller bottles.  Normal prices are around $19 for 4 liters.  Divide by 2, and you get $9.50, and divide by 2 again and get $4.50 plus 25 cents, or $4.75.  That's quite a deal for a liter, since the 750 ml bottles are twice that much.

But the 5 liter boxes of wine are the best.  And at sale prices they are downright sweet.  The above Franzia Chablis was the best deal of them all.  It's 12% alcohol, so the cost comes to:

$15.99 / (5 liters * 128 / 3.785 * 0.12) = $0.79/ounce

It's notable that Franzia has a couple "flavors" of wine with 12.5% alcohol, but they cost a dollar more.  So, you get 1/24th more alcohol for 1/16th more money.  Not as good as the Chablis.  Franzia also has some wines with 9% alcohol and $2 less money.   That's 1/8th less cash but 25% less alcohol.  No deal!

How about the ol' college standard, Boone's Farm?  They have 750 ml bottles at 7.5% alcohol on sale for $3.50.  That comes to $1.84 per ounce of alcohol.  Woh.  Couldn't possibly pay the regular price of $4.79, that would be crazy generous.  (But they taste like candy, children can't resist!)

This Triple Sec on sale costs $1.31 per ounce of alcohol

Let's try something a little more hard.  Found a great deal on Triple Sec yesterday.  Five bucks for a fifth.  That's a fifth of a gallon, or 750 milliliters.    That's really just under a fifth, at 19.8%, but not a big deal.  At 15% alcohol and almost as delicious as wine (its made from oranges and sweet syrup of some sort) you can almost drink it straight.  But it's best when mixed with your morning juice  (afterall, there's no better way at to prove you don't have a problem than to ride the train to work buzzed).

For quick math remember that a gallon is 128 ounces (8 ounces per cup, 2 cups per pint, 2 pints per quart, 4 quarts per gallon).  And 750 ml is 25.36 ounces, just over two beers (12 ounces each).  If a beer costs 50 cents, then two beers are a dollar.  This fifth costs five dollars.  But, at 30 proof it's 15% alcohol, THREE times as much as 5%, and 3.66 times as much as 4.1%.

Quickly math says the price per ounce of alcohol is about the $1.02 of MB times 5 divided by 3.66, somewhere between 5/3 and 5/4.  So, it's part way between 2/3 more and 1/4 more.  That's somewhere between .25 more and .67 more. Leaning towards the .25, let's say .4 and guess the price at $1.42 per ounce.   Not a bad price, especially considering the pleasant bouquet and considering we're in the realm of hard liquor.  But, here's the long form equation:

$4.99 / ((750/3785*128) * 0.15) = $1.31 per ounce of alcohol

RonRico's small bottle costs $0.98 per ounce of alcohol.

Let's mosey on over to the hard liquor.  Here's a bottle of RonRico rum, so tasty for rum-n-cokes, and works well with root beer.  It's $9.95 and is a nice 40% alcohol, but a measly 750 ml.  Doing the math we get 10.2 ounces of alcohol, and at that price, we are paying 98 cents per ounce.  That's better than the 30 pack of Milwakee's Best.  (And it IS pronounced Milwakee.)

$9.95 / (0.4 * 0.75 * 128 / 3.785) ounces = $0.98 / ounce

Mr Boston's large bottle costs $0.65 per ounce of alcohol.

However, there's an even cheaper rum.  Tastes a little too much like the dark rums (which I hate), but it's not to be drunken straight, only diluted with cheap pop.  Their larger bottle is 1.75 liters, is also 80 proof, and costs $15.45:

$15.45 / (1.75 * 128 / 3.785 * 0.4) = $0.65 / ounce

We have a winner!   Leave a comment if there's anything better.

Kahlua's small bottle costs $4.29 per ounce of alcohol.

The next shelf has delicious and decadent Kahlua.  It's 750 ml, but, it's only 20% alcohol and costs $21.79.  Obviously, you are paying about 2.2 times more money, and getting half the alcohol.  So, 2.2 times 2 is 4.4, and multiplied by a dollar is about $4.40 per ounce.  The exact figure is $4.29 per ounce.  I better switch to the 1 liter bottle to start saving money.

Interesting factoid at the Kahlua website, Ohio is shipped a special product of 21.5% alcohol.  So, going to a cheaper liquor store in Ohio, and buying the larger bottle:

$26.85 / (1 * 128 / 3.785 * 0.215) = $3.68/oz

Ohio's Kahlua is on the right, and costs $3.68 per ounce of alcohol.

Notice there's no gin, whiskey, bourbon, scotch or vodka so far.  That's because I'm off gluten due to celiac disease.  Is that caused by alcohol binge drinking in college?  Whatever, they cost way too much, anyway.  I can only drink wine and rum these days.  And apple cider.  Many tequilas have gluten products added to their agave cactus starter beverage, so I can't have that.  I haven't checked into rice based things, like sake.  But, anything else is made of gluten, especially if it says "malted", like some wine coolers.   Wine coolers are often times labeled "flavored beer".

These are only 3.5% alcohol and 11.2 ounces instead of 12.  Compared to Milwaukee's Best, you are spending $4 for a 4 pack, so that saves $11.  But, you are getting about 1/8th less alcohol (0.5 subtracted from 4.1) and only 4 bottles not 30, and about 11/12s the beer.   Um...  "flavored beer".

If a 4 pack is $4, it costs $2.55 per ounce of alcohol.
So, the multiplicative factors are:

4/15th (less cash)
30/4th (less bottles)
8/7ths (less proof)
12/11ths (less ounces) 

The 4s cancel out, so we get 30/15ths, which is 2.   So, 2 plus a seventh of that, plus an 11th of THAT.   First step:   2 and 2/7ths.  But, what's a 7th?   Well, that's between a 6th and an 8th.  A 6th is 0.16, and a 16th is 0.0625.  Pretty cool, huh?  One is the other, and the other is the one.  This is almost the golden ratio, where 1.618 = 1/0.618, which determines the shape of the nautilus on the arm curl machine in the gym.  This is where we go before going out for wine coolers.  See how it all comes full circle?

But back to our problem.  An 8th is half a quarter, so half of 25 cents is 12.5 cents, so...  0.125.   Let's split the difference and say 1/7th is 0.14.   Guess what, 1/7th is 0.1428, pretty cool, huh?  One seventh is like two sevens.  (With two 14's added together and appended on the end.)

Double that to 2/7ths, so we get 2.28.  Add a bit more than a tenth to that, so...   2.28 plus 0.228 is...   2.51 or so.   Multiply by $1.02 per ounce, so add 5 cents.  So, math in our head, we get $2.56 per ounce of alcohol.  Doing the actual math with a calculator:

$3.99 / (4 * 11.2 * 0.035) = $2.55

Ah, nice doing "math on the run", eh?  My Father used to lay out runways for the Army, roads for new subdivisions, and lots more, doing tons of math in his head really fast...   I learned it from him so I can buy cottage cheese, and I'm teaching it to you so you can get dunk cheap.   Awesome.


There are many tricks to the trade.  For instance, converting from Centigrade to Fahrenheit.   They teach you in high school to multiply by 9/5ths, then add 32.  In college they taught to multiply by 1.8 and add 32.  I find it's a lot easier to multiply by 2, and subtract 10% of the result.  Then add 32.

Another cool tool is that 1/9th equals 0.11111111
And 1/11th?   That's 0.090909090909

So, reducing the cost of something by 1/9th is like reducing it by 1/10th, then reducing it by 1/100th, then by 1/1000th.  You can stop there, that's usually plenty accuracy.

Adding an 11th?  Take a tenth, and subtract a tenth of THAT.  That's 0.1 - 0.01, which is 0.09.

Need to subtract 1/8th?   Well, that's 0.125, so subtract a tenth, and subtract a fourth of that tenth.

Need to add 1/6th?   That's 0.167, so just add a tenth then add 2/3rds of that tenth.

These tricks go on forever, literally, but I'm sober now and have to go to the cupboard.  See ya.

1 comment:

Serviced Apartments London Lady said...

It's great how you break all of this down, most of the time I'll just see a special offer sticker on a spirit or something and think that I'm getting an amazing deal, more fool me!