Is a fifth of liquor a half gallon?

A fifth of liquor refers to a common bottle size for distilled spirits like vodka, whiskey, rum, etc. The term “fifth” originates from the fact that it contains one-fifth of a US gallon. But is a fifth truly equivalent to half a gallon? Let’s take a deeper look at the size and volume comparisons between a fifth and half gallon of liquor.

What is a fifth of liquor?

A fifth of liquor refers to a 750 ml bottle of distilled spirits. This size contains approximately 25.4 ounces or 0.757 liters.

The term “fifth” comes from the fact that it is one-fifth of a US gallon. A US gallon contains 128 ounces. One-fifth of 128 ounces is 25.6 ounces. So a fifth of liquor contains roughly one-fifth of a gallon.

This 750 ml bottle size is the standard size for most distilled spirits like vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila, and gin. It allows for approximately 17 standard size (1.5 oz) drinks.

Some key facts about fifths:

  • A fifth contains about 25 fluid ounces of liquor.
  • The size is also referred to as a “750 ml bottle” since it contains 750 milliliters.
  • A fifth is the standard bottle size for most distilled spirits.
  • The term “fifth” comes from it being 1/5th of a gallon.

So in summary, a fifth is a 750 ml bottle of liquor containing approximately 25 ounces or 3⁄4 of a quart. It’s called a “fifth” because it equals one-fifth of a US gallon.

What is a half gallon?

A half gallon is exactly what it sounds like – one half of a gallon. A gallon contains 128 fluid ounces. Half of 128 ounces is 64 ounces.

So a half gallon contains 64 fluid ounces or approximately 1.89 liters. Some key facts on half gallons:

  • A half gallon contains 64 fluid ounces.
  • It equals exactly half of a US gallon.
  • A half gallon is about 1.89 liters.
  • Common consumer products sold in half gallon sizes include milk, juice, ice cream.

In summary, a half gallon is equal to half of a full gallon, or 64 fluid ounces. It’s a common size for milk, juice and other household products.

Comparing a Fifth and Half Gallon

Now that we understand the definitions of a fifth and half gallon, let’s directly compare the two to see if they are equal volumes.

Volume Fifth Half Gallon
Fluid ounces 25.4 oz 64 oz
Milliliters 750 ml Approx. 1,892 ml
Liters 0.75 liters 1.89 liters

From this volume comparison, we can clearly see that a fifth and half gallon are not equal sizes. A fifth only contains about 25 ounces while a half gallon contains 64 ounces.

So a fifth is not a half gallon – it’s actually less than half the volume of a half gallon. A fifth is only 3⁄8 of a half gallon, or 37.5% of a half gallon size.

We can confirm this by doing the math:

  • A fifth = 25.4 oz
  • A half gallon = 64 oz
  • 25.4 oz / 64 oz = 0.3975 or 37.5%

So a fifth equates to 37.5% of a half gallon, not 100% of a half gallon.

Why the Confusion?

If a fifth isn’t a half gallon, why is there often confusion between the two? There are a few reasons this misunderstanding has developed:

The words “fifth” and “half” sound similar

When stated verbally, “fifth” and “half” sound very alike. It would be easy to mix up the two terms in conversation.

“Fifth” refers to a fraction

A “fifth” makes one think of a fraction or portion. Someone could assume a “fifth” refers to a “half” of something, rather than one-fifth.

Alcohol bottle sizes can be confusing

The various liquor bottle sizes (fifth, pint, quart, etc) can be confusing, especially when comparing to non-alcohol containers. Someone may assume a fifth is a far larger volume than it really is.

General estimation and assumption

Many people estimate volumes and container sizes. When estimating, someone could easily assume a fifth and half gallon are the same. When you don’t compare the actual amounts side-by-side, it’s easy to guess incorrectly.

So while it may seem logical that something called a “fifth” is the same as a “half” gallon, the actual volume measurements show this is not the case.

Liquor Bottle Sizes Comparison

To help understand liquor bottle sizes better, here is a comparison of some common types:

Bottle Size Volume
Nip (miniature) 1.7 oz
Pint 16 oz
Fifth 25.4 oz
Quart 32 oz
Half Gallon 64 oz

This helps illustrate the actual volumes of common liquor bottle sizes. While a fifth may seem like it would contain a lot more than 25.4oz, the numbers make it clear that it’s far less than a half gallon.

Other Comparisons

In addition to the volume differences, we can make some other fifth vs half gallon comparisons:

Cost difference

A fifth is generally the least expensive way to purchase liquor. Half gallon sizes are rare and would cost substantially more.

Ease of use

A standard fifth is much easier to store, pour, and transport than a bulky half gallon bottle. This makes fifths the preferred single serve bottle size.


It’s rare to find liquors for sale in half gallon bottles, but fifths are ubiquitous. Half gallons are sometimes available for lower end, value brands.

Standard drink pours

A fifth contains around 17 standard size drinks. Half gallons would contain quadruple that amount, which is far more than a single person would normally use before the product expires.

So in addition to the volume difference, fifths are more affordable, portable, and appropriate for individual use compared to half gallons. The fifth is perfectly sized to be the liquor industry standard.

Common Uses

The differing sizes also lend fifths and half gallons to different uses:


  • Enjoying spirits at home
  • Making cocktails
  • Giving as gifts
  • Mixing with sodas, juices, etc.
  • Trying new brands

Half Gallons

  • Large gatherings or parties
  • Restaurants, bars, and clubs
  • Commercial production
  • Cooking in large quantities
  • Mimicking full gallon sizes for display

So fifths are intended for personal consumption, while half gallon sizes have more commercial and large scale uses.

Fifth Prices Compared to Half Gallons

Let’s also compare typical pricing on fifths versus half gallons:

Brand Fifth Price Half Gallon Price
Jack Daniels $25 $129
Absolut Vodka $30 $140
Captain Morgan $15 $60

A few things are immediately clear from this price comparison:

  • Half gallons cost roughly 4-5x as much as fifths.
  • There is a premium price for the larger size.
  • The largest savings come from purchasing fifths.
  • Half gallons are not very economical for personal use.

For the average consumer, fifths provide the best value for stocking home bars and enjoying spirits moderately. Half gallons only make sense for large volume usage, like restaurants or commercial production.

Fifths Are More Manageable

Another reason that fifths are preferred over half gallons for personal use is their more manageable size. Some reasons why fifths are easier to work with:

  • Weigh less than a bulky half gallon bottle
  • Fit easily on bar shelves
  • Can be held and poured with one hand
  • Appropriate amount for a single person
  • Less prone to waste from expiration

For the average person, a fifth contains a reasonable volume that can be enjoyed before expiration. Half gallons would often expire before being fully consumed.

Additionally, fifths are easy to store, gift, take to parties, etc. The lighter weight and compact shape make them significantly more portable and manageable than half gallon sizes.

When Would Someone Purchase a Half Gallon?

So when does it actually make sense to purchase a half gallon bottle compared to a fifth? Here are some scenarios where half gallons work best:

  • Restaurants, bars, and nightclubs – To pour hundreds of drinks from one bottle.
  • Catering & event companies – Serving drinks at large parties and weddings.
  • Commercial production – Adding alcohol to other beverages or foods at large scale.
  • Some restaurant cooking – Adding liquor to sauces, desserts, etc.
  • As gifts or displays – For some premium brands, decorative glass half gallons can make impressive gifts.
  • Lower end value brands – Some budget spirits come in plastic half gallon jugs, aimed at high volume use.

The common thread is that half gallons are optimized for high volume, commercial usage. An individual would almost never have a need for such large liquor bottles. Fifths strike the perfect balance for personal use.

Fifth vs Half Gallon Cocktails

Let’s also compare how many cocktails can be made from a fifth versus a half gallon:

Volume Standard Cocktails
Fifth (25.4 oz) 17 cocktails
Half Gallon (64 oz) 42 cocktails

Assuming a typical cocktail contains 1.5 oz of liquor, a fifth can make about 17 drinks. A half gallon could make over 40.

Once again, this shows that a fifth is a more appropriate single-serve size, while half gallons are suited for large gatherings and volume production.

Should You Buy Liquor in Half Gallon Sizes?

Based on all the comparisons, should you actually purchase liquor in half gallon bottles? Here are some recommendations:

  • For personal use – Stick to fifths for home bars or occasional cocktails. Half gallons are impractical and expensive.
  • For restaurants & bars – Consider half gallons for the huge volume savings on well liquors. But for premium brands, the savings may not justify the upfront cost.
  • For large events – Buying half gallons can be cost effective for one-time events with hundreds of guests.
  • As gifts – Premium craft half gallons can make impressive gifts, but come at a premium price.
  • For showing off – Half gallon sizes look nice on display behind home bars, especially unopened. But buy only 1 or 2 for display purposes, not your full stock.
  • For cooking – Half gallons can be useful for restaurant cooking needs, depending on the application.

In summary, half gallon liquor bottles serve niche commercial uses but are impractical for individual consumption. Stick to fifths for your personal liquor enjoyment and cocktail making.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s review some common frequently asked questions about fifths versus half gallons of liquor:

Why are fifths the standard liquor bottle size?

Fifths became the standard size because they contain a convenient volume for individual use – enough for approximately 17 drinks. This 250ml size can be easily stored, gifted, and poured. Half gallons are too large and unwieldy for personal use.

What’s the best bottle size for home bars?

For home bars, fifths are absolutely the way to go. The smaller size takes up less space and won’t expire before you can finish the bottle. Half gallons contain far more than a normal person would use before expiration.

Is buying half gallons cheaper?

Surprisingly, half gallons don’t provide significant per ounce savings compared to fifths. While the upfront price may seem lower, you have to consider the total volume. You’re often better off buying two fifths than a half gallon.

Where can I buy liquor in half gallon sizes?

It’s rare to find half gallon liquor bottles in normal retail liquor stores. Some clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club may sell budget half gallon plastic jugs. Or value brands like Aristocrat vodka come in half gallon sizes. Overall, they are not common.

Can I save an open half gallon of liquor?

You can save and reseal an opened half gallon bottle, but deterioration in quality will be noticeable over time. With such a large volume, it’s best to try finishing it within a month or two. An open fifth will last 6 months to a year before noticeable changes.

The Verdict

So in conclusion, while a fifth may seem like it should contain half a gallon, it clearly does not. A fifth only contains about 25 ounces, compared to 64 ounces in a half gallon.

Some key takeaways:

  • A fifth = 25.4 oz
  • A half gallon = 64 oz
  • A fifth is only 37.5% the size of a half gallon
  • Fifths are the preferred size for personal liquor consumption
  • Half gallons are better suited for commercial use cases
  • For home bars, always buy liquor in fifths rather than half gallons

So while the names can cause confusion, a fifth of liquor is certainly not equivalent to a half gallon. If you encounter a recipe or measurement calling for a half gallon of liquor, be sure to adjust it down accordingly if substituting with a fifth!

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