How Much Would it Cost to Fill a Swimming Pool With Booze? Has Anyone Ever Actually Done This?

JohnJohn asks: Has anyone ever really filled a pool with alcohol?

Several hotels around the world catering to the uber-wealthy offer a bizarrely specific package that offers customers the chance to float around in a hot tub filled with champagne. As pleasant as it sounds to have your nether regions soak in warm bubbly, you’d think someone, somewhere would have taken the concept to its logical conclusion by filling a pool with their liquor of choice and swimming around in it. As it turns out, however, this would not only be impossibly expensive, but extremely dangerous too.

First though, as alluded to there, while there are several examples we could find of people filling things like hot tubs with champagne, such as one hotel in London offering this for a mere $50,000, every story we found discussing someone filling a pool with alcohol ended up being wildly exaggerated. For example, in 2010 a story broke about a hedonistic orgy of debauchery organised in the home of a British lord called Edward Davenport sometime in 2009 that involved a swimming pool filled with alcohol that party goers could row across. Now, that sentence probably conjured up an image of people wearing immaculate suits and Eyes Wide Shut masks, gliding across a pristine lake of shimmering alcohol, perhaps laughing about how rich they are while occasionally dipping champagne flutes into the water. In reality, however, the whole thing was a PR stunt by the brand Courvoisier and the “pool” only contained about 1,000 litres (264 gallons) of liquid. That’s a lot of booze, sure, but we’re guessing most people who read that sentence imagined a proper sized swimming pool filled with alcohol- not one of those oversized kiddy pools you can buy for about $50. Because oh yeah, along with the pool not even being big enough for a proper adult to lie down in, tickets for the event were on sale for £6.50, or about $11. Not exactly the hedonistic night of excess attended by only the ultra wealthy promised by the news headlines, which as ever are generally more interested in clicks than even feigning to attempt at accuracy.

The same can be said concerning the headlines you may have seen about the Starkenberger beer pools. Located in Tarrenz, Austria, beer aficionados can tour a castle said to contain the only pools in the world filled entirely with beer. Again, the truth is a little less impressive than that and while the pools are big enough to swim around in, being about 13 feet wide, they’re really more akin to oversized hot tubs than anything else, though they do come the closest we could find to an actual pool full of booze, ringing in at about 21,000 litres (5500 gallons) of beer. That said, it should be noted that it’s an extremely watered down version of the beverage. Also, it’s not a great idea to attempt to drink the beer. Beyond random people submersing their bodies in it, it’s apparently a bit of a thing for some to use the pools for their purported medicinal value in treating “open wounds and psoriasis”. Combined with the whole warm and watered down thing, best to bring your own drink.

So how much would it cost to fill an actual proper sized swimming pool entirely with a genuine undiluted alcoholic beverage rather than half-assing like mere plebians? Well, quite a lot. For starters, you’d need 2.5 million litres or about 660,430 gallons of your tipple of choice if you wanted to fill a standard Olympic pool. Sure, we could use the dimensions of a smaller pool for our math, but if you’re going to throw an opulent party, best to go big or go home. And, really, it’s still going to be quite expensive and obscenely dangerous.

So how much would this cost? Well, this depends on what you like to drink.

Starting with beer, you can buy a standard keg of beer containing 15.5 gallons of the nectar of the gods for about $175-$200. So you’d need about 42,600 kegs to fill the pool enough to satisfy Olympic guidelines. This would cost about $7,456,468 rounding to the nearest dollar. Now, you’d probably get some kind of discount for buying the equivalent of 5 million pints of beer at once, so you could probably shave a fair amount off that estimate. That said, as George Clooney discovered when he attempted to buy custom made Tequila in bulk, when buying huge volumes of alcohol like that, he was told you need an appropriate alcohol buying business license to do so. (Fun fact, in his case this resulted in he and a couple friends deciding to start a Tequila company, which they then sold a few years later for about a billion dollars.)

As for what sort of discounts you could get, for whatever it’s worth here, according to one brewer we looked at, they noted approximately 25% of the cost of the beer goes into actually producing the product, with the rest in profit margins, taxes, shipping, retail margins, etc. etc. So we guess in that case, if you made it yourself and also thus avoided all the taxes associated with selling alcohol, you might get the cost down to a couple million. Or alternatively, you might be able to get a bulk discount from a mass producer down to maybe $4M-$5M at best.

Moving on to the harder stuff, a standard bottle of wine contains 750ml of liquid, so you’d need 3,333,333 bottles and a third of another to fill the pool to the top. Depending on how much you like to spend on wine, the cost of filling the pool would vary dramatically. For example, you could potentially fill the pool entirely with Charles Shaw Wine, colloquially known as Two Buck Chuck in California because it sells for $1.99, for just over $6,633,333. Two Buck Chuck is infamously cheaper than bottled water in some stores so you’d actually be less opulent filling a pool with this than Evian or something. But if you’re stuck on wine, in this case, we’re guessing there wouldn’t be much of a bulk discount, as it’s already pretty close to the margins, which is why it gets progressively more expensive the further you get away from the maker.

As a quick aside here, beyond this discount wine having won several awards, despite its ultra cheap nature, contrary to popular belief, it is not sold cheaply to get back at the creator’s ex-wife or any similar internet rumors. In fact, Charles Shaw himself wasn’t even involved in setting the price as the label was acquired by another company, Bronco Wine Co., after Shaw declared bankruptcy in the 1990s. Beyond the Bronco Wine Company already dealing in inexpensive wines, the real genesis of Two Buck Chuck was simply a massive surplus of wine in late 2001 and 2002, which caused the company to sell off the surplus at even more rock bottom prices than their norm; it was that or dump it on the ground. Sales skyrocketed to the point where it still made sense to keep the price there and so they did, selling on the order of 800 million bottles of the stuff over the next decade alone.

As CEO Fred Franzia notes when people wonder how he makes a profit selling something cheaper than bottled water of the same size, “They’re overcharging for the water. Don’t you get it?… We choose to sell good quality wines at $2 a bottle because we think it’s a fair price. We think the other people are charging too much.”

Going back to filling pools with the swill, if you have more refined taste and wanted to fill the pool with a wine that allows you to put your nose higher in the air when you discuss it, even buying lower mid-level wine still raises the potential cost to well over $20,000,000 at best.

The same can be said of barrels of various spirits like whiskey and tequila. Using Jack Daniels as a baseline (a company that famously lets customers simply buy an entire barrel of its product because they’re just that nice, as are their lawyers as we’ve discussed before), a barrel containing roughly 210-240 litres of booze will you set you back about $12,000 to $13,500. There’s no fixed price for a barrel because some alcohol will naturally evaporate during the distilling process, something colloquially referred to by the company as “the angel’s share”. Funny enough from this, buying a barrel ends up costing more on average, resulting in you paying about $50 per bottle. However, it would be easier to empty a couple thousand barrels of wine into a pool than it would a few million bottles, so probably worth paying extra for the convenience.

How much would this cost in total? Well it’s difficult to get an exact figure because of the aforementioned evaporation, but our ballpark estimate is that it’d cost about $133,333,333 based on needing 11,111 barrels containing an average 225 litres of whiskey each being sold for $12,000 a piece. Again in this case we’re assuming you’d get a hefty discount for buying in bulk though. But even if you could cut that in half, you’re still looking at a sum beyond the realm of possibility for all but the richest of the rich.

Finally, we have champagne- since the numbers are already getting silly, let’s go all out and work out what it’d cost to fill your pool with a high-quality, well-reviewed champagne like Veuve Clicquot, a magnum of which you can buy for about $150 if you shop around. Once again plopping this into our little swimming pool equation, you’d need 1,666,666 bottles to fill the pool almost to the top, then most of another bottle to fill it to the brim. This would cost by our estimated about $250,000,000 if you got the champagne for the aforementioned price of $150 a bottle. Of course, at that price, you might just be able to buy a producer of the stuff yourself and ramp up production as needed for your pool filling dreams, and thus in the end get the actual amount at cost and without many of the associated taxes. You could then turn around and sell the company after the party to get your other money back. Although given the volume used there for you instead of filling shelves, you’d probably see a lot of your previous contracts canceled and thus, the value of your company may or may not be what it was before.

But either way, even if you managed to get it for the bargain basement price of the $100 million or so you have lying around in your couch cushions, you certainly wouldn’t want to swim in it.

As you may or may not be aware, alcohol is less dense than water, making it incredibly difficult for you to stay buoyant; so swimming in a spirit like bourbon or vodka would not exactly be easy.

But maybe you’re a strong swimmer and you don’t care about that. Well, the real problem is the fumes from the alcohol which in all likelihood would very rapidly get you dangerously drunk. And the thing is, unlike, say, when drinking normally where various mechanisms, including in the extreme passing out or vomiting, keep you from drinking yourself to death in most cases, when breathing alcohol, there is no such stop mechanism here other than getting away from the pool to cleaner air. Further, that alcohol is going right in your blood, rather than needing some processing time in your gut. The result is you can extremely rapidly reach alcohol poisoning levels that will kill you dead. And, of course, let’s just say passing out while in a pool isn’t exactly a great recipe for living even when it’s filled with just water. For further details on why inhaling alcohol vapor is a really bad idea vs drinking it, go see our article The Good and the Bad of Vaporizing and Inhaling Alcohol.

But for now, as a real world example here, we have the case of the Silver Sage Winery in Canada proving immersing yourself in wine, for example, is a bad idea. In this case, a worker named Victor Manola actually fell into a 2,300 liter (600 gallon) tank of still fermenting wine in 2002. The owner of the winery, Frank Supernak, reached in to help pull him out, but himself slipped and fell in. Tragically, both were overcome and died before they could get out.

On top of that, it’s noted that even people treading water in the little watered down beer pools of Starkenberger castle have occasionally reported getting drunk off nothing more than the fumes they breath in.

But to sum up, any stories you have heard about the uber rich having debauched parties with alcohol filled swimming pools are most assuredly myths or wild exaggerations. In the end, even with massive bulk discounts, the price tag associated even for the cheapest of alcohols is incredibly high. And more to the point, just standing near the pool for any length of time could get you dangerously drunk, let alone swimming in it. And let’s just say we hope no one hanging around the pool is a smoker, because lighting up near it… You’re gonna have a bad time.

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  • I think your cost estimates are way too high, you can’t assume that someone purchasing 2.5 million liters would pay retail prices for it, even if you factor in some discount. The reality is that you can buy booze in bulk much cheaper than what you quote.
    For example, the average price of a liter of wine sold in bulk in Castilla-La Mancha (a wine region in Spain) in 2019 was €0.54, which is like 60 cents. So the total cost would be like $1.5 million, still prohibitively expensive but way way less than your calculations. And that’s the average price, the really cheap stuff probably goes for like 40 cents a liter or less.
    The last part about the dangers of swimming in liquor was very interesting, though.

    • Daven Hiskey

      As mentioned in the article, one issue you have is a lot of regions heavily tax alcohol. Thus it doesn’t really matter that you’re buying it in bulk- the taxes will be the same. Thus, the supplier can only discount so much, which is why we included some estimates of if you simply bought the company and made it yourself, as well as mentioned the general tax breakdown and getting rid of certain other costs associated with selling to many consumers instead of one. 🙂 Certainly in some regions you may be able to find cheaper, but in the general case, it’s never going to be cheap. 🙂

  • really liked your story on alcohol and pools. i understand about vapors messing with you but what about absorption through the skin. i’m sure some college egg head has done an experiment about holding a hand in a bucket of alcohol to see if blood alcohol levels increase. a couple bottles of Beam and an empty coffee can would work. the first thing i thought of when i started reading was about the alcohol getting into all of those orifices that we have, especially the sacred one that most of us appear from about 9 mos after the order is placed! OUCH!!!

  • Lim Whiskeywood

    I think acre feet, or miners inches should be considered as the order of magnitude.

  • Very interesting article, thanks! One small correction I felt was necessary: Victor Manola was the founder and owner of Silver Sage wineries, not “a worker”. His widow has kept going with the winery, and really doesn’t like talking about what happened.
    Mr Supernak was a wine-making consultant who helped out a lot with establishing Silver Sage.

  • Calculated an Olympic-sized pool with my choice of drink….Jack Daniels Black at my current price….58.5+ Million… if I can get the pool built….