What's a Casual "Let's Get Together" Phrase if "Go for Coffee" or "Go for a Drink" Won't Work Well?
January 17, 2009 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Semantic question: When initially proposing a "getting to know you" predate, the common invitation is to go get some coffee or to go get a drink. If you don't enjoy coffee or alcohol (yet), what alternate phrase can you use that doesn't sound weird? "Get a soda" sounds like "let's go get a malted!", and proposing "getting a drink" and then not drinking alcohol yourself can be problematic — and engaging in even a one- or two-sentence-long explanation about how you don't drink takes the question's tone away from casual and into "sounds complicated-neurotic" territory.
posted by WCityMike to Human Relations (47 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How about a smoothie?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:46 AM on January 17, 2009

Say get a coffee, and then order something else. I do it all the time, and I like coffee.
posted by vincele at 10:46 AM on January 17, 2009 [12 favorites]

A bite to eat
posted by fire&wings at 10:47 AM on January 17, 2009

"Hey, let's hang out sometime..."

And then go for a walk, meet at a museum or park, get lunch, checkout an art exhibit...

But really, have you been in a cafe recently? Trust me, there is something there you'll like, even if it's not coffee. Hell, order a smoothie, or hot coco... make it a conversation piece.
posted by wfrgms at 10:48 AM on January 17, 2009

Best answer: Coffeehouses serve all sorts of things - tea, hot chocolate, italian sodas, expensive bottled water, soda. It's totally okay to say, "Let's get coffee" and then order a coke.
posted by mosessis at 10:50 AM on January 17, 2009

Best answer: You're over thinking it. Have tea or soda instead and talk. If you don't like alcohol, don't ask to go get a drink, a coffee house is fine. The liquids are just are reason to sit and chat and do something with your hands to hide your nervousness. Go wherever and get to the talking part.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:51 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

if this were me, i would probably use your "let's go get a malted!" line. it's, as you point out, a little bit old-fashioned and juvenile, but if you play it right, i think it'd come off as quirky and charming. and besides, who doesn't like malteds?
posted by sergeant sandwich at 10:54 AM on January 17, 2009

Do you not like tea either? Coffeehouses these days serve so many things besides actual coffee that it doesn't seem weird at all to make a "coffee date" and then order hot chocolate -- or even a sandwich.

But I get your point. Why not just ask someone out to a specific sort of event, like a party you're going to, or a local jazz club, or a farmer's market, or some other low-stakes public venue.

Also, a couple of sentences from someone explaining that they don't drink doesn't sound complicated or neurotic, unless they ARE complicated/neurotic. And I don't think it's weird to say, "I don't drink, but a friend told me about a really nice place that's really (adjective) and I've been meaning to check it out. Want to come along? You can watch me get trashed on Diet Coke."
posted by hermitosis at 10:55 AM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Ice cream or frozen yogurt.
posted by and for no one at 10:55 AM on January 17, 2009

I personally like saying "Let's have tea!" because I'm not a huge coffee drinker, and no one has ever called me on it. The meaning will still be clear, even if I end up actually having something else entirely different. Besides, it conjures up all kinds of silly afternoon tea fantasies for me, complete with crumpets.
posted by so much modern time at 10:56 AM on January 17, 2009

Two suggestions:

1. Name the place instead of the food? "Let's go to (purveyor of tasty things at agreeable location)."

2. Ice cream! Dude. Always a good first-date food, if only for the mood-lightening hilarity of somebody invariably making a mess.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 10:57 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

To me, going for coffee is going for a casual non-alcoholic beverage. Going for a drink implies alcohol. Going for a soda only works if you're 10 or you're Kim Mitchell. You can be an adult and get a soft drink when you're on this date, but you shouldn't frame it as a chance to get a soda (or pop). Don't over think it.

Great coffeehouses have more much more than coffee. Even non great coffeehouses like Starbucks have non coffee drinks.
posted by birdherder at 10:57 AM on January 17, 2009

I'd go with, "Let's get a coffee" then order some other beverage at the coffee shop. Bite to eat or slice of pizza works well, too.

Or you can go the ridiculously specific route, (cupcake, pirogi, belgian fries) and hope that they find it charming. Double plus bonus points if the specific item is something they had mentioned they like.
posted by piratebowling at 10:58 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Let's meet up and take a walk in [YOUR FAVORITE PARK]. Maybe then we can get a bite to eat."
posted by thinkpiece at 11:03 AM on January 17, 2009

"Let's have coffee" is, to my mind, much clearer than "Let's have a drink" or "Let's get together." It signals something casual but intentional. You can order whatever you'd like once you get there, but that particular invitation is (I think) the standard signal for "I want to set a time for us to meet up, while sober, and get to know each other." I'd totally take someone up on the invitation to get malteds, because they're damn tasty, but I wouldn't know to think of it the way I think of "Let's get a coffee."
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:04 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I usually do not drink coffee. I have asked people to meet "for coffee" many times and then ordered tea instead. No one has ever commented on it, and it's never been weird.
posted by grouse at 11:10 AM on January 17, 2009

OK --this is a good one. Recall the scene from Office Space where Peter asks Joanna if she'd like to come over and watch Kung Fu flicks. This was so far from contrived or scripted and furthermore just blew her mind. It's possible to come up with similar invitations, particularly with nerdy types, that are unique and appealing. Here's an example:

Would you be interested in going out for _______ sometime?

a) cheesecake
b) seafood brunch
c) monster truck show
d) [what others noted above]
e) pozole verde

You could goof it up even more with a semi-explanation as in "I'm horrible at choosing xyz, could you help me find..." (considering xyz isn't socks or underwear). The point is, many of these open it up to a little more talk rather than:



This doesn't work in all cases however. Unfortunately to some you may come of as, uh, scripted and contrived and it may be sort of embarrasing... but hey, it's the chance you have to take.

I've found that when the invitation is nerdy and creative it's not only received well but allows both parties to laugh off a bit of nervous energy immediately after.
posted by ezekieldas at 11:18 AM on January 17, 2009

Incidentally, in Japan, a stereotypical pick-up line is "hey girl, wanna go have some tea?" Tea isn't really what the invitation offers, of course. It's the same with"get a coffee" in the US at least, though the phrase has (not yet) developed sleazy connotations.

Ice cream, soda, smoothies, walks in parks... As a single woman who dates men, I would be turned off because they all sound so far from standard dating conventions. But that's just me.
posted by vincele at 11:20 AM on January 17, 2009

Like everyone has said, "let's get coffee" just means non-alcoholic beverages and maybe some food, but not usually a full meal. So get hot chocolate, tea, decaf, a smoothie, or whatever else looks good to you on the menu, and no one will ever find it weird.

If you are proposing drinks, but don't drink, I think having a really short and pithy why-I-don't-drink-but-I'm-not-weird sentence will help. And make it about the location, not the drinking. So "I've been hearing great things about the new artisanal cocktail bar downtown. I'm on a non-alcoholic kick right now, but the burgers are supposed to be to die for, and obviously they have lots of drink options" wouldn't sound creepy at all, to me at least.

As with all things, ymmv, and how your date feels is a lot more important than what anyone here says. These things are really easy to overthink, and one can lose track of how it is really about you, not the specific line or the delivery. If the chemistry is good, there's almost nothing you could say that would be wrong, and if the chemistry isn't there there won't be anything you can say that will be right.
posted by Forktine at 11:31 AM on January 17, 2009

"Let's meet up and take a walk in [YOUR FAVORITE PARK]. Maybe then we can get a bite to eat."

Unfortunately, it's January. In Chicago.

What about a museum? No shortage of those around here. Plus you have built-in conversation if there's a lull.
posted by desjardins at 11:45 AM on January 17, 2009

Your profile says you live in Chicago - have you been to Argo? Such a cool concept - it's just like a regular Starbucks-esque coffee place, but it's all tea.
posted by radioamy at 11:47 AM on January 17, 2009

"Get coffee" means go to a cafe, order something, and talk. "Get drinks" means go to a bar, order something, and talk. If anyone complains that you said "get coffee" but ended up ordering something other than coffee, they're either joking or clueless.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:51 AM on January 17, 2009

Best answer: This won't make you appear less weird, but you could always order some miracle fruit tablets and chew them in the bathroom before you drink a coffee or beer. This smacks of weirdness, granted, and isn't something I would actually recommend doing, as secretly modifying yourself with chemicals may not be how you want to be remembered.

It seems so much simpler to just order something on the menu other than coffee or beer. When you ask someone out for coffee, you're not forming a contract as to what you'll order from the menu--you're making an offer about the kind of environment and social interaction you have in mind.
posted by kprincehouse at 11:52 AM on January 17, 2009

Art exhibits or gallery shows, especially on opening night, imply a casual, one-hour activity, no drinking anything at all, something to talk about together, plus it doesn't cost anything. If one of you wants a glass of wine, they're almost always offered.

"Want to go to the BLANK gallery with me Friday for the BLANK opening?"

"There's this new exhibit at the BLANK I've been dying to check out. Have you gone yet?"

This implies you'd like to be somewhere that you can be quiet OR talk, see each other, share an experience, and then possibly give you something to talk about afterward or continue doing together even if you don't click romantically.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:14 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you say "let's get coffee" as a sort of generic non-sleazy pickup line or date request you sound like the sort of person who unfortunately models their social interactions after how they see people act in movies and sitcoms.

Unless it's something like microbrewed root beer or an honest old timey soda fountain, soda is a drink/refreshment of mediocre quality and little classiness.

Now, things that would be great if you don't actually want coffee and are avoiding alcohol would be tea, hot chocolate, a milkshake, malted, float, ice cream, shaved ice, gelato, egg cream in NYC, smoothie, aforementioned brewpub root beer, etc. Then, importantly, you don't get a crappy McDonald's version of whatever it is, you go to the place you know that makes a real nice legit milkshake or whatever. If you don't know that place, you really should get on that.

If someone is disinclined to favor your request because a milkshake is not Standard Completely Arbitrary Protocol while Starbucks is, consider that a built-in filter.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:17 PM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Maybe we could go get a drink or some dessert sometime!" That way your companion could get alcohol or coffee if he/she wants, and you can get some dessert. Mmm, dessert.
posted by eldiem at 12:45 PM on January 17, 2009

Say coffee -- it's a generic term -- but get something hot. A recent study showed that people think more highly of someone new when holding a hot cup than a cold one.
posted by msalt at 12:48 PM on January 17, 2009

Grab lunch together
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:00 PM on January 17, 2009

I definitely love the concept of the pre-date. No strings attached, public, quick, convenient, etc. The whole "miniature golf-dinner-movie" first date is a tragedy waiting to happen. If there's no "spark", it's hours of torture. Or worse, the horror of bailing out.

I'm no dating success story, but I'd say let the offer be the conversation, and let the specifics of the situation be a starting point. If you are at work "wanna get coffee" sounds weird. So make it lunch. If you're already at a bar, "wanna get coffee sometime" sounds even weirder. But if the meeting is more anonymous/random, like at a grocery store or match.com, "wanna get coffee sometime" is much more appropriate. You posit the concept of the pre-date:

"Hey, do you want to grab a coffee or something?"

"Sure that sounds cool!"

Ok, the concept is out there. Let the conversation flow from that, to setting it up.

"Do you like coffee?"

"Actually, not really. But I love tea- there's this awesome tea place by my house..."

"Cool, let's go there!"


"Do you like coffee?"


"Oh, what do you normally do on these pre-date kinds of things?"

"Ha ha, I don't know."

And just keep chatting until something comes up. Or, if it doesn't, you know you are pretty incompatible...
posted by gjc at 1:18 PM on January 17, 2009

I don't drink caffeine during the day because it keeps me awake that night and I don't drink chocolate or ice cream based drinks because they upset my stomach. Yet I go for 'coffee' with my friends all the time. I just buy juice, usually the fancy bottled organic stuff so it looks like I have a 'proper' drink. If I'm with a newer friend and they ask (usually "what're you having" while pointing at the hot drinks menu) I just say "Oh I don't drink caffeine after ten am because it keeps me awake, I'm good with this" and continue the conversation like normal. It's never been a problem.

The trick is to have something to drink, if you don't then you get into the whole "how about cocoa, how about a smoothie" crap where you end up shooting down everything and it gets messy. The drink is, as others have said, just an excuse and something to do with your hands anyway so it's not important what it is. You should have other things to talk about (hopefully!) and you can always get into more details later if either of you care. But right at the start when you're buying the drinks you should both be in polite chitchat mode anyway and any reasonable person is going to let it go.

I'd think that not drinking alcohol at a bar would be more problematic to explain because that's kind of what bars are for. But if there's some other reason to be at that particular place, good music, yummy tapas, whatever, then it's less of an issue.

So yeah. Ask her out 'for coffee', drink whatever you like.
posted by shelleycat at 2:22 PM on January 17, 2009

Best answer: Yep. "Coffee" is just code for "not alcohol."

If you ask someone out for a drink and then don't have an alcoholic drink yourself, it may not come off well.

If you ask someone out for coffee and then have something non-alcoholic that is not coffee, it's fine.
posted by bingo at 3:02 PM on January 17, 2009

From Good Will Hunting:

Skylar: Maybe we could go out for coffee sometime?
Will: Great, or maybe we could go somewhere and just eat a bunch of caramels.
Skylar: What?
Will: When you think about it, it's just as arbitrary as drinking coffee.
Skylar: [laughs] Okay, sounds good.

Same point as Brandon Blatcher's: Liquid sets the familiar environment, but it's not the motive.
posted by zoomorphic at 3:47 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're looking to actually make specific plans with a person, the above comments cover all the classic moves. However, a lot of people say "we should get some coffee" when what they really mean is "I've enjoyed hanging out with you, but we haven't talked enough to commit to spending several hours together. Maybe we could continue our conversation in another no-strings environment?"

If that's what you're looking for, I suggest using "We should hang out." The phrase "hang out" implies a casual, purposeless activity with no time limit. If they reciprocate, you can worry about what to do later when you have plenty of time to think about it. Even though I do enjoy coffee and alcohol, I prefer this because then I don't have to worry about whether the other person likes those things.
posted by systematic at 3:58 PM on January 17, 2009

Many of these suggestions miss the point of the pre-date which is to be of limited scope. But it's good to be creative anyway. If someone doesn't want to be surprised or in an awkward context then they're not going to like much of anything I do, so I will definitely try some of these. My own suggestion:
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:14 PM on January 17, 2009

Yes, a walk in the park might be awfully cold in Chicago in January ... but but but. Imagine she says, Wow, it's kind of cold for a walk. He says, It is, it's true. But let's give it a try anyway. And they meet up, and he starts pulling some lovelies from his pockets (men's mysterious pockets are truly romantic) like earmuffs, those handwarmer things, chapstick, a goofy scarf, mittens. And he bundles her up and off they go.

If he really likes her, well, swoon-y in my book.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:54 PM on January 17, 2009

"I'd love to take you to dinner."

Sorry. "Predates" don't impress anyone with how interested you are in the other person. Quite the opposite. Go straight to the 'real' date!
posted by Ookseer at 6:02 PM on January 17, 2009

Best answer: Sorry. "Predates" don't impress anyone with how interested you are in the other person. Quite the opposite. Go straight to the 'real' date!

But the point isn't to demonstrate how interested in her he is. The point is to provide a low pressure environment where they can spend more time together, which will hopefully lead to her becoming interested in him.
posted by the latin mouse at 7:15 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

And since I forgot to answer the question, ice-cream. Totally.

I mean, coffee is universally understood, regardless of what drink you actually end up ordering at the coffee shop, but there is nothing like ice-cream for improving your chances.

"Hey, you want to go out for ice cream?"

I don't know him that well. But on the other hand, TASTY DELICIOUS ICE CREAM!

"Sure, why not?"
posted by the latin mouse at 7:19 PM on January 17, 2009

Just say go get a coffee seriously. There is no need to go into any details. It is not the same as going to a bar and not drinking. It is totally socially acceptable to not drink coffee at a coffee place, it doesn't even raise an eyebrow.

And yeah don't go into the non coffee thing right off the bat, I've had several very odd asking a guy for coffee and then they go into a 90 second spiel about how they don't actually drink coffee, but oh wait we can still go for coffee and I'll just get something else, but not Starbucks because I hate that place, but we can go some local place, but I don't actually know any so you'll have to pick it because you know I don't drink coffee.

And then I remember why I opted for the predate over the real date in the first place. I have never regretted going on a predate over a real date, but damn have I regretted going on a real date right off the bat...
posted by whoaali at 8:33 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I do not drink coffee. Nonetheless, I frequently suggest meeting people for coffee. My usual line is something like this: "We should get together for coffee sometime. Or not coffee, as the case may be, since I don't actually drink coffee, but you know what I mean." Delivered with in the right tone of voice or email it sounds enthusiastic, yet slightly dorky, which, since I'm mainly using it on geeky men I'm hoping to date, works well for me.

On the other hand, sometimes I invite people for hot chocolate, since my favorite winter first date destination is a chocolate shop with killer hot chocolate in a funky neighbourhood. They have coffee, too, for people who don't like chocolate, though if someone says they don't like chocolate, I usually suggest a different coffee place.

If you go the 'or not coffee since I don't drink it' route, though, it's imperative that you already know where to go that has good coffee and good non-coffee drinks. Don't make them try and come up with something that'll please you on the spot, since if they are a coffee drinker, there's a good chance they'll have no idea if anything else their favorite coffee house serves is any good.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:02 PM on January 17, 2009

It is well known among my coffee-drinking fiends (I mean, friends) that I loathe coffee and am the tea fiend.

Frequently, we get together for 'caffeine'. Which doesn't always mean a caffinated beverage, now that I think of it (I try to stop after noon). But yeah. I don't say "let's go for coffee", I say "lets go for caffeine". They get some horrid cafe late mocha thing and I get a nice cup of chamomile or peppermint or whatever.

Or just suggest a specific place. Specific place is good, to start. Eliminates that whole extra step of "well sure but where"? and just goes straight to when.
posted by sandraregina at 9:36 PM on January 17, 2009

A ladyfriend asked me out for sushi and foosball on our first date. Instead we ate noodles, semi-accidentally got trashed at the local wine bar, then bicycled unsteadily to the nearest park, where we stumbled around laughing and yelling until the cops drove us away. Good times...

Anyway, the point is that it was the offer of spending time together in an interesting way that got the go-ahead from me, not that I was craving sushi and a game of foosball.
posted by fracas at 11:09 PM on January 17, 2009

Most coffee shops have muffin or bagel. Hence, "Let's get a muffin" or "bagel" works as well as "coffee" or "a drink."

If someone asked me out for coffee and then drank herb tea instead, I would not be particularly put off. I would assume the person had meant "Let's go out to the coffee shop and interact," not "Let's put fascistic rules in place regarding our comutual beverage ingestions."
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:23 PM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Let's get a muffin

please for the love of god do not ask a woman out this way.
posted by desjardins at 11:52 AM on January 18, 2009

By way of making up for my pointless editorializing post above:

My personal internal dictionary defines "Getting coffee" as:
An unstructured one on one casual social event. Typically arranged to meet at a cafe or coffee shop so as to be a cheap and non-controversial place to wait and not look like a fool when stood up by a flake. Typical activities include conversation, avoiding work, bitch sessions, people watching, evaluating people met online, and forming casual business relationships. However it can be used as a launching point for such activities as shopping, taking a walk, getting a drink, getting sushi, getting it on, and getting coffee at the other better coffee shop across the street. Despite the "coffee" identifier, there is no expectation that coffee or any beverage at all will be consumed. See also hang out, meet up, get together.
If someone responded to "get coffee" with "I don't like coffee" they are either unfamiliar with this definition or they don't want to predate you.
posted by Ookseer at 12:04 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, "coffee" is an event, not a beverage, in this context.

My college roommate once asked a guy out for "coffee," and he replied, "I don't really like coffee. How about ice cream, or fruit?" Same guy once invited her over to his house for...Swiss chard.

My friend did hook up with the guy, and we will always remember him for his unique invitations. I think YMMV depending on how quirky your personality is otherwise!
posted by TrixieRamble at 1:01 PM on January 20, 2009

Best answer: Yeah, the latin mouse above nailed it. The point is 1) low pressure 2) give her an out 3) meet in standard setting so that she can feel comfortable. Whimsical and twee suggestions are great if you know someone well, or know that they dig you, but then that's a date. You want to find out if she's interested.

"Coffee" sounds like something you'd do with a friend, so if at the end of the "predate" she's not interested, well then it makes it less awkward for both of you. You part as friends. You may be disappointed, but you've caused her no embarrassment or awkwardness.

If the predate goes well, then extend it. Move on to the art gallery or to the walk in the park or whatever. But those kind of activities are far more high pressure than just facing one another at a table for 45 minutes drinking a beverage.

I and my female friends generally agree it's easiest to gauge whether you connect with a person in a conventional setting, and apparently most men do because few if any ever extend complicated invitations for what you're calling a "predate." I'm the farthest you can get from a sex in the city wannabe and I enjoy all sorts of cultural and unstructured activities. However, what sounds charming in the abstract can be tedious and uncomfortable with a guy you don't know and don't want to get to know in that way.

Making others comfortable and eliminating possibilities for awkwardness and embarrassment should be the starting point of dating, in my book at least.
posted by vincele at 3:17 PM on January 20, 2009

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