How to decline drinking for networking repeatedly while not appearing uptight.
August 9, 2012 1:04 PM   Subscribe

In the past year, a lot of networking opportunities have involved drinking. "Let's grab a drink together," "We're having drinks and reading our work at my place," "You should grab a drink with my friend so-and-so, he'll tell you the downlow on this job," etc. Which is all fine and dandy except for the drinking bit... how do I decline to drink and still take advantage of these?

It seems like drinking is the way a lot of people relax and meet strangers. It's an established social ritual. I haven't had a problem *not* drinking and still being friendly and open, but I like making other people comfortable by mirroring them if possible. I'm a twenty-something, and it's not like I've never drunk alcohol. I have, many times, and I'm not opposed morally or anything. But in the last two years, I've had a really hectic schedule, and noticed that alcohol (even just a beer) pushes me over the edge into sick, almost invariably, and for that reason I've begun to avoid it. I have no problem just scheduling dinner with friends instead of drinks, and they mostly know I don't drink much if at all these days.

Unfortunately, this also seems to coincide with a time where I'm trying to do a lot of networking with acquaintances for my career, and where many of the people I'm connecting with are drinkers or that's just the easiest/most casual thing for them to suggest. In my experience, hanging out with a person at a bar and not drinking an alcoholic beverage, even if you're totally friendly, still makes them perceive you as "stiff" in some way. In other words, it sabotages the very bonding you're trying to do. I don't mind if they're drinking, I just don't want to make them uncomfortable. Several of these events have been group things, like "I'm getting drinks with this person at a bar, do you want to join?"

At least 4 separate occasions, I've wanted to say, "Yes, but I also don't want to drink anything..." and thought this would sound too uptight/awkward so I declined altogether or just avoided setting anything up until I can think of something else. I live in a city where I walk and bus everywhere, so I can't pull the driver card. And really, I don't want to have to make excuses, because if I meet them again I'll have to think of something else...

What to do? Should I simply say, alcohol makes me sick except for when I'm in perfect health, but I'm happy to join you at a bar and get a soda or a virgin margarita? Is that TMI? Should I order a non-alcoholic beverage in secret? Should I say, can we do coffee instead, or dinner? (Those feel more formal to me.) Do you have any strategies you've used to repeatedly decline drinking while still making the other person/people feel comfortable, and not lying? This is really starting to affect my groove.
posted by iadacanavon to Human Relations (51 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Go with them and when ordering, order something non-alcoholic. Don't make a big deal, don't call attention to it.

Lots of people don't drink alcohol. I rarely do. If anyone asks, offer an extremely non-chalant response, "I'm on these meds." "I'm such a light-weight". Shrug and move on.

Folks shouldn't bat an eye. With so many people on anxiety/depression meds, in a 12-step program, etc, most people will be thrilled that you're getting something wet and not making a statement about it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:08 PM on August 9, 2012 [28 favorites]

Best answer: Drink seltzer water with a slice of lime in it. Or something. And tip the bartender even if it's free. If someone asks, just say something to the effect of, "I'm abstaining today." No need to make a big deal of it.
posted by jon1270 at 1:08 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't explain anything, and don't apologize in advance. Just order your own non-alcoholic drinks, soda, water, or whatever when you get there.

If they ask, you can just say, "Oh yeah, I'm driving" or "Yeah, I'm not drinking". Practice saying it confidently and with a little smile because it's not a big deal and you're an adult who doesn't have to do a damn thing you don't want to.
posted by Mercaptan at 1:09 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Don't say anything. Just go and order something non-alcoholic. Doesn't even have to be a virgin anything. A Diet Coke will be fine. Most people won't say anything. If they do, just say "Don't feel like it today," or "Not much of a drinker, I'm afraid. Doesn't agree with me." The vast majority of people won't care.

Also, when a lot of people say "Grab a drink" they don't necessarily mean precisely that. Alcohol is implied, but not required. If you suggest a coffee shop as a meeting place, most people won't think twice about it. It's an expression which is frequently used to mean "Go and meet somewhere social without getting a meal."
posted by valkyryn at 1:09 PM on August 9, 2012 [15 favorites]

You are WAY over thinking this and assuming things that are very likely not true.

Them: "Want to meet up and have a drink?''

You: "SURE!"

Them (at the bar): "Whiskey straight!"

You: "7 up! So, how 'bout those Olympics, huh?"
posted by The Deej at 1:10 PM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I am a total lightweight who gets buzzed off of a single drink, so I feel your pain, somewhat. Anyone who would think less of you for ordering a "cranberry juice and soda" (or whatever non-alcoholic beverage you like) is an unprofessional ass. Brush off any "hey, why aren't you drinking?" with "eh, I'm currently on the wagon" or another "none of your business" non-answer.
On preview, what everyone else said. It's not a big deal to not drink booze.
posted by chowflap at 1:10 PM on August 9, 2012

On preview, I was just about to say what Ruthless Bunny said. It seems to me that the most graceful and least socially-awkward course of action is to simply order a non-alcoholic drink without discussing or calling attention to it.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 1:10 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Can you show up early and order your seltzer + lemon before the other person arrives? Tip well. Then just ask for "another" for the next round.
posted by handful of rain at 1:10 PM on August 9, 2012

Best answer: If they suggest a bar, there is nothing to keep you from getting a soda. I think enough people are sensitive to the fact that not everyone drinks. There are plenty of people who don't drink for health or religious reasons, or are alcoholics.

I think what's making you feel stiff is you. Relax, and buy them a round so you let them know you aren't judging them.
posted by wrnealis at 1:11 PM on August 9, 2012

Ask for an orange juice. If anyone says anything about it being non-alcoholic, mention that you're on antibiotics. Maybe come up with something involving a suppurating wound if they get really nosy.

If people are getting weird about you not drinking alcohol, well, that's kind of weird in and of itself. As long as you're being sociable and doing the correct interaction-type things, you should be fine. Their hangups belong to them.
posted by Solomon at 1:11 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

This isn't an uncommon problem. Just tell people you're slightly allergic to alcohol or trying to cut back on sugar or carbs and keep drinkibg soft drinks. Tip the bartenders well.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 1:11 PM on August 9, 2012

Best answer: There's a whole subset of alcoholic-sounding drinks that are actually combinations of non-alcoholic ingredients. An Arnie Palmer, for instance, is a combination of iced tea and lemonade. One of my friends is in sales but does not drink, although frequently takes clients out to drink. She often orders one of these and her clients are none the wiser.
posted by SpecialK at 1:12 PM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

No one except you and the bartender can tell that a cranberry and soda isn't a cranberry and soda and vodka.
posted by griphus at 1:12 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

How alcohol-intolerant are you? Can you possibly get something super-lightweight and fruity, and just nurse it all evening?

(I have also found that showing up early and explaining the situation to bartenders, while tipping them well, works wonders, back when I was in a similar situation.)
posted by corb at 1:14 PM on August 9, 2012

Best answer: This is exactly what non-alcoholic beer was invented for. didn't seriously think people drank that crap for the taste, did you?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:14 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, if you don't want to appear uptight, but other people drinks. Nothing wards away weird vibes like buying someone a drink. Plus, if you're going to the bar to get them, no one will see what you order.
posted by griphus at 1:16 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, just say, "sure, let's meet for drinks" and then order something non-alcoholic. Mentioning it when accepting the invitation is not necessary and makes it a bigger deal than you say it is. Even I, Mr. Vino, sometimes don't order alcohol.

The only exception to this advice is if you're trying to impress an investment banker. Then tell them "wow, I really overdid it last night. I think I'd better stick to soda water today." But this will only work once or twice, you'll eventually have to down some shots to prove you're one of the tribe.
posted by mr vino at 1:17 PM on August 9, 2012

You're totally overthinking this. Sure, in the Mad Men era, the word "drinks" exclusively meant booze, but those days are long gone. Just order a soda and lime (or whatever) without comment and get on with networking. Virtually no one bat an eye; those that do bat an eye can be met with a brief, cheerful redirect, such as "this is fine for me, thanks! So, tell me what brought you to XYZ Inc."
posted by scody at 1:18 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Order a Coke. If anyone asks, just say you're dragging today and need the caffeine. But I bet no one will ask. I have a friend who orders nothing but iced teas at bars, but he's still always game to come out and hang out with his friends. Be that guy!
posted by jabes at 1:20 PM on August 9, 2012

Best answer: I know someone who orders a "rum and coke, no rum." Usually gets a laugh.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:21 PM on August 9, 2012

Diet coke. It's plain, utilitarian, and adult. If anyone asks, you have work to do later.
posted by mercredi at 1:22 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and one last thing: I went totally dry for over a year, so all I drank at bars was cranberry and soda. The one time a bartender asked me a question about it -- "Cranberry soda, please." "Just that? Nothing else?" -- the other bartender (clearly more experienced) gave her a "don't do that" glare. Why? Because it's pretty rude to question what a person orders.

So if you're worried about the bartenders thinking you're weird, don't. There's a whole lot of people suffering from alcoholism, liver problems, medication issues or who just plain don't like beer or liquor who go to bars and order drinks with no booze in them.
posted by griphus at 1:23 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't try to hide the fact that you're not drinking alcohol (e.g., getting there early and ordering a seltzer with lime, then saying "another of those" all night). That has the danger of taking a situation that's not very awkward (we drinkers do know that some people don't drink) and making it actually awkward:

Waiter: what'll you have this time?
You (slyly): oh, I'll have another of those.
Waiter: OK, another gin and tonic
You: *shit*
posted by gurple at 1:24 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please don't feel the need to make "excuses" for why you are not drinking. This is a road you don't want to start. I am about twice the age of twenty-somethings, but I never gave a flying copulation what anyone thinks of my eating or drinking habits, and wouldn't want to network with anyone who made it thier business to pry. Sure, a curious inquiry is understandable, but a simple non-excuse answer should suffice. I never drank a drop until I was past 40, and I never once felt the need to make excuses for not drinking. I still rarely drink. Most people do not care one way or the other. The only people who really made a deal of it were people who seemed to have a drinking problem and wanted to feel more normal my surrounding themselves with other drinkers.

Them: "Why are you drinking soft drinks instead of booze?"

"I like it!"
"To each his own."
"I'm saving more for you!"
"No reason."
"I'm thirsty."
"Why are you drinking booze instead of soft drinks?"
posted by The Deej at 1:25 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Should I simply say, alcohol makes me sick except for when I'm in perfect health, but I'm happy to join you at a bar and get a soda or a virgin margarita? Is that TMI?

Yes. It's TMI. So you order a cranberry juice and soda, or club soda and a lime. Or Diet Coke. Nobody cares whether you drink alcohol when they invite you to "go out for drinks." What they are saying is, "let us hang out in this bar and chat," not, "I want you to drink alcohol."
posted by deanc at 1:27 PM on August 9, 2012

Best answer: I actually do this pretty often. I just order a soda and if anybody asks I just say I really wanted a soda. I think giving excuses is always kinda weird. Like, making a joke about it just seems like you're hiding something, even if you're not.
posted by smirkyfodder at 1:27 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just order a soda. It's what I do at networking events where there is alcohol.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:34 PM on August 9, 2012

This comes up in dating. I don't drink, and I've been on a lot of first dates. It clearly says so on my dating profile, but people just don't seem to notice.

So a lot of people, depend on their comfort level, will want to set up drinks. Now, I don't want to go to a bar, but I do want to meet someone. An unavoidable reality. Much like work drinks.

Now, I don't want to get into my whole story about why I don't drink, I mean, this is a first date. So what do I do? Lie? Skirt around the truth? Confess my sins?

So this one time I lied. I met this girl at a noisy bar and her friend was there and by that time they were both a few drinks in. I decided, fuck it, I'm going to lie. They stood by me as I ordered from the bartender. I leaned in very far and whispered into his ear, "Can I have a Shirley Temple please?"

So he pours me this drink, and it looks pretty good for a non-alcoholic beverage. The women were intrigued. Sure enough the next thing out of their mouth was, "Can we try it?" Freeze frame. Roll title sequence.

Next thing you know I'm passing the drink around and they are taking sips! "Oh my God it tastes so good!" I can't even believe what's happening at this point, I'm slack jaw. My mind reboots, and I realize they can't tell there's no alcohol in it. At this point, they give me back my drink, the rest of the night went off without a hitch, although I will admit I drank my Shirley Temple very quickly so that nobody else would ask me for a sip. After that, I said I have to drive home, so it's just water for me.

I have more stories like this, all varying in degree in terms of how much I reveal. I can't really tell you what the "best" way to go about this is, in terms of telling the truth or lying, but what I can say for sure is, people are constantly reacting to the level of comfortability in your voice and demeanor.

So, if somebody asks you for drinks, enthusiastically say yes, you can go to a bar and have a drink and it could be water or a soda or a fancy non-alcoholic drink or beer. First off, anybody who makes a huge deal out of you not drinking is a moron. I promise this is categorically true. Secondly, if somebody asks, and they may very well not ask if you appear super comfortable, you have the option of telling them the truth or lying. No big deal. If it's a one-off, tell them you have other plans later that night. The bottom line is, if you act like it's not a big deal to you, there's nowhere for them to go with it. They don't want to be rude; they're just making chit-chat. But if you express hesitation or are a little torn about your decision, people will start asking questions because we are all inquisitive beings.
posted by phaedon at 1:36 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I do this all the time -- partly because of a family history of alcoholism and partly because of a highly efficient liver that breaks down alcohol with a briskness (so alcohol typically does nothing for me), but mainly because I do not care for the taste of most booze. Ginger ale pretty much all the way. In twenty-five years or so of socializing in bars, no one has ever questioned me on it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:42 PM on August 9, 2012

Best answer: You are way overthinking this. Half of everyone over 30 isn't "drinking" today because they're trying to get pregnant, or it now makes them fat, or it gives them a rip-roaring headache, or they took a benadryl for spring allergies, or they're alcoholics, or they simply don't drink at work events, or whatever. Frankly at this point in my life people are more likely to look at you askance if you order more than two drinks than if you just stick with soda. I rarely to never drink at work-related events because, well, work-related. (I'll have a glass of wine with dinner, but otherwise mostly not if it's worky.) I can't remember the last time someone said something about it.

It is ten times more awkward to say "I'd love to go with you, but I'm not going to drink" or "I don't drink because it makes me sick" than to just order a Sprite and have done with it. People who even mention you not drinking are either 1) youthfully insecure and recently in the work world or 2) douchebags (also usually insecure).

On the rare occasions someone's like, "No booze tonight?" I personally say, "Allergy season, I'd go to sleep right on the table!" which always gets a response like, "Ugh, right? The ragweed pollen is killing me!" People love talking about pollen!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:46 PM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

Anecdotal: I drink like a fish, and I have used, "Let's go get a drink," as a networking thing. And people have come along and drank Coke, and I don't look down on them for it, I don't give them a hard time for it, and I only even know what they're drinking if I over-hear them ordering. If it's a good conversation, I'll remember what they talked about a lot more than what everyone was drinking.
posted by RobotHero at 1:46 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was in this exact same situation a couple of months ago when I attended a professional conference. I also have to agree that you're totally overthinking this. When I was around other people who were drinking I just drank my bottled water, soda, or whatever I was drinking at the time. NO ONE asked me why I wasn't drinking alcohol, and even if they would have, I would have just said, "I don't drink". Sometimes I will get a funny look, but very few people ever say anything about it. If it bears repeating, I say "I don't drink".

Anyone who has a problem with me not drinking probably has a drinking problem of their own. And those are the kind of people I don't want to be networking with anyway.
posted by strelitzia at 1:48 PM on August 9, 2012

Oh, sometimes someone might say, "Sure you don't want a glass of wine?" because a) they're not drinking but want you to know it's okay if you do or b) they're paying and want to signal you it's okay to order something expensive and not feel like you have to stick to the cheapest item on the menu. You just say, "Oh, no thank you, I'm fine!" And it's fine.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:51 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wouldn't make excuses that imply a problem you don't have, nor would I conceal the fact that you're not drinking alcohol. For several reasons, but mostly because a) you don't need an excuse NOT to drink alcohol, and b) it then potentially becomes a Seinfeld episode.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:02 PM on August 9, 2012

Nthing the assurances that any information is too much information: if you offer an excuse for not drinking, that means you see it as something that sets you apart. By not offering an excuse, apology, or explanation, or even an acknowledgment, that makes your beverage entirely unimportant.

You want to not look uptight? Offer to buy a round. Buy them beer, rumandcokes, whatever they're drinking. And your soda-lime. Don't sweat it.
posted by aimedwander at 2:07 PM on August 9, 2012

Best answer: I was virtually a non-drinker throughout most of my twenties (I just turned 30). I didn't have any specific strategy, I just said no and ordered anything non-alcoholic, usually an orange juice or a lemonade. If questioned I just said something like "i'm not that keen on alcohol really, just don't like it much to be honest" "nah just not my thing I guess" or "I just don't fancy a drink tonight."

It did invite some questioning but I found being polite and firm worked sooner or later. After a while people knew me as someone who didn't drink much/at all and stopped asking. The non-drinking was also a useful filter to find out who was accepting vs pushy, which is good for me as I can be non-conformist in other ways too.

Good on you for being willing to give this a try. The more people who skip drinks now and then the easier it is for anyone to do.
posted by EatMyHat at 2:23 PM on August 9, 2012

Remember that alcohol takes at least half an hour (and usually longer) to metabolize. So all those people who start loosening up after their first drink, they're lying! You can lie too.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:34 PM on August 9, 2012

I only drink very occasionally (wine with dinner) and don't do cocktails. I just have fizzy water and a slice of lemon, or cranberry juice with water. It's nobody's business why I'm not drinking, and most people don't ask. So don't over-explain. Just have your non-alcoholic drink of choice, be sure to tip the bartender just as you would if you had a beer or cocktail, and don't think you have to justify yourself. If someone has issues with that, that's their problem, not yours.

One of the many perks of adulthood is not having to justify personal choices that don't harm others, such as choosing not to drink. As for anyone who judges or pries - some people are Judgy Judgertons and others are Nosy Parkers, and if they're not being judgy or nosy about one thing they'll just pick another. Ignore them.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:14 PM on August 9, 2012

Agree with everyone else that probably nobody would stress it if you don't want to drink, but I can understand maybe you want to avoid that occasionally.

Do you compete any sporting events? I can usually say "I've got a race in a few weekends so I'm not drinking" and everyone accepts that.

If you want to look like you are drinking, just ask for a cola drink in the glass size of whatever mixed drinks come in in your area.
posted by trialex at 4:23 PM on August 9, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, you guys are fast. Thanks a lot for all the good ideas. I like the idea of buying people a round, or ordering something that's mixed but not alcoholic (something with a fancy name is awesome), changing the topic swiftly, having a very confident demeanor/not calling attention to it. :)

It's good to know I'm not alone in this type of thing... I know some people don't care at all, but others do, and maybe I've just encountered more of that type so I tend to think it's the norm. I don't think those that do are automatically douchebags either, they sometimes just seem to feel like you're not going to have as good a time if you aren't drinking.
posted by iadacanavon at 4:30 PM on August 9, 2012

Best answer: Go with them and when ordering, order something non-alcoholic. Don't make a big deal, don't call attention to it.

Yep, this is exactly what I do as a vegetarian when going out to lunch with work people. I don't call attention to it, I just order something off the menu that doesn't have meat on it. Most people don't even notice.

Be aware though, that just like with freaks like me who don't eat meat which is apparently totally bizarre in my office, once people get wind of your choice not to drink, they will call attention to it from that day forward. "Oh, we can't go to happy hour, iadacanavon doesn't drink!" or "Let's all go in one car, iadacanavon can be our DD because he doesn't drink!" Regardless, as long as you are nonchalant, people mean well even when they're weird about it.
posted by headnsouth at 4:31 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I say "i'm cutting back for a bit", which gives the impression I drink but am also able to not drink when I choose to. No drinker on this Earth wants to be around a non-drinker, as you have astutely noticed!
posted by waving at 5:17 PM on August 9, 2012

No drinker on this Earth wants to be around a non-drinker, as you have astutely noticed!

This is simply not true. I drink, and I have numerous friends and colleagues who don't drink, and I have absolutely zero problem being around them (whether at a bar or anywhere else). Plenty of the comments in this thread indicate a similar attitude.
posted by scody at 5:43 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

No drinker on this Earth wants to be around a non-drinker, as you have astutely noticed!

Nobody who drinks likes being around a moralizing or lecturing non-drinker, certainly. That's not the same as not liking non-drinkers in general.

To add one more voice to the chorus, it's really not an issue (and anyone who makes it one is displaying their own issues). Anecdotally, I was at my favorite bar once, which specializes in Belgian and Belgian-style beers and is something of a destination bar (the "oh, you must go try this place" kind). A largeish group came in, placed their orders with the bartender, and then headed off back to find tables. Fully half of them didn't order beer. I was chatting with the bartender as he pulled the beers for the folks who wanted beer and poured the artisanal ginger ale for the folks who didn't, and his slightly bemused take was "Personally, I don't quite get the whole going-to-a-bar-when-you-don't-drink thing, but it hey, it takes all kinds. And we do stock this ginger ale for a reason." No judgment, no condescension.
posted by Lexica at 6:41 PM on August 9, 2012

I don't think that you should neccessarily buy a round; that could come off like you're trying to buy acceptance, which will have a lot of long-term consequences that you may not like.

I also doubt that anyone will expect you to explain yourself. If they do, it's less likely to be "why aren't you drinking alcohol?", and more "so, ginger ale, eh?", to which you can just politely reply "yeah". I'd veer away from overexplaining; you don't owe these people a justification and there's no need to make a big deal of it. If you're comfortable with your choice, they will be too. It's probably only if you seem uncertain that they'll have a problem.

Incidentally, sometimes when I go out with people and choose not to drink, they wind up staying sober as well! We still have fun!
posted by windykites at 7:31 PM on August 9, 2012

I work at a bar. Many of my friends are bartenders. While almost all of them drink, and they all hang out in bars a lot- they often skip drinking for months at a time. If hardcore brooklyn bartenders don't think twice about ordering seltzer half the time they are in a bar, you shouldn't either.

They are also very good at covert nonalcholic drinks if you feel the need to be sneaky, but it's really not necessary.
posted by Blisterlips at 8:08 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I don't want to drink, I do as others have mentioned and get a non-alcoholic drink just the same as if I were going to get an alcoholic drink. I like to get Shirley Temples (ginger ale or 7-Up with grenadine) because they come with a cherry (maybe two or three if you ask nicely). I don't announce it or anything. You know, some people don't even know that a Shirley Temple isn't alcoholic.

Unless your peers are jerks most certainly what they mean by "getting drinks" means socializing for a short time at a bar and has nothing to do with what you order.
posted by halonine at 8:25 PM on August 9, 2012

I run with a group of total drunks. Well, craft and homebrew enthusiasts and a few genuine barflies. When I got pregnant, I started ordering non-alcoholic drinks but I wasn't ready to tell them I was knocked up. They didn't even bat an eye when I told them I was cutting back. As long as you can roll with the punches, you will be surprised how little it matters.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:57 PM on August 9, 2012

I order something that looks drink-y, like a ginger ale or sprite and cranberry juice. People have remarked on it but I don't think that reflects that poorly on them. Some people just get used to the idea that relaxation = alcohol. I say, "Oh, I don't like alcohol!" in a cheery tone and grin at them! If they ask why not, I say, "Oh, gosh! Man, I just do NOT like it!" and change the subject.
posted by ramenopres at 9:38 PM on August 9, 2012

I have a very good friend who doesn't drink who spent years living in the music scene with insane drunks. No one judged her.

Just relax. Be yourself (as much as you can in your industry). Try it on a couple times to get comfortable with not drinking with drinkers in work situations.

I also agree with one of the above posters that a lot of people don't drink at work related functions and people who choose to remain sober around work colleagues are making good choices.
posted by syncope at 4:34 PM on August 10, 2012

The few times I felt like someone might give me grief about not drinking booze, I've done the type of thing jabes mentions: "Man, I really need some caffeine... Can I just have a Coke tonight?" The rest of the time, I just order a Coke or lemonade and get on socializing/networking.

Then again, if someone does give you grief about what you drink, there's absolutely nothing shameful about telling them it makes you sick so you try to avoid it. (I've never tried this, but it occurs to me that following your explanation up with, "So that's my 'fun fact'. What's yours?" might be a fun way to pass the awkwardness back to them while spurring a maybe-interesting conversation.)
posted by fogster at 4:58 PM on August 10, 2012

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