I don't drink. How do I answer "Why?"
November 14, 2013 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I prefer not to drink alcohol and can't figure out how to tell this to people without them wanting to discuss my reasons.

Being a young gentleman in the city, I have a lot of friends into beer in the hipster sort of way. I have a lot of friends who obsess over the finer details of alcohol consumption, and that's cool! I love that they have something neat to nerd out over. But it puts me in a spot where I'm frequently offered alcoholic beverages.

I don't drink, for a variety of reasons - because I'd prefer not to get tipsy in any capacity, because I really don't like the taste of alcohol, and for some personal reasons.

But I don't want to explain these to people, because I feel like - with most people - they'd just press me about my decision and ask me to just give it a try and I'd refuse and we'd end up staring each other down. I'd rather just not delve into the topic at all - I want to avoid that sort of petty stance-taking opposition, and I don't want to drink.

I've told people I get sick when I drink, but they sometimes ask me for details or propose remedies or suggest I just drink a wee bit.

Is there any way to just kill the topic or suggest to people that this is a line of conversation I'd rather not go down?
posted by LSK to Human Relations (89 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "For whatever reason, I've never cared for the stuff. Don't like the taste, don't like the way it makes me feel. So I just don't drink it."
posted by slkinsey at 7:39 AM on November 14, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I very rarely drink; usually "I don't drink, it makes me cranky/sleepy." has sufficed for me.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:40 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

are you looking for an honest answer? if not, say that you have a very good childhood friend who was an alcoholic and in a pledge of solidarity you took an oath to never touch a drop, either one of you. You have to keep the oath as long as s/he does and they haven't had any since.
posted by cacao at 7:40 AM on November 14, 2013

I don't really drink. I've found the easiest thing in the world is to have a drink in my hand. If I'm at a bar, I immediately order a cranberry and soda and nurse it. When it is empty, I get another one. At parties I always have a cup.

Giving reasons, any kind of reasons, leads to questions. So don't give reasons. "I'm good" should be the be-all end-all if you actually need to broach the subject.
posted by griphus at 7:41 AM on November 14, 2013 [20 favorites]

You don't need to take every invitation to drink as an opportunity to espouse your beliefs. "No thank you" or "Not tonight" or "I've had enough" tends to be rarely questioned -- telling people you don't drink at all is interesting and invites further interrogation. If you go to the bar and order your own drinks (you can ask for a club soda with lime served like a vodka soda, for example), most people will never notice.
posted by telegraph at 7:42 AM on November 14, 2013 [11 favorites]

A friend of mine has something very similar to an allergic reaction to alcohol, and that usually is enough to shut people up. But I think it's best not to provide too much explanation. Use the broken record technique to say, "I don't drink," swiftly change the subject, and let them think whatever they want.

I think it's possible that people who pressure others to drink are looking for company, or the bonding that having a drink together can provide. If you can reassure them that, even while you're not drinking alcohol, you can still provide them with that, it might put them at ease. "I'm happy to sit here and drink soda/coffee/water/whatever with you and talk though!" or something along those lines.
posted by Ouisch at 7:42 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

If people press you, which they should not, but whatever, people are not always the brightest -

"Drinking makes me too tired to have any fun. Weird, right? I prefer caffeine/whatever."
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:44 AM on November 14, 2013

Best answer: "I just don't like it" should really suffice. I would be surprised if most people press you on it. My husband quit drinking about seven years ago and we were both shocked at how most people don't even seem to notice. He's gotten questions a couple of times over the years but the conversations are usually of the, "that's so great, man, I wish I could do that" variety.
posted by something something at 7:44 AM on November 14, 2013 [8 favorites]

"Here, have a beer."

"No, thanks."

"Why not?"

"No reason, I'm just not that into it."

"Why not?"

Shrug. Enigmatic smile.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:46 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!

Giving reasons, any kind of reasons, leads to questions. So don't give reasons.

I do try. I've got some friends who notice that I systemically reject alcohol, so I get asked a lot why... ergo the question.
posted by LSK at 7:46 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't drink for a variety of reasons, mainly because I don't like the taste.

I used to say, "oh, because I'm Mormon" when people asked, because usually I'd also be around people who knew me and would find that hilarious due to my obvious not-a-Mormonness, but then one day I said it to someone who was actually Mormon and I had to uncomfortably be all oh sorry I was just saying that because I think your religion is dumb.

Now when people ask I tend to stick with "I just don't care for the taste of alcohol," and when people counter with the "well buts" I tend to respond "well, I think I know my own body, sooo..." and stare at them until they shut up, because they're being obnoxious and presumptuous.

Or I say, "I just don't...I don't care if you have a beer, so this is only going to be weird if you make it weird."

Because it's not my fault people care that I don't drink. It's their fault. And it's none of their business.

So basically what I'm getting at is that it sounds like you're handling this just fine. The key thing to remember is that your simple response is not rude. The people who are being rude are the ones who won't drop it even after you've clearly changed the subject. So don't let yourself feel weird about it.
posted by phunniemee at 7:46 AM on November 14, 2013 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I read somewhere recently (can't find it now) someone claiming that "I decided to stop drinking" got the best results of all the phrases they tried, with less annoying or argumentative or "weirdo" responses and more "Oh I wish I could do that".
posted by emilyw at 7:50 AM on November 14, 2013 [29 favorites]

Best answer: My husband quit drinking about seven years ago and we were both shocked at how most people don't even seem to notice.

It's different when you're younger and you don't drink, especially if your peer group is really into craft beers. LSK, I've met you before (briefly, I think, at Pequod's?) and you're young, so I know where you're coming from. EVERYBODY notices when you're not drinking.

Just...like I said above...don't let yourself feel awkward about it. If you don't want to engage folks about it, don't. People will just have to learn to deal.
posted by phunniemee at 7:51 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, agreeing that the more detail you add and the more questions you answer, the more you'll get pushed on it. I just go with "I don't drink. So, how about Local Sports Team?" and that seems to be the optimum. If they push further -- "But why?" -- just shut it down again with "Because I don't drink. So what about this crazy weather?" Eventually most people get the message.

Discussing medical issues SEEMS like it should be the way to go, but people get super-obnoxious and it's a straight line to really horrible discussions about Well Are You Sure That Drug is Incompatible? or But My Sister In Law Has That Condition And She Can Drink etc. etc. (The same thing happens with food allergies/intolerances, for what it's worth.)

If you're in a situation where you don't really know people well, getting a lime and soda, regular Coke, Shirley Temple, etc. is a good way to avoid questions, but it won't work with friends.
posted by pie ninja at 7:53 AM on November 14, 2013

Best answer: Honestly, I have in the past pressed a friend who did not want to try alcohol to try some - the friend gave me the impression that they just didn't like the taste, which had been an issue for me[until I tried a couple of oddball things]. (I'm not much of a drinker, but I do like a pear cider a couple of times a year.) Anyway, this was rude of me!

My friend actually said to me (I paraphrase), "Please stop pushing me to do something I don't want to do; that's not appropriate" and since then I have never ever even joked around with someone who does not want to drink.

If a well-meaning friend is asking you questions, I would just suggest being really straightforward: "I don't enjoy drinking and I don't actually like discussing why I don't, so let's just talk about something else".

I am not sure there's a way to prevent a moment of awkwardness, but if your friends are anything like me, they may need a clue but they want you to feel comfortable and at ease and are pestering in the belief that it's a fun joke or something, so they'll stop the minute they realize that it's rude and inappropriate.
posted by Frowner at 7:54 AM on November 14, 2013 [19 favorites]

I do drink occasionally, but I don't like cheap stuff or beer of almost any type, and it's super hard for me to get even tipsy. If I'm with people who do, I will sometimes run the risk of insulting their tastes, choices, and alcohol tolerance by proxy if I go into my various reasons.

I've had a high degree of success with "Oh, no thanks. It's just not my thing." And then a scooping gesture towards that person with my hand like "please go ahead".
posted by Mizu at 7:55 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "Drinking just isn't really fun for me, for whatever reason."

This usually works, but if they press or ask why:

"Yeah, I don't know. Something with my own particular wiring. But I figure, drinking should be fun, yeah? And if someone's drinking but not having fun, they shouldn't be drinking, you know?"

At this point they will nod appreciatively at the wisdom of this, and the subject will be dropped.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:56 AM on November 14, 2013 [13 favorites]

I have a friend who doesn't like the taste of alcohol, and her response is "I don't like the taste." But sometimes she adds "I only drink jello shots." (It's true, she likes the taste of jello shots!) When she includes that jello shots part, it totally forestalls all of the "why don't you try..." and changes into "seriously, jello shots?!" The conversations that leads to seem much less annoying for her, because her not drinking changes from some social drinking weirdness into a nice and funny quirk she has.

As long as you mostly go to places where there are no jello shots (and it sounds like that's the case), you could probably use this as a safe white lie, if you would like.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:57 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Former non-drinker here. Feel your pain. People just can't MYOB.

- drink pop from a bottle. Now you're drinking from a bottle too. It's stupid but you fit in that way.

- Tell them you get terrible hangover diarrhea, or had an epically bad hangover once and are still suffering PTSD from it.

- say "meh" when they ask, then take a long sip from your bottle, then say something else

"Why don't you drink?"

"...... meh....." take a long drink "..... so, how do you know XYZ?"
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:00 AM on November 14, 2013

Are you out with someone, as in are you riding with someone in which one of you will be driving home?

I used to always be the DD for my wife when we went out with people. She teaches, her kids sucked, she gets to drink. Nobody gave me shit about letting her get drunk and making sure she got home.

You'll obviously have to find someone else, I'm not sharing.

If you're not specifically responsible for someone then it can be the general "I'm making sure everyone has a way to get home." Both have always worked for me.
posted by theichibun at 8:00 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

because I feel like - with most people - they'd just press me about my decision and ask me to just give it a try

This is a pretty good litmus test for people who are worth your time: anyone who would do this isn't.

(I suspect a lot fewer people would actually do this than you fear, but if they do: good litmus test.)
posted by ook at 8:01 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

"I don't drink. It muffles the DMT high."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:03 AM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

I drink rarely - less than once a month - and "I'm just not that into it" is usually reason enough. "It just kinda makes me feel icky, know what I mean?" often gets understanding nods. (This works better around people who are in their late twenties or older, though.)

Sometimes it puts people at ease to say "I really like going out, I'm just not into the drinking part of it." Some people think you might not be having fun if you're at a bar and not drinking, or you're silently judging them, or you're a prude or overly religious, etc.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:05 AM on November 14, 2013

"It doesn't agree with me."
posted by essexjan at 8:05 AM on November 14, 2013

"Because of the restraining order."
posted by kindall at 8:06 AM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

"Not just yet, thanks."

Also, having a soda in your hand always helps. You just take a sip of that and say, "I'll stick with this for now, thanks."
posted by Etrigan at 8:06 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


It works for me but I'm fat so YMMV but honestly, just stop hanging out with these people. Anyone who can't be respectful of your decision not to drink, doesn't deserve you ;)
posted by missmagenta at 8:07 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I drink sometimes and choose not to drink other times. This is one of those things that (mercifully) many of your acquaintances will grow out of, at least if you live in the US (I had a hell of a time with it when I lived in Eastern Europe). I've often gone with some basic simple explanations

"Medicine. Can't."
"It's not fun for me."
"It's not that I'm not drinking right now, it's that I don't drink in general, but thanks anyway."

If people persist I get a little more dug in "I come from a family of drunks and drinking just isn't something that's enjoyable for me."

I think the deal is to try to not turn it into something that can be argued with (hey this is about me personally) or can seem like a dig at the people who are drinking (appreciate the offer, but no). Anyone who persists after you've made a good faith effort to say no politely can get the O_O stare as someone who is being, perhaps unknowingly, very rude.
posted by jessamyn at 8:12 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

I usually just say "I'm not much of a drinker" rather than an outright "I don't drink". On the rare occasions when people ask why, I shrug and say "no special reason". If they start trying to guess, I just say "no" to their guesses without an explaination. I'm very casual and matter-of-fact about it, almost as if i'd never thought of it before and it seems a bit silly to me.

The key is to be nonchalant about it even if they try to make it a big deal. If you start down the road of trying to justify yourself, it never ends, because no response is ever going to be satisfactory to these kind of people except changing your position.
posted by windykites at 8:17 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the reason so many people press on the subject is that they take your not drinking as a judgement on their drinking. And really, there is nothing that you can do about that beyond trying to answer in a way that absolutely can not be taken as judgmental. That is harder than it should be sometimes, because people.
posted by COD at 8:17 AM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

When I was having heartburn issues that prevented me from drinking I'd just say "oh, thanks, can't, it disagrees with me." Not because it was a loaded subject but just because getting into details and sounding like the guy in the Alka-Seltzer commercial would have been boring.

I think people are asking follow-up questions because that's what you do in conversation. "I don't drink" is a Thing. Normal conversational flow reasonably leads to "oh huh how interesting, how come?" in the same way that "I'm a dental hygienist" leads to "oh, is that a fun job?" So turning down the drink with a brief, boring explanation is better than an enigmatic and open-ended "I don't drink."
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:18 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I recently heard this classic line "I don't like what it does to my body."

[this was about caffeine, but can be used in a lot of contexts, obviously]
posted by Namlit at 8:18 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

I sometimes drink and sometimes don't. The two answers that seem to cause zero reaction and don't lead to a discussion are "I'm driving" and "I'm not drinking right now."

Anything medical leads to the conversations others have described, and I've never felt tempted to try any elaborate excuses. Decades of anti drunk driving campaigns mean that driving gets a fail safe pass, and "I'm not drinking right now" seems to have just the right vague hints of AA or something that no one ever asks for details.

Bottom line: no details, no excuses, and have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:18 AM on November 14, 2013

Husbunny and I only occasionally drink. Him, because he grew up in a dry county, with fundamentalist parents and me because I pretty much exhausted my entire ETOH allotment by age 35.

If we prefer not to drink, we simply say, "No thank you." If pressed we say, "We're teatotallers." And that's it. Very rarely does it progress beyond that, and no one blinks at all at my iced tea consumption or Husbunny's soda.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:20 AM on November 14, 2013

One reason you might get follow up questions is because saying "I don't drink" suggests it's an important part of who you are. Those are normally the things people _want_ to talk about.

You could just say, "I'm not drinking tonight," and, if they ask why, you can say, "No reason, just not tonight."
posted by eisenkr at 8:20 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Lots of good answers here. Based on many years of having to deal with this, simpler replies are better, as I think the reply comes across more automatically and easier. I vary between "No thanks, I don't drink alcohol," and expand into "I stopped drinking X years ago" if people persist.
posted by carter at 8:21 AM on November 14, 2013

I'm the same and I usually say, if someone asks, that I don't feel any need to consume alcohol. That gives them something to think about and usually ends any questioning (although the questioning doesn't bother me). I've noticed some people assume you might have an alcoholism problem if you say you don't drink, and sometimes people ask about that out of concern.
posted by Dansaman at 8:22 AM on November 14, 2013

As has been said already, you don't owe them an explanation. "No thanks," really suffices. Anything past that is just a learning experience, for you, about how much your interrogator feels the need to pry into your personal habits and/or feels the need to press you to drink. Neither things bode well for it becoming one of those beautiful friendships.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:22 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't drink either. The alcohol fumes hurt my nose and alcohol smells BAD to me. I've never even tasted any alcoholic drinks because the smell is so awful. When people ask, that's what I tell them. And I get lemonade or water instead. Nearly everywhere has lemonade.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 8:27 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a female who rarely drinks, I have been accused of being pregnant manymany times. (Because the only way people can cope with this totally unfathomable situation, is to be incredibly intrusive and rude?)

In the right situation, it'd be funny and disarming for you, as a dude, to say, "sorry, I can't drink, I'm pregnant." Wouldn't help with every situation like this, but it could be one more reply for your arsenal.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:30 AM on November 14, 2013 [12 favorites]

Honestly, I have in the past pressed a friend who did not want to try alcohol to try some - the friend gave me the impression that they just didn't like the taste, which had been an issue for me

Me too. Because of this, I'd say don't tell people you "just don't like the taste." So many people have had the experience of not liking [some drinks] and being miserable at parties until they discover they love [other drinks], that a lot of them will want to say "But have you tried X?" It's well meaning but obnoxious, and I did it a few times in my 20s b/c I didn't want other people to feel the way I used to.

OTOH if you say you simply don't drink (implying religious/moral/personal reasons) or that it just makes you feel sick/tired, only jerks will try to get you to drink.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:34 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had a friend who would say, "Eh, it's not in my nature." It worked very well because it makes it seem like, a) it's not a big deal and b) it's out of his hands anyway. Not negotiable.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:34 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Not my thing."

Never give explanations, ever. Explanations are nothing more than a hook for someone to argue against. Don't give them a toe-hold, just the flat-smooth, unyielding wall they can't get over.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:35 AM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

"Not tonight, I've got to get up early tomorrow."

"Thanks, but I'm drunk already."

"I can't drink beer/wine/vodka/etc, it makes me break out." (If they press, describe in graphic medical detail the imaginary gigantic facial boils they will be dealing with if you drink what they're offering.)

"Thanks, but I read somewhere that you're not supposed to mix drugs and alcohol."

You could also tell them you're cutting back to lose weight, or you don't drink while you're in training, or it gives you indigestion, or or or...
posted by kythuen at 8:43 AM on November 14, 2013

I also don't drink. I say "I've just never acquired a taste for it, how anti-social of me."
posted by Dragonness at 8:47 AM on November 14, 2013

I've got some friends who notice that I systemically reject alcohol

I have a couple of friends who don't drink, and for me there comes a point as a friendship gets deeper that I will ask about this. Specifically what I want to know is if I am making you uncomfortable or being insensitive by making plans with you that involve alcohol.

So if that's what they're getting at, maybe an appropriate answer is, "I don't mind being around it at all, I just don't personally drink."
posted by Lyn Never at 8:48 AM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

I say, "I'm not much of a drinker."
posted by htid at 8:49 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've told people I get sick when I drink, but they sometimes ask me for details

Yeah, if people press me I start telling them a bunch of vomit stories. "And then the next time, I went out for this lovely Italian dinner, and had one glass of red, and I threw up spaghetti carbonara all over my date's car and it was stuck in the floor rugs and there was goo all over his leather seats, and oh, I'm sorry, do you want me to go on?"

Shuts them up really fast.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:58 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm a non-drinker, mostly for health reasons (and alcohol doesn't really gel that well with intensive marathon training anyway). My excuse, if anyone ever notices is "alcohol makes me puke". End of.
posted by coffee_monster at 8:59 AM on November 14, 2013

"To me, the company is more important than the contents of the glass"

A friend's creepy ex told me it was bad luck to toast with water. I glared at him and told him it was tea (which it was).
posted by brujita at 9:00 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Most of my friends are social drinkers at minimum. I have one friend who isn't. I know this because of the following exchange:

Me: I'm getting a beer. You want one?

Him: No, thanks, I don't drink.

Me: Oh, fair enough. You want a soda or something else?

Him: No, I'm all good.

Me: Cool.

That's really all that should happen and all you need to do. Say "no, thanks" politely, and specifically "no, thanks". If they ask why, shrug and say "I don't want to". If they say "how about just a little bit" or "maybe just a beer" or something like that, say "no, thank you", still politely but with just a little more force. Most people with an ounce of social skill will notice the slight increase in formality and tone from "no, thanks" to "no, thank you", and recognize it as a boundary. Anyone who doesn't drop it at that point is kind of an asshole, and now you have an excellent litmus test for that very important piece of data about them. This is a script that should get you out of many situations with well-meaning people anytime you don't want to continue a line of conversation.
posted by Errant at 9:01 AM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

"I just don't really care for it," works fine. It's what I say when offered weed, which I don't often partake of for similar reasons to yours re alcohol.
posted by Sara C. at 9:06 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

"i don't drink, because if i did, my little soldier down there won't stand at attention when i need him to."
posted by bruce at 9:14 AM on November 14, 2013

"Nah, I'm just not much of a drinker" in response to pretty much every question about taste or have-you-tried or whatever seems to tamp down on it pretty well. I think it's gray enough that there doesn't have to be a Huge Secret Reason, it doesn't make it sound like it's a core part of your identity.

Other stock phrases I've used: "It's an acquired taste I've never been interested in acquiring," "I don't mind other people drinking but I don't care for it," "It just doesn't do it for me," or simply "No, thanks, I'm good." if I'm being offered something at that moment. If you cycle through those enough in response to buttinsky questions, folks seem to feel like you've given them enough of an answer, and that the answer is boring, and move on. I do clarify if it seems like people are worried that I am bothered that they're drinking (which I sort of am, honestly, but it's their business and I just emphasize that.)

If it helps any, in a few years, people will be much less interested in making you like all the same things they do. I haven't been asked for details in ages.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:18 AM on November 14, 2013

Some people might really be interested in getting to know you better, but IME people often ask because they either feel your decision not to drink contains a negative judgment about them or it causes them to be insecure about their own drinking.

The problem is the question itself is a trap. You have to answer something, if you don't say anything they'll just think they need to repeat the question louder. Succinct explanations are still explanations which invite further discussion which you don't want.

Personally I'd go with "I've never been a drinker, and after years and years of being forced to justify that decision to people I find this topic tiresome. It just doesn't matter to me if anyone gets it. So, do you think the Seahawks will go 15-1 this year?"

But if I were feeling cheeky I'd try to shut down their line of questioning by starting one of my own:

"Why do you need me to drink?"

"Does me not drinking impair your happiness?"

"Why do you assume drinking is the default?"

"Am I embarrassing you?"

"Do you need other people to drink to validate your own drinking?"

"Why don't you [activity you know they don't do]?"

or something along those lines.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 9:19 AM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

Or maybe "Nah, it interferes with the heroin."
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 9:21 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

In addition to the above, I usually explain that the only alcoholic drinks I appreciate (read: that don't taste awful) are pricier, so I save money by not drinking.
posted by xenization at 9:25 AM on November 14, 2013

Since you're a dude, "Because I'm pregnant," delivered with a smile, should get a laugh at least.

I think serious answers invite questioning.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:27 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

"It was a condition of my parole."
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:48 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

It makes me all fumbly with my gun. You don't want me fumbling my gun, do you?
posted by Bruce H. at 9:52 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't get combative with people about this. Say just enough to get them to stop asking. Many people are automatically going to think you're weird, Mormon, Muslim or square. No need to exacerbate their bias by fighting them about it.

I agree with the poster above that says get yourself a cup of something and nurse it all night. No one will bother you.

Otherwise, lots of good advice up thread.
posted by cnc at 9:55 AM on November 14, 2013

I also liked this answer in a previous Ask.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:02 AM on November 14, 2013

Seriously, if you want to never have to debate your answer, go with "I'm a recovering alcoholic."
posted by DarlingBri at 10:20 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

When people ask why I don't eat meat, I respond with "All the usual reasons."

There's hardly ever a follow-up. When there is, I change the subject. rope-rider's got it; people are often stuck fishing for something to talk about, and by giving them another topic you're doing both of you a favor.

If that doesn't work, I say, "Give me your address and I'll send you some brochures."
posted by hydrophonic at 10:42 AM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

The first two or three times they ask you: "It's just not my thing."

If they ask you after that: "We've had this conversation before. [Obvious change of subject]"
posted by SillyShepherd at 10:53 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could avoid the question by requesting a beverage of your choice:

"Hey do you want a beer?"

"No thanks, do you have any juice around?" / "Actually can I just get some water?" / "I've been hankering for a tall glass of milk"

This allows you to accept the hospitality offer from your friend without having to accept alcohol. I think a lot of questions spring not from the rejection of alcohol per say, but the rejection of friendly hospitality (because the delivery and interpretation of a full rejection can go 8 million ways).
posted by WeekendJen at 10:59 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

a lot of great answers already - for your situation I think the jokey replies are best. I'm completely sober myself and use a variety:
"It's personal" or "That's a personal question" -puts the onus back on them.
then to add some levity back "for a boring reason"
"with a boring answer"
"That's a long story that I won't bore you with"
"People tend to think I'm drunk most of the time anyways" - this is true, for me. Sometimes I'll add in details that I like things that usually involve alcohol, like bars, parties, and dancing. I think this helps people feel like you're not judging them.
"I'm really really cheap."
"More for you!"
"I don't drink but I love drunk people" - usually true.

I think sometimes people ask because they are genuinely curious and nonjudgmental, and not necessarily defensive about their own drinking habits - or at least a mixture of both.

My full story is a combination of depression and substance abuse issues, but often I'll just say "I have problems with depression" if I'm feeling like sharing more. I got sober very young (age 18) and so people would often want to know specific details about my drug/alcohol use if I mentioned the substance abuse side of it. Depression is less sensationalistic and/or scandalous, but well-meaning people will still ask thoughtfully about it if they are interested.
posted by leemleem at 11:02 AM on November 14, 2013

I don't usually drink (a few glasses of wine a year at most). I don't crave it, don't like how I feel when I drink, and it makes me overheat. I make a joke of it and say either, "I prefer to eat my calories" or tell them the truth which is, "It honestly never occurs to me to drink."
posted by cecic at 11:26 AM on November 14, 2013

I don't drink very much. If I'm offered a beer I might take it out of politeness, but usually I say "no thanks, I'll have (water/soda/juice) instead."

(In fact, about the only time I'll accept an offered drink is if I'm at one of my neighbor's houses, when I've walked there.)

If I'm asked why (which rarely happens anymore), I'll just say "I don't really like to drink" and leave it at that. The "why" questions after "I don't really like to drink" stopped for me about halfway through college. If someone is trying to pressure you to drink and questioning why you've said no, then I'd question if they're really your friend.
posted by tckma at 11:34 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I gave up on the Chicago mefi meetups because of this kind of thing. Every single night ends, before I would like it to, with the inevitable karaoke, which I have zero interest in, and the discordant end note of me saying no. Now I am big boy and I can say no and walk away but over time it was just a sour final note after sour final note until I decided it just wasn't a fit for me.

There comes a point where you have to just walk away when you are confronted with this kind of 'coercive hospitality'. There are social groups that just create this kind of structure and often are not even aware of how unpleasant it is for people who want to be a part of the group but also want to say no to certain parts of it (mostly because they drive off those who don't like it). This happens even when they are completely nice people because in there minds they are just trying to get you to have fun.

If you feel you can change the group behavior you have to suck it up and tell them which can also be pretty confrontational and unpleasant and make you seem like special snowflake or you can decide the group isn't for you and find people who are a better match for how you want to interact.
posted by srboisvert at 1:01 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a close family member who has never deliberately taken a drink. The reason he gives, which I've never observed anyone pressing him on, is, "I took a vow never to drink." The furthest I've ever seen anyone follow that appoach is to ask why, to which he basically responds that it was a "personal decision." I've never seen this get awkward. The vow angle coupled with the "personal decision" doesn't invite debate, and actually seems to earn him respect. So maybe some variation on this could help you, too.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:06 PM on November 14, 2013

How old are you? Rest assured that no matter what reply you come up with, you get bugged about this less and less as you get older.
posted by Ndwright at 1:48 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Actually, I think the most important thing is to make people feel OK about their own drinking.
I didn't drink at all for a couple of years or so when I was at the partying age, and understood and explained it with an allergy. Everyone accepted that (though then it turned out I was the 1/10.000 who is truly allergic to MSG, which comes in a lot of bar-snacks).
But later on, when I was part of a group where most partied heavily, and I couldn't/wouldn't participate, I put more weight into explaining that I was not in any way judging them. It was and is my own thing. After a while, they were kind of proud of me and only the few real alcoholics among them questioned my choices.

At this point of life (50), I really enjoy a glass of wine or several with good food, though still only rarely beer or spirits. And I'd never question anyone's choice to say no, and no one I know would either. So as many above here are saying: this is a problem that declines with age.
posted by mumimor at 3:06 PM on November 14, 2013

I'm a 27-year-old life-long non-drinker. It seems you and I have the same reasons - no desire to be drunk or tipsy, don't really like the taste, etc. I usually just say "It's not my thing", and if people press me (which does happen sometimes), I say "Yeah, I'm officially no fun, I know" and that little injection of self-deprecating humor usually gets them to shut up and change the topic.
posted by Cygnet at 3:08 PM on November 14, 2013

"No thanks, I'm trying to quit"
posted by Tom-B at 4:13 PM on November 14, 2013

"When I drink I become really depressing to be around. It's not fun for me- I don't enjoy it and trust me it wouldn't be fun for you either." Smile and lift to drink or toast your glass of water.

Some people don't really care if you don't like to drink- they just want you to for their own reasons. Like they may feel subconscious being drunk around someone who is sober, etc... But if you say that it won't be fun for THEM if you drink then suddenly they have selfish reasons for you not to drink. Might work.
posted by manderin at 4:17 PM on November 14, 2013

A friend of mine uses the line "Me and alcohol, we just don't get along." Don't think anyone has ever pushed her on it, though of course YMMV depending on the group.

I also agree with the above posts that if people continue to push after you say whatever one-liner you choose, your best bet is to clearly state your boundary, as in: "Look, you're making this weird when it doesn't need to be, let's move on to another topic" or "I thought peer pressure over alcohol ended when we graduated from high school. This is not appropriate." For 99% of people, if you clearly state the boundary rather than inviting discussion, it should work.
posted by rainbowbrite at 4:19 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

"I don't like to drink, it gives me stomach troubles."

Almost no one like to hear about stomach troubles so they won't bother you with follow up questions.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 4:38 PM on November 14, 2013

When offered: "Naw, you go ahead, I'll catch up."

If pressed: "Actually, I'm thinking of getting something to eat."

The good thing about diverting to food is that everybody who's already drinking will immediately start talking about food, and someone will probably want cheese fries.

A friend's creepy ex told me it was bad luck to toast with water.

To be fair, it actually *is* bad luck to toast with water.
posted by rue72 at 4:58 PM on November 14, 2013

Saying, "I'm on the wagon!" just means you're taking a break from booze, rather than labelling yourself a non-drinker.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:00 PM on November 14, 2013

The right answer is that the reason I choose not to drink is none of your fucking business. But there are many who will press on regardless.

So a good response is "I gave it up a while back."
posted by yclipse at 6:04 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

"I just never grew accustomed to the taste of alcohol."
posted by dean_deen at 7:59 PM on November 14, 2013

Lots of good answers here. I agree, don't explain. Say, "No, thanks" and change the subject. Then, if pressed, "No, thank you," smiling politely, and change the subject. The smile makes it even more formal.

What you might find among your artisanal beer aficionados are a few budding alcoholics. We who are alcoholics see this pattern over and over. Alcoholics start off by thinking about alcohol more than most other people. We become connoisseurs to pretend to others that we are cool and pretend to ourselves that we're not alcoholics. When we keep on thinking about alcohol (and drinking it) after the cool kids move on to other things, we start dropping those friends who don't drink because we are uncomfortable with thinking they are judging us. If we are lucky enough to find a way to stop drinking, we look back in amazement that we didn't notice we were actually cutting ourselves off from some potentially good friends long before our drinking became a noticeable problem.

I write this to reassure you that you don't have to explain. If your friends push because they are young and rude, you can teach them by the above responses not to ask rude questions. If they push because they are budding alcoholics, it is because they need you to help them lie to themselves. I agree with others that, as you get older, you will find less social pressure to drink.
posted by Anitanola at 8:29 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am one of the people who will ask you why you don't drink. In my case, I am asking in order to find out if you have moral objections to drinking, or if you're a recovering alcoholic, or similar; if so, then I'll try to avoid drinking/serving alcohol around you in the future, because I want you to be comfortable. "Eh, I just don't like it," is perfectly valid, though it does mean I will probably continue to drink around you.
posted by hishtafel at 8:46 PM on November 14, 2013

"Nah... I'm over it."
posted by flabdablet at 2:00 AM on November 15, 2013

The questions will continue until they're sure you're not judging them negatively for drinking. So anything that implies you have drunk in the past or might drink in the future is going to get less pushback. "I'm driving" or "I've given up for Lent" or "Not right now, maybe later" or "I'm on the wagon right now" are going to meet less resistance than "My body is a temple" or "Alcohol tastes gross" or whatever, because those things will make people bristle and try to convince you that you're wrong.

If somebody asks me why I'm vegetarian and I say I think meat is gross (true) they start delivering an ode to bacon or telling me I've never had their Dad's amazing barbecue which would TOTALLY change my mind. If I say I'm vegetarian because of a bet (also true, sort of) then they visibly relax. Often they'll ask about the bet, but then it's no longer an interrogation. It's just me telling an amusing story. 

People who want to know why you're vegetarian mostly just want to know if you're going to say "Meat is murder" as they eat their steak. People who want to know why you're teetotal mostly just want to know if you're going to say "Don't you think you've had enough?" as they order a beer.
posted by the latin mouse at 5:56 AM on November 15, 2013

Seriously, if you want to never have to debate your answer, go with "I'm a recovering alcoholic."

By god, I wish that were always true. I've definitely witnessed people pressure actual recovering alcoholics to drink, because "just a little won't hurt". Crabs dragging each other back into the pot.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:09 AM on November 15, 2013

Best answer I heard from my niece..after being asked 3 times...gosh I just don't...do you want to talk about my underwear because that's not really your business either.
posted by OhSusannah at 9:42 PM on November 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I usually say, "Life is just...simpler without alcohol," and then give them a knowing look.

At first people will be confused, but then they'll remember.
posted by facehugger at 10:48 AM on December 1, 2013

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