"I envy people who drink -- at least they know what to blame everything on."
December 6, 2005 9:34 PM   Subscribe

I don't drink, but for one night, I want to look like I do.

I'm in a college band, and we're so cool that we've been hired to play a dean's party with a free open bar. The party starts off as a cocktail kind of thing -- people wander around chatting with drinks in their hands -- but it quickly degenerates into fun drunken mayhem.

We will be the only undergrads there. The dean only invites professors (some without tenure, so they're early 30s) and some favored grad assistants (20s). We, the band, play for awhile, but then we're expected to mingle (and drink). This is a good opportunity to get in a little half-drunken networking and camaraderie with professors you want to write recommendation letters for you, or with TAs you want to hook up with.

I want to be the suave networker, not the loser in a corner who's sipping from a water bottle. Last year at the same event I got out of drinking by claiming I had an early solo gig the next day, but this year my bandmates know I'm free the next day. Designated driving can't be an excuse either (the school runs convenient buses everywhere). "Wellll, I really don't feel drinking is for me, acccctually" is insufficiently suave . . . and I don't want to keep having the same conversation all night long. Boring for me and for everyone else, particularly since I never drank, wasn't in rehab, and don't have any interesting stories to tell about not drinking. I haven't been outed as a nondrinker at previous parties I've attended because they've been, uh, student-hosted and informal, without the wander-and-chat portion of the night; everyone always pregames, and when I arrive the party's already in the just-trying-to-hook-up stage.

Bad answer: You should explain to everyone at the party why you're not drinking! Stand up for what you believe in! Have longwinded conversations about having fun without alcohol!

Good answer: You know, all good bars will have [nonalcoholic beverage], which looks just like [alcoholic beverage]. See if you can talk to the bartender before your set starts, so s/he can give it to you when nobody else is paying attention.

FWIW, I will have lots of fun without alcohol. I'm not going to be the one trying to start a conversation about Proust; I'll be trying to goof off and hook up along with everyone else. I just can, and want to, do it without the booze.

I've given you so much detail here because I'm not about to out my anonyself. Sorry, but I won't comment on the post.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (76 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
tonic and lime. looks like gin and tonic, tastes like bubbly water and lime juice. Or coke in a highball glass, looks like rum and coke. Order these from the bartender. No one is going to be paying attention to what you're drinking.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:40 PM on December 6, 2005

Coke looks just like Rum and Coke.
posted by smackfu at 9:40 PM on December 6, 2005

is this really that big of a deal? just don't mention it to anyone - unless this is a frat party, honestly nobody's likely to even say anything about it to you. if they do, just casually say you don't feel like it tonight, and change the subject.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 9:42 PM on December 6, 2005

Second the coke.

And if it's alcohol only, try grabbing a can rather than a bottle. Friend of mine used to only drink from cans, and offer to "get the next round in", whereby he'd get fresh drinks for them, same drink for him.
posted by djgh at 9:43 PM on December 6, 2005

Have a coke (or diet coke) with a couple lime wedges in it + ice + a swizzle stick.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:43 PM on December 6, 2005

Seconding the idea of drinking something with a wedge of fruit in it. Soda water and lime will work just fine.

Besides ... honestly ... no one will care what you drink if you don't call attention to it. Loudly telling everyone that you are or are not drinking is the worst kind of attention.
posted by frogan at 9:43 PM on December 6, 2005

As a non-drinker, I can sympathize with your plight. I third the suggestion of Coke, it looks like Rum & Coke, and is dark enough that any alcohol mixed in won't change the colour. So don't order any other kind of drink, such as orange soda, sprite, ginger ale, etc.
posted by riffola at 9:46 PM on December 6, 2005

And don't let anyone drink out of your glass, say you have a slight cold and don't want to pass it on.
posted by riffola at 9:47 PM on December 6, 2005

If you're going for suave, go with the tonic and not the coke. Rum and coke screams immature drinker to me, where as gin and tonic, or better yet, vodka tonic does not. But really, this isn't as big a deal as you're making it out to be.
posted by drpynchon at 9:52 PM on December 6, 2005

You can always grab a beer can, open it, and be so busy 'networking' that you 'forget' to drink from it, then ditch it somewhere.

Also, juice with grenadine added - very sweet and tasty, and has that weird neon colour that some alcoholic drinks have.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:55 PM on December 6, 2005

And don't let anyone drink out of your glass

Very, very important point that is often forgotten by the sober (because they forget that people who drink often get real grabby).
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:55 PM on December 6, 2005

one of the non-drinkers I know who occasionally "passes" for a drinker at an annual family event (thanks to an asshole-related-by-marriage who thinks its funny to try to badger people into falling off the wagon) either drinks soda water + lime in a highball glass or a non-alchoholic beer in a pint glass.

But it's also really not a big deal. Even if you're openly drinking out of a water bottle or soda can, people will just think that you don't drink -- whether in general or for that particular moment. Only assholes actually care (see above).
posted by scody at 9:57 PM on December 6, 2005

I agree with a lot of what's been said above. Seriously, who's going to care if you don't drink? This isn't a high school event or even an undergrad event. If the youngest people who are going to be there, besides your band, are going to be grad students in their mid-20s, nobody is going to care. Just don't bring it up and it won't be an issue...

Everyone's going to be assuming everyone else is drunk, anyways. Once people are drunk, they seem to have a hard time telling if other people are sober.
posted by johnsmith415 at 9:59 PM on December 6, 2005

Yeah, I agree with all the 'who cares' but I'm more curious:

What's with this usage of the term "hook up"? hook up with your TAs? Hook up along with everyone? You know what it means right?
posted by lpctstr; at 10:13 PM on December 6, 2005

Screwdriver: OJ + Vodka...only, without the vodka and nobody would be the wiser.
Also, you could get a beer and just hold it. I'll drink one beer over a five-hour span sometimes just so I'm holding something and don't feel like a dweeb.
posted by jmd82 at 10:15 PM on December 6, 2005

Isaac Asimov would drink Ginger Ale.
posted by drezdn at 10:18 PM on December 6, 2005

My World Lit professor told the class this morning that she's allergic to beer. (I had no idea this was an actual medical condition.) So I guess you could lie and say you're allergic as well.
posted by Sfving at 10:23 PM on December 6, 2005

All that's been said about obnoxious idiots is true. However... If you're looking to chat someone up, be prepared for "what are you drinking?" sorts questions.

Have a ready answer for two situations. In some cases it's an easy small-talk shared-interest thing - "Oh, gin? I love gin! What's your favorite kind? Really? Me too! We're so alike!" blah blah. For those you can lie, tell the truth, whatever. It's chit-chat. Finding a shared interest is a great way to flirt, and starting with the obvious (the drink in their hand, for example) is tried and true.

Then, usually later in the chatting-up process, there's the "I am buying you a drink, what can I get you" version of the question. You look them straight in the eye and say "Water, slice of lime, thank you". Or better yet, when you notice they are reaching the end of their drink, grab the initiative. Ask what they are drinking, so you can get the round, thereby illustrating your considerate and generous nature.

The bartender? They don't care what you ask for - just tip 'em a dollar for each glass.
posted by Triode at 10:23 PM on December 6, 2005

Arnie Palmer. It's lemonade and iced tea mixed. And it sounds like you're ordering an alcoholic drink. One of my friends doesn't drink, but works sales -- two great tastes that don't go well together. She drinks more Arnie Palmers in a week than most people do in a year.
posted by SpecialK at 10:29 PM on December 6, 2005

Just order tonic water, Coke, ginger ale or OJ in a high ball glass with lime. But, seriously, most people won't care what you're drinking. If you do get asked, just say you're on medication. People will figure you're on antibiotics and not bother you.
posted by acoutu at 10:32 PM on December 6, 2005

Bad answer: You should explain to everyone...Have longwinded conversations

It bears to say you don't want to justify yourself, so don't. Drink what you please, be it a Coke or tonic and lime or a water. The funny thing is, people ask you less if you have something in hand than if you had nothing at all. A glass is all it takes.

In college, I went to a fraternity party sober and a girl asked me where my drink was (I had none). I told her I didn't feel like drinking. She said, "I wish I could do that."

You don't have fake it nor justify. Let it roll.
posted by pedantic at 10:34 PM on December 6, 2005

I favor ginger ale, with a dash of grenadine. Yum! Also good with a bit of rye or rum.

A good excuse, should you choose to use one (or need one in a pinch) is that you're on some medication that won't mix with alcohol. Antibiotics are an example.

I doubt anyone other than the drunks would care. Some would admire your posistion (me!). I've been an avoider of alcohol at times, and my worse problem was with my grandfather (whom I adored), as he felt insulted if I wouldn't take alcohol with him. But hey, he was born in the 1800's, and remembered the San Francisco Earthquake!
posted by Goofyy at 10:35 PM on December 6, 2005

Get a spine. Drink soda if you want and tell your band mates to go eff themselves. If you want a drink, then have one, but this is probably not a good place to initiate yourself into heavy drinking (and if you do not drink, even a few drinks might be heavy drinking for you). If you really must lie, the tonic and lime bit is the classic way out.
posted by caddis at 10:37 PM on December 6, 2005

Arnie Palmer. And it sounds like you're ordering an alcoholic drink.

I nearly ruined a business lunch and consequent consulting gig on that very misunderstanding. Good suggestion.
posted by Triode at 10:43 PM on December 6, 2005

Don't get a coke. Bartenders tend to put coke in plastic cups with a straw, where as alcohol gets the nice real glass. Ask for a tonic with lime in a glass.

(Your professors and the dean will not care if you drink or not. Especially if you're undergraduate students, who are not of legal age to drink.)
posted by hooray at 10:44 PM on December 6, 2005

i don't think anyone's going to care. People who are sober might notice that you're not particularly drunk, but they'll just be happy that you can hold your alcohol.

When you get drunk, you usually assume everyone is as drunk as you. Trust me: there's been far too many night where people are all "DUDE I CAN"T BELIEVE YOU DID THAT", and i'm all "DUDE, I DIDN'T REMEMBER THAT, HOW THE FUCK DID YOU".

But yeah, any mixer w/o the alcohol is gonna look like a mixed drink. And no-one's going to ask you what you're drinking. I've NEVER had anyone ask me what I'm drinking unless i'm getting a drink for someone and they say "what are you having?" ...

Simply: no-one who's drunk will notice. No-one who's sober will care. Don't worry about it.
posted by fishfucker at 10:50 PM on December 6, 2005

A personal observation regarding the "medication out" some are suggesting: antidepressants are also contraindicated with regard to alcohol. So while some may assume antibiotics, others may assume Effexor (and its many ilk). Apply concern of stigma if necessary.

I may have misread your post, but you make allusions to both not wanting to drink and not wanting to get drunk. I support the suggestions of club soda w/lime and a stirrer, but if you're not averse to one drink switching out for one beer at a socially strategic point in the evening is an option also.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 10:51 PM on December 6, 2005

You can always grab a beer can, open it, and be so busy 'networking' that you 'forget' to drink from it, then ditch it somewhere.

It's not a big deal one way or the other, but as someone who often hosts gatherings, I have to say that this sort of thing is annoying. Beer isn't free and somebody has to clean up after the party. Don't go opening beers that you aren't going to drink and then leaving them all over the place.

And I certainly wouldn't say "Stand up for what you believe in!" or "Have longwinded conversations about having fun without alcohol," but the idea of pretending to be drinking alcohol when you aren't strikes me as rather juvenile and silly. Not as silly as giving someone a hard time because they aren't drinking, but nearly. Drink water, or orange juice, or coke, or whatever you feel like. I don't see the point of trying to convince people you're drinking if you aren't and never do.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:52 PM on December 6, 2005

Just get a beer and take small sips from it throughout the evening. I do this sometimes when I don't feel like drinking. You can finish off an evening having only drank half or three-quarters of a beer, which doesn't have a noticeable impact on most people.
posted by ori at 10:54 PM on December 6, 2005

You act like you are embarrassed not to drink. Don't be. Being in control of yourself is cool, getting drunk is not.

It sounds like you have never really had a drink, or perhaps not more than one, and are a little embarrassed at your lack of "experience" in these matters. If that is true I think you need to either decide that you will continue as an alcohol virgin, and if that is the case you should do it with pride, not shame, or find out about this stuff. You might try a few drinks on a few occasions with people you trust, not rowdy friends looking to poke fun at your noobishness, and I would recommend something easy like wine if you do. If you like it fine, if you don't then perhaps having knowledge of what you are skipping will make you less self conscious about it. If I have mischaracterised you, then just ignore this and accept my apologies. However, whatever your situation, please do not feel embarrassed not to drink.
posted by caddis at 10:59 PM on December 6, 2005

I don't see the point of trying to convince people you're drinking if you aren't and never do.

We live in a society with deep puritanical overtones that still inform social gatherings. People in America (in my experience, anyhow) still feel that drinking is debauched, and so they and spread the guilt. I can't be bad or irresponsible if everyone's doing it. This explains why people egg each other on to over-drink. Having even just one person around who abstains is enough to spoil the sense of collectively sanctioned irresponsibility: "You think you're better than us?". It makes those who drink feel self-conscious, and so they avoid you.
posted by ori at 11:01 PM on December 6, 2005

Dark beer bottles can be refilled with water all night long and no one can tell the color of the liquid inside.

That's what I do.
posted by unixrat at 11:04 PM on December 6, 2005

I like orange juice, pinapple and cranberry mixed together. Or else you can do sour mix with a splash of cranberry - tastes like pink lemonade. You don't say whether you're male or female - if you're male, I'd go with the tonic & lime.
posted by Iamtherealme at 11:07 PM on December 6, 2005

You could just try drinking.
posted by nanojath at 11:07 PM on December 6, 2005

nanojath, it sounds like in addition to being useless noise, that's the conversation he wants to avoid having all night long. I dunno what his reasons are, but can we accept that they just might be valid?

I don't drink either, and I agree with unixrat's dark-beer-bottle trick. Just be sure nobody borrows your drink, like riffola/SeizeTheDay mentioned above.
posted by booksandlibretti at 11:13 PM on December 6, 2005

I've made the juice concoctions above myself and really, there's no difference whether or not I put a regular amount of vodka in it or if their virgins. So you don't have to be as paranoid about somebody picking up your drink as you would with a soda. However, even if somebody DOES pick up your drink, odds are they won't comment. If they do, you could always say "Yeah, the bartender made this one pretty weak" and leave it at that.
posted by Iamtherealme at 11:16 PM on December 6, 2005

Don't order an Arnie Palmer. I've been given vodka-spiked ones.
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:43 PM on December 6, 2005

It seems like carrying around one of the mixed drinks without any booze seems like the best way to go for you. I don't drink as well, and most people regard it as some kind of incredible abnormality; as if they could not possibly fathom a universe where a person willfully doesn't drink.

I can understand not wanting to deal with a flurry of questions from incredulous and increasingly drunk individuals all night (especially the point when they try to get you to start drinking). It sounds like camoflage is the tactic you should take, but if I were in your situation I would probably do what I always do: sip continuously out of a glass of water, and if people ask, just say "I don't drink" and leave it at that. There are lots of people who have a strange respect for that decision.
posted by deafmute at 11:47 PM on December 6, 2005

If you're not completely against any alcohol, grab a drink and drink it slow, if people ask, you can always say you're on your second one, I've done this by accident on nights when I just wasn't feeling drinky.

Alternately, if you ask for a 'virgin' anything, you'll get it in the usual glass, not plastic, you'll probably get a chance to order without being looked in on, and if you're nervous about the bartender, offer to refill someone else's drink while you go get yours, the bartender won't know who's drinking the alcohol and who's not.
posted by nile_red at 11:55 PM on December 6, 2005

Having even just one person around who abstains is enough to spoil the sense of collectively sanctioned irresponsibility: "You think you're better than us?". It makes those who drink feel self-conscious, and so they avoid you.

Not in my experience. Some nights I drink, some nights I don't. On the nights when I don't, even if other people are, it never crosses my mind to try and fool people into thinking I'm drinking, and I've never had any difficulties or really awkward situations as a result. The asker has gotten a good range of advice and can do what he chooses, but in my opinion pretending to drink is extremely lame and is mostly done by insecure freshman girls at frat parties.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:58 PM on December 6, 2005

Avoid standing near the bar. If it's as crazy as you make it sound, you'll likely be goaded into drinking shots, and people generally don't take no for an answer when it comes time to do shots.

But honestly, I wonder if it will be that crazy. Maybe it's me (a guy who likes to drink), but I've known a lot of non-drinkers who are very self-conscious about being non-drinkers, whereas I honestly never noticed until they told me. And those same people tend to overstate just how drunk everyone else is, failing to realize that people often use alcohol as an excuse to be social loudly, doing so far more frequently than they when they actually imbibe enough booze to lose control of their sense of decorum. Don't know if that makes sense. Not saying you're one of those people -- maybe you're right, and this really is a kick-ass party.
posted by mattwatson at 12:40 AM on December 7, 2005

Do your bandmates know you don't drink? I imagine that's where the awkward moments would come from ("hey dude, awesome show, let's get wasted!"). Other than that, I wouldn't worry too much about the whole thing. Chances are most everyone you're going to be with knows someone who doesn't drink, and has had to get used to the idea of being drunk around people who aren't. So long as you don't make a big deal about being sober, there's a good chance you'll just fly under the radar. You can use the camoflage strategies above if you're really nervous about being found out, but I don't think they're necessary (especially since the crowd is grad students and profs, who are not exactly your usual frat party crowd).
posted by chrominance at 12:57 AM on December 7, 2005

Take an empty bottle of Jack Daniels, and fill it with tea. While on stage, make sure to polish off the entire thing. Better yet, take up two bottles!

Some musicians on the road (the old classic rockers doing tired tours) actually do this!
posted by mr.dan at 1:33 AM on December 7, 2005

Oh man. Just drink whatever. No one worthwhile is going to care.
posted by rafter at 1:53 AM on December 7, 2005

What difference does it make? You're a non-drinker but want everyone to think you're a drinker? Sorry if this is one of your "bad" answers, but I think you're making too big a deal of this. Will you go to every party for the rest of your life pretending to be drinking and then not? Truly, I can't imagine anyone caring.

Or is this post just a way of expressing how proud you are to be a non-drinker?
posted by zardoz at 3:02 AM on December 7, 2005

There's also the possibility (tho' slight, from what you've said) that the dean will tell the bartender not to serve you, even if you're of age, for liability reasons. He certainly doesn't need the bad publicity if something were to happen to you as a result of his party. I work at a univ. and we are always understandably nervous about serving students at parties, even when they're over 21. That guy would be on a short leash where I work.
posted by SashaPT at 3:30 AM on December 7, 2005

a) you shouldn't care, but I've BTDT and used to care like you seem to.

b) lemon, lime & bitters. They're moderately classy, taste damn good and you can claim it's LLB+vodka if necessary. Anyone tells you it's a chick's drink, smack 'em in the chops for me.
posted by polyglot at 4:17 AM on December 7, 2005

Perhaps I missed it, but order a beer, carry it around and don't drink it. I've seen people nurse a beer for hours, which really isn't far from not drinking at all...
posted by GuyZero at 4:23 AM on December 7, 2005

Acquire an empty shot glass or two from the bar. Drink your water or whatever and if anyone asks to get you a drink, draw their attention to the shot glasses and say that you're letting them settle. Seeming drunkeness + responsibility.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:45 AM on December 7, 2005

Get over it! Professors and grad students won't care one whit if you don't drink. They may be embarrased if they feel like they outed you (ask if you want a drink, and then have you say you don't drink) but that will be over quickly and they won't care. Just don't make a big deal of it and they won't either.

Additionally if you want to do some professional networking in that kind of crowd you probably would be foolish to drink much anyway. One piece of advice I was given and I have used on a few occasions if to order a Rum and Coke as a first drink and then order a Coke the rest of the time but request the bartender put it in the same type of glass (often a straight Coke gets put in a larger 12-16 oz glass while a Rum and Coke is in a smaller tumbler). That way you blend in but avoid being foolish in a professional environment.
posted by Tallguy at 5:07 AM on December 7, 2005

I can't help feeling that so many people here are missing the point, which is that to have to explain over and over again why you are not drinking is just really fucking boring. It's like being a vegetarian where you have to explain why you don't eat meat over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. So... very... boring.
So, yeah, go with a tonic or something, and if someone challenges your non-alcoholic decision, you need a quick answer that will prompt little or no a follow up. Something like...
"Why aren't you drinking? What are you gay or something?"
"No, I'm just detoxing right now."
If they respond with something like "Huh, but beers a necessity." just force a smile, and make it clear that it's a forced smile and don't respond. They should have the message that your not going to drink and that you're not happy with the line of questioning. If they don't just walk away.
posted by chill at 5:11 AM on December 7, 2005

As long as you don't call attention to the fact that you're not drinking...nobody will care.


If someone asks you 'if you're drinking' they're trying to bond with you, by saying let your hair down.

If someone asks 'What you're drinking..." they're looking to make small talk to be comfortable - particularly if your glass is empty.

If you really feel this self conscious - at the beginning, tip the bartender $10 and tell him that you're going to order drinks, but he, under no circumstances, should add alcohol. So if you say 'Rum and coke', he'll only put in coke. The $10 is to help him remember you. This way if you go to the bar, you'll ask for alcohol, and he won't put it in the drink...even if you're with someone else at the bar.
posted by filmgeek at 5:30 AM on December 7, 2005

Or is this post just a way of expressing how proud you are to be a non-drinker?

Is your post just a way of expressing how uncomfortable you are with someone that can do something you can't?
posted by craniac at 5:47 AM on December 7, 2005

I don't know, I certainly go to plenty of things where if I'm not boozing people will loudly want to know why, and spend the rest of the night expressing amazement and saying things like ARE YOU DRINKING YET, IS THAT STILL SPRITE? and so on. I've even been asked if I'm pregnant for gawds sake. And I'm talking about work events, professional environment. That's what I get for working in an ex-pat industry I suppose.

I agree with either ordering a virgin whatever or carrying around the same bottle of beer all night.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:51 AM on December 7, 2005

Umpteen+ the tonic or seltzer and lime. (Personally, I hate tonic water, so I go with the seltzer instead.)

Everyone I know who's a nondrinker for any reason sticks with this for all the reasons listed above. Most bartenders know that most people don't drink soda and lime because it's necessarily their favorite beverage ever, and will therefore put it in the glass and serve it up without comment. Don't forget to tip.

I'd go with telling people it's a vodka tonic. If someone wants to chat about favorite brands, just shrug and say that you're really not much of a connoisseur.
posted by desuetude at 6:01 AM on December 7, 2005

Just say, "Didn't you notice? I'm in a band. I was drunk when I got here!"

Then, if they're cool, they laugh.
posted by starman at 6:04 AM on December 7, 2005

ori writes "Having even just one person around who abstains is enough to spoil the sense of collectively sanctioned irresponsibility: 'You think you're better than us?'. It makes those who drink feel self-conscious, and so they avoid you."

My opinion is that it is best to hide your teetotalling ways in this setting. I lost business in the past because of managers who felt they couldn't trust someone who didn't drink. You aren't in a position to tell if your dean or favoured professor is one of those people. Coke and ice in a whiskey glass is what I use, everyone assumes your drinking rye and coke and leaves you alone. Just watch you aren't slamming them back like they are Coke.
posted by Mitheral at 6:22 AM on December 7, 2005

This is late, but I'll throw in a tip about this:

Go up and meet the bartender at the beginning of the night. Say hi. Order your zany "coke in a real class (not the plastic cup if that's an option) - with a slice of lime - and a straw please!" Explain that you don't drink but are drinking these tonight. Tip $5 for that drink. Then he'll make 'em up for you just like you like, all night (and probably even before you get up the bar, it'll be waiting for you).

You should tip an extra $1 every other drink, too.

This is expensive, but it works great, and when you show up with someone else (hopefully a hot property of your preferred persuasion), the bartender will cover you better than a duvet on christmas morning.
posted by zpousman at 6:24 AM on December 7, 2005

Totally tip the bartender, tell him you're not drinking and to make everything virgin.

An Amaretto Sour has very little alcohol, you could drink those all night nad never get a buzz (somewhat of a hyperbole). Is low content alcohol an option? It's kind of a girly-drink (well it is), but to me it looks better than a rum and coke.

If you go the no-alcohol-tip-the-bartender route, don't order things that are otherwise hard, like a Rob Roy, since downing them without alcohol will surely give you away (especially as a novice drinker). While the Arnie Palmer was a good idea, coming from the friends who want to get you drunk, if you told me you ordered an Arnie Palmer I'd immediately want to know what kind of alcohol is it, how it's made, etc. (not to out you, just out of curiosity).

What about the tried and true virgin bloody mary? Just don't be drinking 4-5 of them without getting sloshed, you'll look like a deity.
posted by geoff. at 6:34 AM on December 7, 2005

There are enough alcoholics around these days that a professionally stocked bar will usually have a few cans of 0.5% beer, no? You could give that a try, particularly if it's the Becks, that you can hardly tell apart from the real one.
posted by mikel at 6:45 AM on December 7, 2005

I've never been to any adult party where anyone cared if someone isn't drinking. I've chosen not to drink (only had coke or water) and never had to "explain over and over again why [I was] not drinking." It's possible to socialize comfortably at these events without being hung-up on the drinking / not drinking aspect. Mature adults really don't give a flying fuck. People will notice if you are uncomfortable, so just stop worrying about it and have a good time.

Now, if your bandmates think you all have to drink to party with the older crowd, that's their problem, not yours.

On preview: For Mitheral and jamesonandwater, who have had problems not drinking at work-related functions, your experience is totally alien from mine. So sorry you've had to deal with people like that.
posted by D.C. at 6:51 AM on December 7, 2005

I didn't drink until my mid-twenties. I went to parties and night clubs and very few people complained/questioned me not drinking. I'd suggest not lying about drinking when you aren't, but not necessarily saying the truth either.

Mitheral's point is very important (Just watch you aren't slamming them back like they are Coke) if you want to look like you're drinking when you aren't. Watch for the jittery-ness that comes with drinking a few bubbly caffeine drinks in a few hours. I'd side with juice or the tonic suggestions mentioned above.
posted by philfromhavelock at 7:45 AM on December 7, 2005

Go with tonic and lime to simulate a Gin and Tonic. This choice wil have two good consequences: first, no one drinks tonic quickly so you'll be naturally inclined to mimic the sipping of a real drinker, second, gin is a bit of an acquired taste (some people love it, most dislike it intensely) so you are less likely to get people who want a sip. But here is the really handy advice.

Bombay Sapphire, Tanquery #10 (often called "Tanq Ten") and Beefeater are the standard "good" gins. Nothing special, everyone has tried them and everyone likes at least one of them. They are all pretty much the same. Tanq is a bit smoother then the other two, Sapphire has a stronger flavor of juniper (juniper is what separates gin from vodka), and Beefeater has a slight peppery flavor.

If you want to earn style points you can say that you really prefer Tanqueray Wet or Van Gogh. (Van Gogh is so much more known for vodka that many people don't even know they make a gin. It is smooth and has a nice crisp, clean taste. Simply a fantastic gin (my absolute favorite).) They are both very good gins while Gordon and Gilbey are horrid swill. (They are sometimes called good mixing gins, which means they suck so much that you can't drink them straight. )

Oh and remember, real Martini's are made with gin. Finally, it wouldn't hurt to go to a local liquor store and ask the salesman for a crash course in gin (or whatever you decide to fake liking). They are generally very knowledgeable and are willing to talk.
posted by oddman at 8:03 AM on December 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

D.C. writes "who have had problems not drinking at work-related functions, your experience is totally alien from mine. So sorry you've had to deal with people like that."

Not a problem, the job was just a little contract database work. Now with the perspective of time I can see it is probably better over all not to get involved with employers who think a three martini lunch is the minimum. It was just a little shocking at the time an anonprobably can't afford to alienate those kind of people.

On the other hand keep an eye out, that same professor may be a friend of Bill and Ed or something and you could have something to talk about when everyone starts getting silly.
posted by Mitheral at 8:08 AM on December 7, 2005

Since the practical answers have all been fairly well spelled-out, I'm going to chime in on the "just roll with it" advice, that you don't need to explain yourself. Seriously, I think no one whose opinion is worth anything will care. Any semi-responsible adult (e.g. profs and most grad students) know that an answer of "I'm not drinking" is meant to stop conversation. It can mean innocuous things, like you're sick or in a bad mood, or it can mean you're a recovering alcoholic, and people with half a brain understand not to go there. I have a friend in that situation who is very successful in sales, and it's never been a problem for him.
posted by mkultra at 8:12 AM on December 7, 2005

When someone has asked what I'm drinking (or what they can get me from the bar) and I'm not, responding with "Just a club soda and lime this time" or "for now" has generally made hardcore drinkers produce beaming smiles and many congratulations on thinking to rehydrate myself between presumed rounds.
posted by occhiblu at 8:54 AM on December 7, 2005

Putting in another affirmation that yes, there are people that think it odd/untrustworthy to network with nondrinkers, mostly in arenas that are considered kind of old-school. The vegetarian analogy is a good one.
posted by desuetude at 9:36 AM on December 7, 2005

Dean Martin used to pass off apple juice on the rocks as booze.
posted by weirdoactor at 10:04 AM on December 7, 2005

1. Tonic and lime (coke/lime, oj, whatever) - make sure your glass is always full so that people don't offer to replace it for you. I would advise telling people it is vodka and tonic rather than gin and tonic. Almost everyone has had vodka. However, I had a friend who drank G&Ts and, on several occasion, people asked to sample the drink because they never tried gin. While this is a rare possibility, it is an easy way to get outed as a non-drinker.

2. If your drink is empty and someone offers to replace it for you, simply tell them you're ok at the moment. Nothing wrong with pacing yourself. People might want to see you drunk and having a good time but nobody wants to see you tossing your cookies into the potted plant in the corner. Nobody will have a problem with pacing. Depending on the time of the night, you can always accept their offer but ask for just a coke (if you were already drinking a mock rum and coke, ask for club soda, sprite, etc. so you won't out yourself as drinking mock drinks all night) and tell them that you are winding down.

3. If someone suspects that you are not really drinking alcohol and asks you, admit that you aren't. If they already suspect and you try to pretend that they are wrong, it will become amusing to them to make a big deal and prove that you aren't drinking and you'll be in the exact situation you wanted to avoid. If they say "you're not drinking alcohol, are you?" Just say no, not tonight. If s/he asks why not, just say you are on antibiotics.
posted by necessitas at 10:18 AM on December 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

The poster gave all the information needed to provide helpful answers, which many people have done. If you can't do the same, STFU. (emphasis added)


Anon needs to think about why he can't admit he isn't drinking. What is to be embarrassed about? Is it more "cool" to be someone who lies about their actions to be part of the group, or to be someone who stands up for themselves. He doesn't need to explain his reasons to anyone at the party, just not lie. Life is a whole lot easier when you do not have to live a lie. Carrying around a tonic water to fend off questions is fine, but don't go telling anyone it has gin in it if it doesn't.

Just because these answers are not exactly what Anon wants to hear doesn't mean they do not answer the question or make them bad answers. Stop thinking so narrowly.
posted by caddis at 10:25 AM on December 7, 2005

Mod note: a few comments removed, please keep it on topic or take it to metatalk
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2005

I won't moralize on the subject of pretending to drink vs. admitting you don't drink. People with common sense don't push or even care when someone says "I don't drink." Not everyone has common sense, and only you know the people you'll be partying with. So it's up to you, of course.

I will, though, advise against outright lying about it. Getting caught in a lie is so much more embarrassing than getting caught not drinking. I'd go with club soda...no one would necessarily assume it was alcoholic or non-alcoholic, it's a pretty common thing to order in a bar, and it's unlikely anyone's going to suddenly want a sip, whether they think it has liquor or not. If someone asks if it has liquor in it, you can say "this? no." If someone says outright, "have you been drinking soda all night?" that would be awfully weird, but I'd fess up. If these are the types of people who will make a big joke out of the fact that you're not drinking, they'll make an even bigger one about the fact that you lied about not drinking.
posted by lampoil at 10:51 AM on December 7, 2005

If you're willing to lie about drinking, why not just tell the truth about not drinking and lie about why instead? Make up some extended yarn about a bet gone bad and now you're booze free till you perform 7 herculean tasks set out for you by the bet's winners. Claim you're on some booze detox diet. Any number of a million stories will do and they'll at least make for interesting (if complete bullshit) conversation and make you seem more interesting than the kind of guy who doesn't drink but pretends to.

And as a former bartender let me discourage you from these inane slip-me-$10 requests to serve you things other than what you actually ask for. If you'd ever approached me with that request I'd have declined and handed you back your tip. The job is hard enough without having to try to remember that kind of garbage.

Easier than any of the above would be to start hanging out with a better class of people, if in fact they're the kind of doucebags who have nothing better to do than meddle in what you drink. As a dyed-in-the-wool drunk my only reaction to people who don't drink is "more for me!"
posted by phearlez at 11:54 AM on December 7, 2005

I'm usually an extremely slow drinker when not at home (read: 1 beer every few hours). I've found very often that as long as I'm sipping occasionally from my drink, people just assume that I'm on my third or fourth of the night. I've surprised people often by telling them it's still my first. Most of the time, strangers have more immediate concerns (like getting loaded asap) than sleuthing out your teeotaler nature.

That said, I do also recall that I received a lot more strange looks at college parties than later in life, so I sympathize with your concern. The suggestions above for drink types are good, with my vote going to Coke. If you tell people you're drinking a Malibu and Coke, well, they probably won't be able to tell the difference even if they want a sip, and if they do notice, just tell them the bartender mixed it weak and slip him an extra dollar for the inconvenience. Also, instead of keeping it full, I'd keep it at about 1/2 to 3/4ths full: enough so it looks like you're drinking, not so little that you can't reasonably say "I'm fine" if someone offers another one.

Alternately, don't neglect the virtue of claiming a massive hangover. I know people who have stopped drinking for weeks after a particularly intense bender, and if this is the kind of crowd who will get on your case for being a nondrinker, they are probably also the kind of crowd who will be impressed with the utter bullshit you sow about waking up next to a stripper somewhere in a field with a headache commanded from on high.

One other note: if "hook up with" also means finding someone for the night, note that there's no hiding the lack of alcohol on your breath. Make sure you are a good enough kisser that this will not be the first thing he/she notices.
posted by Errant at 1:49 PM on December 7, 2005

>Take an empty bottle of Jack Daniels, and fill it with tea.

We had a lady at work do that for a month - a 40oz bottle, before someone asked her directly. At first we were astounded by the exceptional quality of her work, even with a drinking problem... But someone was worried about her liver, so they had to ask.

Personally, I can't stand the taste of most alcohol.

I've only ever found one type of beer I liked (it was made from heather or maybe clover), I despise most wines (unless incredibly sweet like ice wine or port) and anything hard has to be mixed with something else to kill the taste.

I make no excuses, it's just something weird about my sense of taste.
posted by jkaczor at 2:17 PM on December 7, 2005

"Alcohol fucks with all the cough syrup I had in the parking lot."

NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR DRINKING. Sorry, Undergrad, it's all in your head. If anyone asks, you're not drinking right then because you're pacing yourself.
"What can I get you?"
"Better make this one a soda. I gotta pace myself."
"Your last one was a soda."
"Yeah, I want my dick hard all night."

Only if you act like it's any kind of deal does it become any kind of deal. I've hassled my friends over drinking, but only when they're usually drinkers and then it's to find out why they're taking the night off. And whatever reason they give, that's cool, man. Whether it's because they were hungover that morning or because they're trying to change unhealthy habits... Whatever.
posted by klangklangston at 9:39 PM on December 7, 2005

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