When ascending the corporate ladder, the young professional must be armed with the following: sharp business attire, a braying work laugh reserved for lame boss jokes, a firm handshake, and the ability to hold one’s liquor. While the office environment may provide some opportunities for you to showcase your wardrobe and the occasional handshake, social business functions offer ample chances to strut your stuff for the powers that be. Any social event involving workmates has the potential to evolve into a business meeting, especially where clients or the boss are involved and you should be primed and ready to turn on the charm at any moment. Therefore, it is crucial to your career and office reputation to exercise good drinking etiquette.
Meeting co-workers for drinks after work and other similar functions can be tricky. The happy hour meet offers a casual environment for you to socialize with fellow desk jockeys, but you should maintain a bit of your professional persona. Unleashing your inner frat boy in front of co-workers will open you up to criticism and turn you into water cooler fodder. Instead, take the opportunity to schmooze and impress them with your knowledge of fine liquors. In the bar scene, it’s not how much you drink that counts, it’s what you drink.
Kelly Ekas of The Globe, Sam Snead’s Candie Ryser, and Peggy Lupica of 310 Park South all agree that the flavored martini is the drink of the year. Although the three-martini lunch has faded away, the beverage lives on after dark. To score points with hip colleagues, order a couple of the martinis and experiment with different flavors. The trendy concoction is still considered to be a woman’s drink. Men wishing to express their masculinity may opt for draft beer or some of the harder liqueurs.
Wine is frequently unfamiliar territory among young professionals, but is a popular favorite with the slightly older set. Become ambi-”drink”-trous by attending a wine tasting in your town and familiarize yourself with the process and flavorings. Sam Snead’s in downtown Orlando offers free wine tastings every Monday night. Expanding your palette beyond frou-frou drinks and beer will allow you to blend in with more worldly associates.
Once your chosen beverage has arrived, hold it with your left hand to keep the right one free for handshakes and business card trade-offs. You never know whom you might meet, but it could be someone who may have an impact your career. Regardless of drink specials, steer clear of drinks with umbrellas, whipped cream, and names like Sex on the Beach, Harvey Wallbanger, or Tropical Analgesic. These beverages, along with anything served in a fishbowl, lack the level of sophistication you may wish to attain. Save the “girl drinks” for evenings with close friends.
Earn everyone’s good graces by offering to buy a round early in the night. Waiting until the crowd thins out or everyone has had enough will make you the office cheapskate and may preclude you from further group outings. To lessen the alcohol effects, snack on an appetizer throughout the evening or, if the session lasts longer than two hours, casually suggest an upgrade to dinner.
Circulate the group and participate in as many conversations as you can, but refrain from butting into chats to interject irrelevant chitchat. Use this time to give your work laugh a workout. Play the role of social butterfly and mix your ideas for the company with charming anecdotes to show that you’re not all business.
Most importantly, know your limit. Cut yourself off before the bartender does. Unsure of your liquor tolerance? Once you begin entertaining private thoughts of Arvid from Accounting, stop drinking. Or take the serious route and calculate the number of consumed drinks in relation to your body weight to assess your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Your BAC is the estimated percent of alcohol in the bloodstream. To be safe, use the sip and savor approach to drinking or set a two-drink maximum limit.
Finally, take a cue from comedians and leave your colleagues wanting more. Bid proper farewells, settle up your tab, and head home after your final drink. Leaving early will show that you’re dedicated to your career, but there’s more to your life than just work. The professional who spend their whole life tied to work may rise to the top rung faster, but they will fall much harder once exhaustion sets in.
Following the rules of drinking etiquette may not ensure an automatic raise or promotion, but it will boost your reputation as a classy professional among workmates. A wise drink choice or knowing how to carry yourself during social business functions could get you on the list for other important functions and you never know where that may lead.
originally published in the December-January 2002/2003 issue of Industry magazine.
Content on this site was originally written by Katharine Miller between 2000-2015. Many feature articles and interviews were published in print and on websites that no longer exist. Katharine is reproducing her written material here for portfolio and archival purposes only. Links and credits to clients and original publication will be included where possible.