How to Refuse Alcohol
and Still Be Cool

Friends at a Pub

Many people refuse alcoholic beverages when offered.  And for a variety of reasons: they don’t want to drink and drive; they’re on a health kick that doesn’t include alcohol, or maybe there are past issues to overcome.  Many people have religious or health reasons, or maybe they just don't choose to include drinking in their lifestyle. 

Being the social creatures we are, everyone likes it when others are having a good time.  In some circles, on some occasions, that good time automatically includes alcohol.

So how do you refuse without being a killjoy?

Sometimes it’s easy and no one notices or cares.  A simple “No thank you” is all you need.  Other times, in certain crowds, there may be pressure to join in.

If you are at a stand-up networking event, having sparkling water or other beverage in a stemmed glass serves the purpose as well as wine. 

When You Say “No”

  • Decline right away.  Any hesitation on your part means you may not be taken seriously.
  • Keep a non-alcoholic beverage in your hand.  This will give you the appearance of participating and will also provide a drink in the case of an impromptu toast.
  • Have some favorite non-alcoholic beverages in mind that you can order without hesitation.  You can also add the word “virgin” to a standard cocktail.
  • In a pinch, order a club soda with a twist of lime, a sparkling water, or your favorite soft drink (Coke or Sprite) with a cherry or twist of lime in a high-ball glass.
  • Non-alcoholic beers are gaining popularity as well.  Have a couple of brands in mind that you can order.
  • If your host asks if you’d like red or white (as in wine), you may – without apology or explanation – kindly ask for sparkling water or a soft drink instead.

If You Need to Explain Why

It doesn’t matter why you refuse alcohol, and it’s no one’s business but yours.  However, social pressure can be tough and sometimes you feel you must explain.

Be matter-of-fact with your excuse and keep it simple.  This is not a time to fumble for words.

  • "I’ve had a cold so I'm only drinking soda this evening."
  • "Hey, that’s okay.  I’m good for now."
  • "Just water for me this time around."

Or you could just say, “I don’t drink.”  This may take a little courage, but at least the subject is off the table.

Whatever the reason behind your choice not to imbibe, you have every right to stand your ground.  And there’s no reason not to have a good time while doing so!

Do your best to participate in the gathering, event, or festivities, enjoy yourself and those in your company, and try to keep the focus off what is (or isn’t) in your glass.

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