The Dos and Don'ts of First Date Drinking

I'd venture to say that 99 of every 100 first dates blossom from this proposition: "Let's grab a drink." Why? Because naked body painting with someone you barely know might come off as clingy. But also, even if your right swipe ends up having questionable fashion choices or political views, at least the enjoyment of a cold adult beverage is something you'll probably agree on.

But know this: when you mix first dates with alcohol, it can result in a cocktail that's more dangerous than a Long Island iced tea -- that is, if you don't follow a certain imbibing protocol. To guide you, here are seven dos and don'ts for drinking on a first date to ensure that your first impression is a good one.

DO ask preliminary questions

Suggesting a bar for your initial romantic meeting can be daunting. But it's also a great opportunity to feel out your date and learn her drinking preferences. Translation: her opinion matters to you, which is already a great start! Before choosing the venue, ask for her drink of choice -- she could be allergic to wheat, in which case, skip the beer hall. She could loooove wine, but really only French reds from the Languedoc region; so study up on those wine bar menus before selecting one.

She could also hit you with "I don't drink," which is a completely acceptable decision that you shouldn't press too much; now, at least you can prepare to dial down your standard four rounds. The more you know!

friends drinking happy hour
Minerva Studio/Shutterstock

DON'T drink beforehand

We all get the first date jitters. BUT! Don't try to placate your nerves with a martini or three at your apartment before even heading out to meet your suitor. Showing up to your plans already reeking of the inside of a Smirnoff bottle is not at ALL becoming -- it also suggests you're not taking the date seriously. And since it’s WAY easier to create a reputation than erase one, you'll forever be that guy/girl who babbled incessantly about how much work sucks, then flipped through 19 pictures of your dog Nibbles. All thanks to too much liquid courage.

Stopping by your buddy’s happy hour pre-date is a no-no for the same reasons.

DO consider the venue when ordering

What you choose to sip on during a first date reveals a lot about you. For instance, opting for Miller Lite at a craft brewery suggests that you're an unadventurous square; taking shots at dinner says you're looking to get after it instead of get to know the person you're with; and ordering a mudslide anywhere other than Applebee's says you have the palate of a second-grader.

Sure, we all have a go-to swill -- and there's nothing wrong with liking what you like. But if your date specifically chose a whiskey bar with a signature cocktail that you "just have to try," don't be that person who says, "Nah, I’ll have a Heineken." Take a walk on the wild side! In the name of the bigger picture, it will show you're open to new experiences.

DON'T take her out for BYOB or bottomless

A few years ago, a guy took me out for sushi on a first date; I hadn't realized it was a BYOB restaurant until he met me at the door with two wine bottles in tow. Now, grammar is admittedly my strong suit over math, but even I knew that added up to each of us finishing our own bottle. Here's how that looked to me: that he was trying to get me really, really drunk. For one, I didn't know him! He could've been a serial brunette strangler for all I knew! (I watch a lot of Law & Order.) It also made me feel like he assumed I wouldn't be interesting enough sober.

Additionally, it made him look cheap. I understand the fiscal argument for paying $25 for two hours of unlimited brunch cocktails, but this is Date One: shouldn't we try to remember if we like each other? Make your date feel like she's worth it to you to splurge on two glasses of the restaurant's best buttery chardonnay. Then, once you're in a stable relationship, you can enjoy bottomless mimosas and all the Three Buck Chuck wine you can carry to the restaurant.

drinks and food date drinking rules dating

DO pair your booze with food

I'm not implying that you need to take your date out for a three-course meal at The Capital Grille. In fact, I don't even blame the guys who vow to never do dinner on the first date -- if you don't end up clicking, that's a pretty penny you just spent on someone you don't want to see ever again. All I'm saying is that you should be a gentleman and order some light bites; it's important for both of you to coat your stomachs to prevent you from getting drunk too fast.

Even if she's starving, a refined lady won't be the first to suggest getting food if she doesn't know you well and presumes you're paying. If you have cheese and charcuterie awaiting her, that's at least five automatic points in your favor.

DON'T try to "match" your date

If you're a 115lb woman on a first date with a dude built like Rob Gronkowski, don't even think about going drink-for-drink with him. You're not going to look "lame" if you slow down and stop ordering cosmos once you feel a buzz -- but you WILL look like a complete slob kabob if you keep downing booze with him and subsequently yak under the table -- or worse, start crying because you miss your ex.

Yeah really, I'd argue the latter is worse.

DO order round two... but only if there's chemistry

Date One is like car shopping: the car is pretty and you initially think, "This is it!" But sometimes, the test drive doesn't go as smoothly as planned -- you just aren't feeling it. Similarly, there are times during first dates when the chemistry just isn’t there.

It can be a letdown, but it's more than OK to realize that you're not that into him or her. Contrary to popular belief, you don't owe this person anything -- you promised a first date, and that's it. If your personalities don't mesh, it's better to politely cap the night off instead of ordering additional rounds, sending mixed messages, and using him for free drinks. (Not cool, ladies.)

Here's a rule of thumb: Drink One is customary; Drink Two can be used to feel your date out a bit more; but Drink Three and beyond is reserved for someone you're definitely into.

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Brooke Sager is a NYC-based contributing writer for Thrillist. She’s aware that her go-to drink order -- vodka, seltzer, splash of pineapple juice, and three maraschino cherries -- is even more embarrassing than showing 19 pet photos. Give her a follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @HIHEELZbrooke.