Following the unwritten rules of society’s drinking culture is necessary to navigate early adulthood without embarrassing yourself, or worse. As a young man attending film school in Ann Arbor, Michigan I personally witnessed a very drunk girl step out in front of a car after leaving a fraternity party, and I am fairly certain that she did not survive the accident. Sadly many young people today do not get introduced to responsible drinking culture when they are still in their parents’ nests, as their parents do not know what responsible drinking is, either. Yet responsible drinking is a very important skill-set for an adult, as drinking culture is deeply intertwined with social structures in universities and even in the business world; if you do not drink with some people they will assume you are not trustworthy, and people will sometimes judge the reliability and professionalism of an individual by how they conduct themselves while intoxicated at networking events. It is also worth saying that many women will judge a man based on his choice of drink and how well he handles it.

Therefore understanding how to correctly participate in drinking culture is a necessary life skill for a gentleman and if you fail to learn it, you could make bad choices that lead to your own death.

A gentleman should strive to not consume so much spirits that he becomes a liability for others, and must be taken care of. Should you make the mistake of over-estimating how much you can drink you should strive to take care of yourself, not becoming a burden for other people. If you must spend the night sleeping on the bathroom floor by the toilet and puking as needed, that is what you must do to avoid causing issues for others due to your own error of judgement.

Why is Drinking Culture Important?

Alcohol is an essential aspect of numerous cultures all over the world. Alcohol is a part of many activities including celebrations, weddings, mourning and graduations. 

Drinking culture is social behavior and traditions regarding alcoholic beverages such as wine or cocktails exist in among all ethnic groups; many of which are ancient practices. In modern society drinking culture is often called responsible drinking. Alcoholic drinks are typically casually consumed in a social setting without the intention of becoming intoxicated. Within polite society offering a drink to someone is considered a sign of friendship, gratitude or goodwill. 

As many aspects of human culture revolve around the consumption of alcoholic beverages it is important for a young man to learn the unwritten rules of drinking culture so as to best navigate through social events he wishes to be a success at.

You will be Perceived by Others Based on What You Drink

An Old Fashion cocktail is a staple bourbon whisky drink for a gentleman. Depicted here is the ‘classic’ style Old Fashioned; there is also a ‘Contemporary’ or ‘Modern’ style usually served in Las Vegas casinos, where fruits such as blackberries are muddled into the bottom of the glass with sugar cubes instead of using simple syrup.

A drink is not simply done for pleasure; it is also a means of personality expression. The cocktail that you drink tells others what brand of pleasure (sometimes even punishment) you enjoy. For example a man who drinks a bourbon based cocktail such as an Old Fashioned or a Whisky Sour is viewed as a down to earth working man, whereas a man that frequently drinks Long Island Iced Tea or a Sex on the Beach cocktail is viewed as more feminine, as these are drinks frequently associated with frat girls. People who drink tequila or rum based drinks are often viewed as socialites, as these tend to be party drinks associated with vacationing in tropical locales. Wine drinkers, as well as those who partake of martinis, are viewed as more intellectual and sophisticated. Those who drink rarer spirits such as the green fairy absinthe are labeled as adventurous.

It should also be pointed out that certain spirits and wines better match certain kinds of foods; for example red wine and bourbons pair very well with steaks whereas tequila and sake go well with fish. Different kinds of beers also impact the taste of food as well. Using the correct spirit for the kind of meal you are having will greatly enhance the taste of it. Those who do not partake of alcoholic drinks may feel more moral for not doing so, however they are greatly missing out on the full cuisine experience that constitutes what fine dining is. It is better to not refrain from drinking and instead simply learn how to drink in moderation; this merely requires will power.

It should be said that you should of course drink something that you want to enjoy but harder liquors take time to develop a taste for. When I first started drinking whisky it took enduring a good few weeks of punishment for my tongue to accumulate to the taste of it, and I had the same experience with red wines. If you wish to use what you drink to say something about your personality it can take effort to accumulate your tongue to the brand of alcohol you wish to be known for if you are not naturally predisposed for it.

Responsible Drinking Rules for Bars and Pubs

Drinking responsibly is an important and simple concept requiring both self-control and restraint. The issue is many individuals lose their restraint after one or two drinks, often because they drink it as if it was water and do not pace themselves. There are steps you can take to drink responsibly while protecting your health and well being. You should not start drinking on an empty stomach because you will have more difficulty absorbing the alcohol properly and it will overwhelm your bloodstream, leading to early drunkenness. You should also be aware of your limit and know when to stop drinking.

By following the tips below you can avoid embarrassment and a hangover the next morning. 

Know What You are Drinking

If you are served a cocktail you have never had before, ask what ingredients are in your drink. No matter how delicious or sweet your cocktail, the potency can be extremely high. Consuming only one or two drinks in a period of 15 to 20 minutes can leave you drunk. You should always be aware of the alcohol content before you drink anything so you can pace your consumption. You can easily find out simply by asking.

Drinking on an Empty Stomach

You should not go to a bar, pub or party for cocktail drinking unless you have something to eat first. In many cases you may not know if any food will be available at the party you are attending, so it can be a good idea to at least have something in your belly before attending. Your body can absorb alcohol much easier after you have consumed protein and carbohydrates which means a nice cut of beef such as from a steak is a good counter to early drunkenness. Having some meat in you will slow down the effect of the alcohol in your bloodstream. Many sophisticated drinkers will have a meal before having a single drink and there is a reason almost every pub has a healthy sized burger on the menu.

Avoiding Caffeine-based Cocktails

Alcohol can make you feel tired and exhausted. One of the worst mistakes you can make while drinking is to have an energy drink or a cup of coffee in an attempt to counter the effect of feeling intoxicated. These two things will combine their effects on you, resulting in a massive energy burst leaving you feeling jittery and shaky, unbalancing you and ultimately just making you feel more sick later. Eventually, your body will crash which is a terrible way to end an evening.

If you absolutely must combine the two, do it toward the end of the evening as a single drink to end the gathering among friends. A Jägerbomb is no way to start the night but a good way to end it.

Understanding Your Limits

Always be aware of your limits. Hard alcohol will affect you more than beer. To ensure you drink safely and responsibly, knowing your limit is critical. If you experience any adverse effects including dizziness, slurring your words or blurry vision, stop drinking immediately.

You should also be mindful of your date’s limits as well. A gentleman shouldn’t allow a woman to over-indulge herself and don’t be too shy to ask her if she’d like to slow down. I once went on a date with a gorgeous girl who was so nervously trying to impress me that she drank an entire bottle of wine by herself trying to keep up with me. She puked all over her nice dress while I drove her back home. That was the end of the evening and a real misfortune, as she was so embarrassed we never had a second date.

Drinking and Driving

Drinking and driving is never okay in any circumstances. Choose another option such as asking a friend for a ride or calling a cab. Even if you do not feel drunk, your reactions are slower after you have been drinking. Worse, if for any reason you ever get pulled over by a cop after having a drink for something silly — like a burned out tail light on your car — the cop might make you do a sobriety test if it’s late at night as a matter of course. And if you’ve had any alcohol in the past hour you’ll likely fail that test even if you aren’t legally drunk. It’s best to not take any chances.

If you know you are going for a night on the town it’s best to leave your car at home and get an Uber, Lyft or a taxi. You’ll have a less stressful evening this way, too.

Mixing Different Alcohols

A few years back I had a ball with some pals downing Irish Car Bombs and doing tequila shots in a cozy bar in Hollywood. Typically I hold my liquor well and don’t have issues mixing alcohol but then I spotted a bottle of imported absinthe. I happen to love absinthe and decided I needed some of the green fairy to cap the night off. Boy was that a mistake! I ended that night sleeping within arms reach of the toilet on my bathroom floor.

Mixing different alcohols is a very bad idea. To avoid embarrassing yourself you should decide no more than two types of alcohol you’ll be partaking of then stick with it for that evening. Drinking a glass of wine, then a screwdriver and a shot of tequila will have an adverse effect on most people’s bodies.

Remain Hydrated

Alcohol draws out minerals and vitamins from your body leaving you dehydrated. You should consume a glass of water after every two or three alcoholic drinks. This will decrease your body’s susceptibility to dehydration.

Among some social circles a cocktail like a screwdriver or a tequila sunrise can be viewed as a feminine drink as they contain juice, but juice based drinks are useful and practical as they host a good amount of water content. The water helps keep you hydrated, allowing you to drink longer. I’ll often consume nothing but screwdrivers at a party so that I can be social much longer, as I can drink screwdriver after screwdriver all day long and never actually get too deeply intoxicated. This is very useful when attending any kind of networking event, or a long party such as a wedding.

Pacing Yourself

Don’t be a fish; avoid consuming your alcoholic beverages too fast. If you are drinking more than one alcoholic drink every hour, have something non-alcoholic in between. Too heavy of alcohol consumption will have an adverse effect on you and lead to early drunkenness and cut your evening off.

Be Aware of Your Hands

If you are attending a party or gathering where you only know one or two people, you may have a tendency to fidget with your hands. Drinking just to give your hands something to do is a bad idea. If you are feeling uncomfortable or restless, take a walk, have something to eat or hold onto a glass of water to slow down your consumption and relax.

What About Drinking Games?

Drinking games such as Kings Cup, Flip Cup and Thumper are often included at parties and social gatherings.

While these games can be enjoyable, these types of games are not considered socially responsible in more formal settings such as a networking event, because the participants of these games often become deeply drunk and too excitable. A better and more acceptable option for adding spice to a more formal party or gathering is including music, finger foods and good conversation.

Etiquette and Customs of Sophisticated Drinkers Around the World

Sophisticated drinkers are often found at social gatherings. This is a good place to meet new people and learn about different cultures. Understanding drinking etiquette and the customs of the event is important. Most countries have established rituals and acting improperly can cause offense. The specifics of the drinking culture are generally dependent on the country. Social etiquette encourages responsible drinking whether at a bar, party, social gathering or pub.

As you are likely to encounter many people from different walks of life throughout your life it can be helpful to know some of the various customs unique to drinking culture in different countris.

United States Drinking Culture Customs

If you do not want a glass of wine, turning your glass upside down is considered rude. You should hold your hand over your glass to decline. Your glass should always be held by the stem as opposed to the rim. If your meal includes a different wine for each course, not finishing each glass is acceptable. 

Drinking Culture Customs in Russia

Turning down a drink in Russia is considered rude. Offering or accepting a drink is a sign of friendship and trust. Declining a drink is the same as turning down the friendship offered. When drinking vodka, mixers are unacceptable. Every drop must be finished when a new bottle is opened. 

Drinking Culture Customs in Japan

When in Japan, pouring your own cocktails is considered bad etiquette. Glasses should only be filled once completely empty, with superiors and elders served first. According to the drinking culture among the Japanese by filling the glasses of others, your own glass will be filled in return. If there is not enough for everyone, you should not pour any drinks. 

Drinking Culture Customs in Hungary

Toasts should not be made in Hungary with beer because it is discourteous. This etiquette began after the Hungarian revolution was defeated by the Austrians in 1848 and celebrated with a lot of beer. 

Drinking Culture Customs in Kazakhstan

The national Kazakhstan drink is Kumis. This is made by fermenting horse milk. The local custom states any leftover kumis must be poured into the kumis jug to prevent waste. All kumis should be drunk once poured whenever possible. 

Drinking Culture Customs in the Czech Republic and Germany

When you are making toasts in either country, you must maintain eye contact until you have placed your glass on the table. This is considered an important sign of respect and trust. 

Drinking Culture Customs in the United Kingdom

Drinking culture in the United Kingdom mandates buying a round of cocktails or drinks for everyone in your group when you are at a pub. If you need to opt-out, you must do so as far in advance as possible. Opting out right before your turn is considered rude. You need to pay for your drinks directly at the bar. 

Drinking Culture Customs in Spain

Making a toast in Spain with water as opposed to wine is believed to result in seven years of poor sex. 

Drinking Culture Customs in Turkey

According to Turkish etiquette, you should order a bottle of Raki for everyone at your table as opposed to just a single glass for yourself. Raki is one of the most popular drinks in Turkey. 

Drinking Culture Customs in Peru

When you are in Peru, sharing a glass of beer with your friends is customary. You start by ordering one glass and a single beer. Each person pours a little beer into the glass before it is passed among the friends.

Drinking Culture Customs in France

You should never completely fill your glass in France because the French believes in savoring their drinks. You should not guzzle your drink, and good manners dictate women are served first. 

Drinking Culture Customs in China

The culture regarding drinking in China is complicated regarding gatherings and toasts. The three most important rules are superiors and elders must receive their drinks first, the glasses of the elders must be raised higher than the juniors and all glasses must be completely full. 

Drinking Culture Customs in Italy

In Italy wine is an important part of the drinking culture, with cocktails and hard alcohol more uncommon. As a man you are expected to drink during your meal, too.

Drinking Culture Customs in Sweden

As a host you should not make a toast in Sweden until every glass has been filled. It is considered polite for the men to wait until the women have put their glasses down before following suit. 

Drinking Culture Customs in The Netherlands

Taking a shot with a little head butt in the Netherlands is important for social etiquette. This is referred to as the Kopstootje and involves using a shot glass in the shape of a tulip filled with Genever. You must down your shot without the use of your hands. After you take your shot, you drink a beer to wash it down.

Drinking Culture Customs in Thailand

Thailand frowns on an empty glass. Unless you want your glass to be refilled constantly while attending a social gathering, do not empty it completely. To be considered a good host no glass is allowed to remain empty. 

Drinking Culture Customs in Greece

One of the most popular drinks in Greece is a liquor flavored with anise called ouzo. In most cases you will be served this drink as an aperitif with appetizers. Ouzo is usually served straight, although it can occasionally be mixed with a little ice or water. You need to take small sips because ouzo is extremely strong. 

We hope this guide on drinking culture with tips on proper etiquette will help you navigate your next social outing.


Carey Martell is Editor in Chief for The Millennial Gentleman. A thirty something modern man who is politically independent, non-religious but a firm believer in ideals of chivalry and traditional family values. Carey lives his life as a vagabond digital nomad traveling and living life to the fullest while managing his businesses remotely with a laptop and internet hotspot connection.