How Much to Drink on Dates (and Still Have Fun)

Here's 4 tips for how to balance dating and drinking, and still have fun!

There is some lively debate as to what constitutes a *date* in the modern romantic landscape. For many people, getting drinks is a go-to first date.

At the very least, I think we can all agree that alcohol tends to play a prominent role in dating for better or for worse (I’m in the “for better” camp). That’s not to say, however, there aren’t risks associated with drinking while dating.

The reason I love drinking, and particularly on dates, is that it tends to loosen us up a bit and help us relax, which is no small thing when I’m trying to impress a beautiful woman. But there’s nothing impressive about a dude (or dudette) who drinks too much on a first date, of course. I have had the unfortunate experience of being on both sides of a date gone wrong.

So with that in mind, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way on how to ensure that your drinking while dating is setting you up for success:

1. If you can’t date without getting sloppy, then something’s not quite right.

A few years back, I finally set up a date to go to a Minnesota Twins baseball game with a longtime crush. She had worked as a bartender for a number of years, so I wasn’t paying close attention to how much I was drinking, assuming she would be imbibing as much or more than I was. 

Much to my surprise, she was curbing her drinking and was turned off by mine. In her own words, more or less: “If I wanted to hang out with drunk guys, I would just go to work.” Suffice it to say, she didn’t go out with me again.

I was pretty crushed, especially because I had only myself to blame. Quite frankly, I should want to be on top of my game when I’m on a date, and getting sloppily drunk isn’t that.

I know the type of woman I want to date is the type of woman who’s going to be impressed by virtues (like temperance) and turned off by vices (like drunkenness). 

At least, I know that when I’m sober. Introduce a drink or two too many, and not only do I begin to forget how to impress a woman, I may also be tempted to lower my standards of what sort of woman I’m seeking — not ideal.

2. Make memories, not ragrets.

I don’t know about you, but I get really social when I drink — even more so than usual — which can certainly help conversation on a nervous first date. But it can also get me into trouble.

For instance, under normal circumstances, I’m pretty cognizant that open texting hours end at about 9 or 10 p.m. When I’ve had a few, I tend to forget that an 11:30 p.m. text to a woman will likely be ignored because, at best, she’s sound asleep or, at worst, suspicious of my intentions. With that in mind, a priest once gave me this advice: if you’ve had enough to drink that you shouldn’t drive, that might be reason enough not to text, either.

It makes a lot of sense in the context of dating, actually. The reason we don’t drink and drive is because alcohol impairs our ability to perform normal functions well. In fact, the first part of the brain that alcohol relaxes is the part responsible for our moral reasoning. In other words, just like our ability to drive is impaired by drinking, so is our ability to date (and text…).

Dating can be tricky enough as it is, and there are plenty of us who have experienced heartbreak even without the help of alcohol. Being smart about how much I drink when I’m on a date — or even when I consider texting a crush — can go a long way to help prevent romantic regret.

3. Go in with a plan

With that in mind, it makes sense as a rule of thumb to try to keep your blood alcohol level under the legal limit when on dates, even if you don’t plan to drive. That means for the average man (at 200 lbs. or so) would want to have no more than 3–4 “standard” drinks over the course of 2–3 hours and the average woman (at about 165 lbs.) no more than 2–3 drinks over that same time period.

If that sounds like a no-brainer, consider that in the U.S., a “standard drink” is a 12 oz. beer (at 5% alcohol), a 5–6 oz. glass of wine (at 10–12%) or a drink with 1.5 oz. of hard liquor (at 40% alcohol). For those of us who like craft cocktails, they tend to average 2–2.5 oz. of liquor, which makes them count for more like 1.5 standard drinks, while an old-fashioned can come in even higher. Meanwhile, if you’re drinking a pint of beer, that’s 16.9 oz., which is already over 1.4 standard drinks and closer to 1.5 or more if its abv is elevated, as is typical with IPAs and the like.

Want get a better idea of how your body is influenced by alcohol? DrinkFox.com is a helpful reference, as is the free “R-U-Buzzed” app for your phone. I’m certainly not suggesting that anybody needs to whip out a calculator after every drink, but I can vouch that it absolutely helps to have a plan before you head out on a date.

For me? I typically start with a beer even though I tend to prefer the fancy smancy cocktails, because I know I drink beer more slowly. If I have a second drink, it might be a manhattan or a gin and tonic, and if I have a third, it’s typically another beer. Not only does it help naturally pace my drinking, it’s also helps to stay intentional.

As for shots, they can be a fun way to celebrate — or accelerate drunkenness and aggravate your ability to think clearly. And while some guys may have perfectly benign, celebratory intentions, let’s be honest: “Let’s take a shot,” often means, “I think I have a better chance with you if you’re drunk.” So tread carefully.

4. Dating should get you closer to marriage, even if this particular date isn’t *the one.*

Looking back on that baseball date, it was clear that my only objective on the date was to have fun and enjoy myself. Dating should be fun, don’t get me wrong. But in this case, my narrow objective kept me from paying attention to whether my date was having any fun. And I definitely wasn’t in any position to appraise our relationship and discern if we were a good fit.

For those of us who have marriage as an end goal, dating can either get us closer to that goal or further from it. Even a prom date in high school can help us learn how to be a lady or a gentleman, treat your date well, and better understand what sort of qualities you’re looking for in a partner, and which ones you aren’t.

And so long as your beer, wine, or old-fashioned doesn’t interfere with your and your date’s abilities to enjoy your time together, discern your relationship properly, and act properly chivalrous, it can be a great companion along the way.

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