How to Turn Down a Drink

January 15, 2012 at 5:39 am

Our sincere thanks to WikiHow

When in a social situation, it is possible that you will be offered an alcoholic drink by your host. Once people get into the party mode they may be reluctant to take “No thanks” for an answer, but you have your reasons. How do you turn down the offer without seeming like a killjoy?



1. Decline gracefully. Sometimes a polite word will do the trick, and there’s no need to go into detail.


2. Decline, and offer a polite excuse.

  • “No, thank you. I’m not drinking this evening.”
  • “No, thank you. I don’t drink.”
  • “No, thank you. I have to drive my friends home.”
  • “No, thank you. I have to drive myself home.”
  • “No, thank you. I forgot my designated driver.”
  • “No, thank you. I’m not thirsty at the moment.”
  • “Thanks, but I’m pacing myself.”
  • “Thanks, but I’m still hung over from last night.”
  • If they insist, then you must insist as well. “Thank you for the offer, but I’d really rather not.”
  • “Thank you, but no. Perhaps another time.”
  • “I’m fine right now, I may take you up on it in a little bit,” thus ambiguously deferring the drink until a later time (or not at all).


3. Carry a decoy. If what you are avoiding is alcohol, ask instead for soda, juice, lemonade, coffee, tea, non-alcoholic sparkling cider, or water. Even bars keep these items around. Whether or not you drink it, having a drink can stop people from offering another.

  • If you’re in a bar, ask for a soda or seltzer in a short glass (if they

    serve sodas in larger ones), add a stir straw instead of the fat straw and a slice of lime or lemon. No one will know. And if your usual drink is a mixed drink – say a cranberry vodka, just ask for a cranberry juice. It looks the same in ice. (This is also good, if you’re trying to cut someone off at a bar without them noticing. After the first couple of drinks you can’t taste the alcohol anymore, anyway.)

  • Many mixed drinks can be ordered “virgin,” which is to say without the alcohol. Try a virgin piña colada or virgin daiquiri.
  • Order a non-alcoholic mixed drink by name. Some, such as the Shirley Temple and the Roy Rogers, are well known for being non-alcoholic. Others are less well known, with names that could keep your friends guessing unless they’re longtime bar-goers or are themselves bartenders.


4. Enlist allies. In a bar or restaurant, discreetly inform the wait staff that you won’t be drinking, or that you are avoiding alcohol. Ask the bartender to omit the alcohol if anyone buys you a drink. You can even agree in advance on what you’d like when you order your “usual”. This is especially helpful with heavy drinking friends or friends who buy shots.


5. Keep busy. Make conversation, enjoy the meal or appetizers, take photos with (or of) other guests, or have a go at dancing. Any of these activities will give you, your hosts, and your friends something to do besides try to give you drinks.


6. Offer to be the designated driver. Tell them you will have to drive later, or that you’re the designated driver for a group. Better yet, volunteer as a designated driver in advance of drink offers. Most people will think you are choosing to not drink because you’re driving instead of choosing to drive because you’re not drinking. A sensible host should drop the issue right then and there.


7. Explain your reasons for not drinking or make a convincing excuse. While a simple “No, thank you” should be enough, some hosts are particularly insistent, and in some cultures, to refuse a drink outright is often seen as ungrateful and insulting. Offer a reason or excuse and defuse the tension. Just be firm and don’t waver, or do anything to make it look like you might be convinced to change your mind. A firm reason, even a fabricated or humorous one, may persuade somebody that your refusal to drink is more than simple reluctance or indecision. Here are some common excuses/reasons that work wonders:

  • You’re trying to lose weight, cut calories, etc.
  • Your doctor advised you not to (interacts badly with medicines, etc.)
  • Lent
  • You’re allergic
  • You have a big day tomorrow
  • You have an early morning appointment
  • You have to drive home
  • You’re feeling dehydrated or under the weather
  • You’re recovering, or still sick and on antibiotics or other medication that can’t be combined with alcohol
  • You had too much the night before and can barely stand to be in the same room with it
  • You’re feeling nauseated. It may be something you ate.
  • You’re pregnant. If the person is a stranger, then they will never know you lied (unless you’re a man)
  • You’re training for the Olympics. If your host has a sense of humor, they’ll laugh (unless you look like an athlete, in which case they’ll ask what you’re training for). Then you can go on to tell a funny story about that time you fancied yourself a gymnast on the playground’s monkey bars…
  • You’re a recovering alcoholic. If you are upfront about being a recovering alcoholic, you may find they are not only apologetic but also become supportive and more considerate.
  • It’s contrary to your religious beliefs. If you have religious or other firmly held belief that drinking alcohol is wrong, simply say so. If your host is unwilling to respect your religious belief, you might as well know that up front. Some people do not recommend saying anything to the effect of abiding by your beliefs, asserting that your beliefs are a personal decision and that your host and other guests might feel insulted because by saying that you’re trying to do the right thing by not drinking, you’re implying that they are doing the wrong thing by consuming alcohol. Worse yet, those who make this recommendation point to the possibility that a heated conversation about ethics and religion may ensue. However, if your reason for not drinking is your religious belief, it’s hard to see that lying about that is nearly as polite as it is hypocritical. You should be able to stick to your beliefs without pushing them on others. If not, you may not be ready for situations where others will be consuming alcohol.

If you simply don’t enjoy drinking, people may have a hard time understanding this, so you may be better off making an excuse.



8. Take one and hold it. If you absolutely must take the drink, remember that you are not required to drink it. If you’ve already resisted the drink, then the fact that you carry the drink around without sipping or quietly abandon it untouched should come as no surprise to your host.


9. Dump it. If you feel uncomfortable or tempted holding the drink, or if you’ve been holding it for a long time, get rid of it. Use discretion when dumping an unwanted drink. Keep in mind that not having a glass in hand will probably be noticed after a while and you’ll start the refusal process all over again.

  • Offer it to a friend and see if they’ll take it. Waste not, want not.
  • If you’re at someone’s home and have access to the outside, you can dump the drink outside. Try to dump just the liquid and carry the glass with the ice and remnants of the drink around.
  • Excuse yourself to the restroom and pour out the liquid in the sink.
  • If you’ve been offered a can of beer, take it into the bathroom and pour it out. Then refill the can with cold water. They can’t see the contents so no one will know. You can be seen sipping it and when offered a fresh beer, you can tell them that the can’s full and you’re not ready for another one, yet. One can, carefully and discreetly refilled, can fool people all night.
  • Never pour a drink in a houseplant or potted plant. It could kill the plant, create a sticky mess, or attract bugs.
  • Set your drink in an area with many empties and walk away.


10. Remember that it’s not you; it’s them. If somebody is pushing alcohol on you after you have declined, then they are the ones not being polite. Many people choose to avoid alcohol for a variety of reasons, which are nobody’s business but their own. You do not owe them any further explanation, especially if you’ve already mentioned a reason or excuse. Don’t let anyone pressure you into having a drink, and don’t allow them put you in a position in which you have to “make a case” for why you’re not drinking. If the host continues to pester you about the issue, feign a sickness, thank your host for a wonderful time (i.e. lie), and leave.


11. Don’t attend future parties like this. If you have a hard time being firm, or this host has a hard time taking “no” for an answer, just don’t go next time. When friends ask why you aren’t attending, tell the truth. Say, “Well, last time I went, it seemed all anyone cared about was seeing me drink. I don’t care to party that way (with alcohol or drugs) any more. Until I feel sure that my “no” will be accepted and I won’t be badgered all night, I’m not going to go.” That should take care of the problem, because your friends will pass what you said on to the host, and in the future, care will be taken not to offend you in this way again.


Learn how to turn down a drink politely!

  • People choose not to drink for a variety of reasons. Your reason is really nobody’s concern but your own, and a simple “no, thank you” is more than sufficient.
  • Most real friends will accept “no” graciously. If you don’t drink alcohol at all, offer to be an “on-call” designated driver for parties. It gives you a reason to avoid alcohol, and most friends are willing to pay for your gas to avoid driving while drunk.
  • Tell a close friend or two and work the buddy system. Sometime you just need backup to avert a pushy host, someone to mix you that non-alcoholic drink or someone to change the subject before the host insists…again.
  • If possible, give the host advance notice you won’t be drinking. Give them whatever reason you’d like, but let them know you’re a non-drinker before the gathering. Ask if there will be non-alcoholic items or volunteer to bring something.
  • Ask your host whether a mixed punch or other drink offering contains alcohol. If you tell your host before the party, they may be willing to set aside some non-alcoholic punch for you to drink.



  • If you believe you are in any sort of danger, leave immediately and don’t worry about minding your manners in the process.
  • If you do not trust the person offering the drink, do not take it. Unscrupulous people can and sometimes do put things in drinks that should not be there.
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel like a drink is being forced upon you by someone you don’t trust, either don’t take it or take it and ignore it or conveniently “lose” it.
  • If you are not a drinker, don’t hang around anyone who would force a drink on you.
  • Remember! It’s better to be safe than sorry!
  • Never ruin property or plants to dispose of a drink.