What (not) to drink on a first date

We've typically been a nation that's approached dating with the rather Anglo-Saxon approach of getting a little sloshed, "hooking up" at a party and dealing with the consequences later.

In these days of match-making sites and cosy, date-friendly bars, the fine art of courtship is once more a valuable skill. In one brief evening you are expected to woo and impress a potential paramour. Alcohol can still play its part as a social lubricant on date night, but it's important to choose your tipple with care.

The literary maven, critic and satirist, Dorothy Parker once wrote: “I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I'm under the table, after four I'm under my host.” While some readers might not object to be taken advantage of in such a manner, Parker's wisdom helps remind us that keeping one's head is probably a wise idea.

Having watched many dates succeed - and more than a few go awry - from my handy vantage point from behind various bars, I've developed a few ideas on what one should and should not drink when on a date.

Mid-strength mixes

If you are meeting your date at a bar (and not the type that solely serves juices, chia seed smoothies and protein shakes), asking for a light beer or low-alcohol drink might just show a little bit too much restraint. There are plenty of mixes, though, that can appear to be a serious drink whilst helping you maintain your wits.

One of my favourites is the Americano – sweet vermouth and Campari topped with soda. If you aren't going for the continental thing, even a tall gin and tonic contains about 30 per cent less alcohol than a standard schooner of beer. Even manlier yet is a Cuba Libre – for those who haven't watched Cocktail, that's a rum and coke with a wedge of lime in it.

It's probably a wise idea to stick to something that you're used to drinking, too – don't start ordering martinis, high-octane cocktails or neat Scotch if that is not your thing.

Champagne needs a champagne budget


It's a trap that's easy to fall into on a first date – avoid going straight to the top shelf or calling for a bottle of vintage champagne - unless that's an everyday affair for you. It can make you look needlessly showy and could also make your date a little uncomfortable that you might a) be expecting something in return or b) going to suggest splitting the whopping bill.

Neither should you be cheap – be yourself, be generous, but don't be needlessly decadent. You're not on the set of The Great Gatsby.

Managing the wine list

It's all well and good knowing your way around a wine list, but make sure that you've consulted your date on his or her wine preferences. A jammy Barossa shiraz might be your favourite tipple, the bottle might be from an exceptional year, and it might pair beautifully with the lamb backstrap you've ordered, but if your date is after a zesty riesling to go with seared scallops … ordering wines by the glass means you both get what you want, and you're free to focus on learning more about your companion.

Not so hot scotch

If you've counted the number of whisky posts on this blog, it'll come as no surprise to you that I love Scotch. It's perceived to be a very masculine drink – Wolverine would look wouldn't look out of place drinking it – so there's no issue there with your man brand. Scotch, empirically, is also seeing a growth in consumption amongst the fairer sex.

Where Scotch can become problematic on date night is when you are consuming heavily-peated, smoky whiskies that give you, well, peat breath. If you're going for the whole Captain Haddock from Tintin look this might be acceptable, but consuming loads of smoky whisky with a date who is not partaking can be as bad as eating raw garlic.

What more advice can I give you? Don't get drunk, avoid drinks with umbrellas and survive to date another day.

What has been your biggest ordering blunder on a date?