Drinking on Dates
"Want to grab a drink?"
It's a question that rolls off the tongue so effortlessly. Mood lighting, vibrant social surroundings, and access to liquid courage: It's no wonder that bars are so often chosen as first-date spots. In fact, this type of locale is so popular that there are entire articles written about where you can take your date instead of a bar.
Going for drinks on a first date does have its perks: For example, it can be a simple way to enjoy a little social lubrication without being locked into a four-course meal with someone you barely know. But just like any other aspect of the dating world, there are rules and etiquette to consider – especially when it comes to alcohol.
We peeked inside over 1,002 people's dating lives to learn more about their first-date drinking habits. Read on to find out how much people are drinking on dates, how alcohol factors into subsequent dates, how men and women navigate boozy consent, and much more.
While indulging in a shot or two may sound tempting as a way to diffuse pre-date jitters, it's probably best to abstain from drinking beforehand. Sixty-three percent of respondents followed this etiquette tip, but 20 percent did indeed opt for a single drink to help them loosen up.
The booze began to flow at higher volumes during the actual dates. Two drinks was the magic number for 38 percent of respondents, putting them just above the national average of 1.35 drinks per day. Another 26 percent chose to sample just one alcoholic beverage, while others were less cautious: 13 percent sipped on three drinks, while 4 percent opted for four and five drinks respectively.
Among those who chose to consume alcohol both before and during a date, two drinks was once again the most popular amount. The number of single-drink and alcohol-free respondents decreased in this category, while the number of people sipping on three or more drinks went up.
From Shots to Sheets
When it's time to let loose, alcohol is known to have a powerful effect on our inhibitions – lowering them, that is. Not only that but also one study found the simple act of smelling alcohol was a gateway to less inhibited behavior.
Following suit, our study revealed a strong correlation between the amount of alcohol consumed on a date and the likelihood it ended in sex.
Just 10 percent of drink-free dates ended in sex, compared to 51 percent when five or more drinks were imbibed. The biggest jump happened between three and four drinks, at which point the rate of sexual encounters jumped from 24 percent to 41 percent.
Take Me Out –Again
The relationship between drinks and second dates was a little less linear than the link between alcohol and sex. Among our respondents, moderation revealed itself to be a key part of landing a second date.
Those who indulged in an average of two drinks were most likely to secure a second date, at a rate of 28 percent, followed by 19 percent of people who had just one. Consuming three drinks led to a slightly better chance of landing a second date than having no alcohol at all, but anything over four drinks had the lowest rate of success.
While drinking alcohol responsibly could sometimes play a role, there are many other avenues to be explored if you're looking to lock in a second rendezvous, including opting for a dinner date, meeting up during a weekday, and chatting for at least a week before the first date.
Understanding consent, how to ask for it, and how to recognize it is the bedrock of any budding romance – especially one of a sexual nature. These cues are all the more important when alcohol is thrown into the mix, at which point people's ability to consent to certain acts can become hindered.
The majority of both men and women said that after five drinks, they would be unfit to consent to sex, although many more male respondents – 79 percent versus 52 percent of women – considered this to be their upper limit. Women's responses were a bit more nuanced, with 22 percent listing four drinks as their consent cutoff, compared to just 9 percent of men.
Studies have revealed women to be more sensitive to alcohol and its effects overall, shedding some light on this discrepancy. Sixty-one percent of women reported their date would need to consume five drinks or more to be considered unable to give consent.
Men, however, were more cautious: 49 percent said five drinks meant an inability to consent, and another 19 said three and four drinks respectively. When it came to the number of drinks both genders did consume on a first date, however, men were slightly more likely to have four or five drinks on average, whereas more women consumed three, one, or no drinks.
There are quite a few ways to wriggle your way out of a bad date – some more ethical than others. But for those who don't feel right running for the door, alcohol may seem like a readily available alternative.
Among male respondents, 31 percent chose to ramp up their consumption if they felt their date was going not-so-well. Another 36 percent changed nothing about their drinking patterns, and 33 percent had less than they normally would.
Women's reactions were a little more varied: A more prominent minority (25 percent) drank the same amount as always, but a chart-topping 43 percent decreased their alcohol intake on a bad date.
Women's inclination to curb their drinking may be attributed to a general effort to keep their wits about them in the presence of a stranger. Recent police data from the U.K. revealed a 450-percent spike over five years in rapes related to online dating specifically, 85 percent of which were suffered by women. Meeting up with someone you don't know can be risky – and the more sober you are, the better off you may be.
Slightly more men than women preferred the person at the opposite end of the table be sipping on a drink, which may reflect male perception that a woman's receptivity to sex increases with her alcohol intake since alcohol compromises judgment. Women may more so prefer their dates remain sober to minimize probability of dates who may become threatening in their pursuits under alcoholic influence. A recent 2017 study found that alcohol consumption was associated with aggressive dating behaviors.
Best practices for drinking on a date are largely similar to any of life's other indulgences: Moderation is key. Most of our respondents preferred to limit themselves to two drinks on a first date, which was incidentally the same number of drinks that led to the highest rate of future second dates.
Whether a date was going poorly had limited effect on respondents' consumption, although women were inclined to drink less than usual during a botched encounter. The general consensus was that five drinks were the cutoff for consent-giving abilities, and as the volume of alcohol consumed went up, our respondents reported higher instances of their dates ending in sex.
If drinking on a date, with friends, at family events, or on your own is beginning to feel like a "must" rather than an option, though, it might be time to seek help. Alcohol.org can provide resources about addiction, drugs and alcohol, and treatment from A to Z. Visit our website to learn more.
We surveyed 1,002 people from Amazon's Mechanical Turk about drinking on dates. Fifty-one percent of our participants were women, and 49 percent were men. Our survey contained an attention check question. If respondents demonstrated they were clearly not paying attention, their submission was excluded from our analysis.
Feel free to share the images and information on this page freely. When doing so, we ask that you kindly attribute Alcohol.org so your readers may learn more about the study, data, and view any additional assets.