Best drinks etiquette for each type of event

Us Brits have an international fame for drinking a bit too much — and to be honest, it’s one that we don’t really care for that much. We carry it like a badge of honour. We enjoy our pints after work, mate. What can we say?

But when looking at the numbers, we’re far from making the top 10 of countries with the highest consumptions of alcohol. In fact, we’re at the 25th place after countries like Germany, France, Portugal and way behind the number one spot Belarus.

Drinking alcohol is a social activity that goes beyond just partying. But that doesn’t mean that anything goes all the time. If you’re having a business dinner with an associate, a glass of wine could be in order but a shot of tequila may be a bit too much — unless you close a really big deal, that is.

Below, you’ll find different kinds of events and what the best drinks (and amount) are for each scenario. Keep in mind that since we’re in the UK, we’ve made this list with British and European customs in mind.

Etiquette changes from territory to territory so if you’re not in the old continent, it would probably be a good idea to double check with a closer source before you order your CEO a Sex on The Beach at your next gathering.

Corporate events

Different kinds of corporate events require different drinks to be served. You may be throwing an end of year party to thank your employees for their hard work, launching a new business, exhibiting at a trade show, entertaining clients or hosting a conference.

All business events should serve soft drinks, such as water and juice. Tea and coffee may also be appropriate, depending on the time of day and type of event. If the event is early evening alcohol may be served, such as beer and wine. A glass of wine over lunch may also be suitable.

drinks for corporate events

If you are hosting an important business lunch make sure the wine matches your menu. Red with fish or white with sirloin – no way – unless of course, that’s what the client wants!

A thanks party or a business launch call for something a little more special so cava or champagne could be served. Sparkling wine is also a good substitute if this year’s budget doesn’t quite stretch to champagne.

Pro Tip* – if you are serving alcohol make sure there are snacks or canapés to soak it up. Alcohol on an empty stomach is not a good combination.

For a more flamboyant corporate event, the drinks could be linked to a theme, for example, your corporate colours, healthy smoothies, herbal teas, cocktails – use your imagination to come up with drinks ideas that link to your business. You could name a drink after your business and print t-shirts with a picture of it and the name as a promotional giveaway. Maybe there could be a competition for staff to think a cocktail named after your company?

Special occasions

Weddings, birthdays, parties, anniversaries all require drinks that are a little bit special. As well as the standard beer, wine, champagne and soft drinks consider how you could serve something different such as, Pimms, mocktails (no alcohol cocktails), smoothies served in pineapples or coconuts, homemade lemonade, pink lemonade, punch, sangria, spirits with fruity ice cubes, buck’s fizz, margaritas …

Weddings need glamorous drinks to make guests feel special. It’s easy to get creative and serve up a welcome drink to remember. Cava or even fizzy water can be dressed up with fruit, ice cubes containing edible flowers, name tags, and pretty straws.

drinks for weddings

For an unusual party drink idea why not get guests to pimp their drinks? Lay out the basics such as spirits, mixers, sparkling water, glasses and various decorations such as strawberries, melon, grapes, herbs, cherries, cocktail decorations, fun shaped ice cubes and straws, and leave the rest to the imagination.

At a more seasonal theme winter parties, you could serve mulled wine or hot chocolate. These are great for outdoor events such as Christmas carol singing, Halloween or firework parties. You could also provide soup in mugs for events at chillier times of the year – it counts as a drink.

Music events

Most big concerts won’t allow you to take drinks in with you, except water. Inside you can usually buy beer, wine and soft drinks.

It’s the same for music festivals, although many people will try and smuggle in drinks to save money.

drinks for music events

For the more sophisticated musical events like the theatre and the opera, the interval is the time to sip a glass of something like wine or champagne, although you won’t have time for more than one!

If you’re planning a musical event on a large scale beer, wine and soft drinks should cover it, but make sure you order enough or have a sale or return agreement with the supplier.

Fundraising events

You can sell drinks at events like country fayres, open days and festivals to make money for charity. A locally produced beer or wine tent is a good example of this.

10 Drink tips for events

To close the article we’ve prepared this awesome list summarising everything we’ve talked about above!

  1. At business events sip, don’t gulp – getting inebriated just isn’t cool in business.
  2. Think quality rather than quantity. A poor quality wine will tarnish your reputation. Serve a good wine at an event and you’ll be remembered as the host who wants to please their guests.
  3. Consider whether to serve drinks in plastic or glass, depending on the event. At a corporate event, you should NEVER serve drinks in plastic whereas at a music event glass will probably break health and safety rules.
  4. Forget shots for corporate events and sophisticated parties. They’re just too strong and drunken guests are no fun.
  5. Always have plenty of water available to drink at any event. It rehydrates and many people like to drink water to balance their alcohol intake, particularly at lunchtimes.
  6. If you are running an event make sure you have a licence to serve alcohol. This will usually be covered in venues like hotels and conference centres but is less likely at independent premises.
  7. Control the amount of alcohol available. Open bars can be a disaster. They are a no-go for business events (even the Christmas party) and really shouldn’t be allowed at weddings or private parties. There will always be someone who just doesn’t know when to stop and that’s when things can get out of hand.
  8. Offer non-alcoholic cocktails and wine at business events so the professionals can remain professional but still have a glass of something in their hand when networking.
  9. If there are kids at a wedding or party make sure there are enough child-friendly drinks on offer which don’t contain too many E-numbers.
  10. If you are serving alcohol at an event be careful of underage drinking. Both the event organiser and the adolescent could be fined if they are seen drinking alcohol. This is particularly relevant if organising student events or concerts.

Serving the right drink is helpful but it won’t do much if nobody is there to drink it! Our guide has 50 simple – actionable – tips that will help you spread the word and get to as many people as possible. You can get your hands on your own copy now. Completely free!

50 tips on how to get more attendees

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