Let me start with how much of a stretch this is for me to write about women drinking, but I have interviewed a number of female associates and CEO clients to gain some insight. There are a few guidelines they shared that are worth noting. I want to be clear that I am not perpetuating some of these situations, but trying to inform so women in a business situation can make good, heads-up decisions.
Never drink too much in a business situation. Yes, that’s true for the men as well, but unfortunately repercussions for women that cross this one can be more severe. It’s just too easy to end up in a bad situation and impact your business or personal reputation with a few drinks on board. Have fun, hang with the team, just manage your consumption. No, it isn’t fair, and yes, it is better than it was years ago, but you’d give the same advice to your daughter.
You Aren’t Getting Handed the Wine List. I’ve asked many women what they do when handed the wine list. Most laugh at me. Neither waiters nor your dining companions will hand you the wine list, even if you are paying – it’s a sad situation. Most women have developed a way of non-verbally communicating to the server that they are paying and you should hand the list to me if you want a decent tip! The other move is to be known as the group wine person and people will naturally hand you the list to get a good pick (because most people don’t know how to order, hence this book). The final strategy is to ask the table who knows wine and give them the list, delegating the task. It maintains a control position if you are the boss, but everyone can have the best experience.
You Can’t Drink as Much as the Men. Okay, this one isn’t a universal verity, but most women are simply not as heavy as the men and on that basis alone, they take less alcohol to become inebriated. Men have been taking advantage of this for years, telling the woman they have to match drink for drink. The smart woman doesn’t take this bait – this is the very definition of bringing a knife to a gun fight, to paraphrase Sean Connery. There are exceptions of women that can match the men and this is a superpower because no man expects it. Use the force for good.
Leave the Party Early. We’ve all heard the phrase, no good decisions get made after 11 PM. The reason we have heard it is because it is true. Drinks, fine. Dinner, fine. After-dinner drink, one and done. Frankly, the guys should head to bed after one after-dinner drink too, so this advice isn’t different for them. Those genius business ideas scribbled on a soggy cocktail napkin after too many drinks don’t make any sense at breakfast anyway. On a related note, if you are at an event and headed to your room, it’s ideal to head out with a very trusted friend, preferably female, just to avoid any stupid made-up gossip.
Have a Cocktail You Like. One of the ways people measure each other when professionally drinking is their choice of cocktail. Yes, it’s not fair. There are two choices on how to go here. The first is to have a signature cocktail and it can be as feminine as you want. I had a male client that ordered margaritas no matter where he went – it was his drink – it was kind of a party drink so arguably not a business cocktail – but it was his. I have a friend that is a very popular public speaker and she does champagne – always – and if you’ve ever met Neen, it’s brand consistent. So make a Pink Lady or a Cosmo or a Appletini yours! The other approach is to have a drink that signals more masculinity, like a Martini or even a Manhattan. It lets the guys know that you don’t take any guff.
This is a delicate topic and most of the advice is pretty similar to that for a man, but a few areas deserve special focus for a woman to be a skilled professional drinker.