How Many Drinks Should I Have At A Business Meeting or Happy Hour?

Business meetings aren’t always boring, especially if there’s booze involved. Regardless of your field, it’s likely you’ll convene at a bar at some point in your career.

When it comes to drinking with coworkers, potential clients, or your current customers, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind to ensure the business meetings and happy hours go well. I can tell you from firsthand experience, there is nothing worse than hangover anxiety: asking yourself obsessively what you said, why you said it, and wondering what your client thought of it.

At the bottom of this blog post there is a link to a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) chart and a quick reference that will highlight the “optimum” inebriation for creative thought and, quite possibly, the key to a successful hour of happiness or an important business meeting. But before you go straight to the answer, take a quick look at the research behind it.

Drinking with Your Career in Mind

 Participating in company happy hours and hosting business meetings at bars can boost your career.

Participating in company happy hours and hosting business meetings at bars can boost your career.

Drinking isn’t all bad, in fact, research published in Science Direct suggests that the more drinking sessions one participates in, the better chances of that individual holding a higher ranking position at their company. In addition to bolstering your career, your indulgence in a couple cocktails could result in good friendships, stronger work connection, new and loyal clients, and a positive interlude in your work week.

Drinking Increases Creativity

Alcohol affects our working memory, meaning it changes the way we think, what we think about, and how we think about it. As a result, a few pulls off the bottle can lead to innovation, better collaborations, and deeper artistic expression.

Under the influence of alcohol, your attention span is not so much shortened as it is altered. Thus, your focus will ebb and flow on a range of thoughts that you may not have otherwise conceived in your sober state.

There is no doubt that your analytical problem-solving abilities will diminish when you’re drinking. However, sometimes logic is precisely what gets in the way of a solution. It may seem counterintuitive, but, when your brain blocks out all the peripheral information around you, it is simultaneously reducing the number of sources that could potentially provide you with a creative solution.

Highly analytical thinkers (those with a strong working memory) who are skilled at staying focused, are more likely to fixate on a singular element of a problem instead of looking at the whole picture. If you fall into this category, research from Psychology Today suggests having a drink or two. It could be just the thing to get you thinking outside the box (and coloring outside the lines).

The Research to Prove it

 Research proves that a couple of drinks can make you more creative.

Research proves that a couple of drinks can make you more creative.

Medical Daily asserts that alcohol does make you more creative. Moreover, The Newt/Judge Experiment even put this concept to the test.

Under a three hour deadline, two groups were given a marketing assignment. One team was furnished with spirits while the other was not.

Not only was the intoxicated crew more productive in terms of the quantity of ideas (59 to 48), but when judged by a panel of top creative directors, the concepts were also ranked as being higher quality. It should be noted that these judges were completely unaware of what ideas came from which group.

In another study conducted by the University of Illinois, researchers found that alcohol impairment at a BAC of around .075 increased creative problem-solving abilities. Each participant took the Remote Associates Test (RAT) to examine their word association abilities after drinking. Those who were mildly inebriated scored higher and solved problems faster than their sober counterparts.

How Does Alcohol Affect Males and Females Differently

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), women appear to be more vulnerable to the adverse consequences of alcohol use than men. Research also suggests that females are more susceptible to alcohol-related organ damage, trauma from traffic crashes, and other alcohol-related problems.

Drink for drink, at the same body weight, a woman will be significantly more impaired than a man. But why?

Research shows that males and females metabolize alcohol differently. Generally, women have less body water than men, resulting in higher concentrations of booze in the blood. On the flip side, females metabolize alcohol faster than males.

With Great Drinks Comes Great Responsibility

Do's:

Know when to leave: It’s as simple as establishing a time to go prior to reaching the bar. Moreover, if you’re finding you’re starting to push your limits, it’s time to bounce. In this scenario, call a Lyft, Uber, taxi service, or a friend to drive you home safely.

Think before you speak: This is more easily said than done. Try actively listening to the conversation instead of being a part of it.

 Make sure your drink responsibly.

Make sure your drink responsibly.

Have something in your stomach: Going out hungry is a recipe for disaster. Get some grub to soak up the booze. If you need to eat at the bar, grab an appetizer and share the wealth. Everyone likes some finger food while they’re tipping one back.

DO NOT'S:

Don’t gossip: While it feels good to get things off your chest, the bar is not the best place to start venting about coworkers or griping about your boss. Keep your conversations positive: positivity breeds positivity.

Don’t talk shop the whole time: You’re not at your desk, so don’t talk about work the whole time. If you’re at a business meeting, keep it professional, but don’t be afraid to show off your personality.

Don’t drink and drive: The last thing anyone needs is to get charged with a DUI, or even worse, to get hurt or to hurt someone else. There are so many ways to catch a safe ride home. Make sure you get an Uber, Lyft, taxi, or a sober friend to drive you home.

And The Answer Is...

It can be concluded that between .07 and .08 BAC is optimal for creative problem solving tasks and still keeping a relatively level head. This means about two drinks in the first hour and one drink an hour from there on out. That being said, you should also know that at this stage, your driving skills are affected! No one likes a “creative” driver…

Guys at .07-.08:

  • 100-160 lbs.: one to two drinks

  • 180-240 lbs.: three to four drinks

Gals at .07-.08:

  • 90-140 lbs.: one to two drinks

  • 160-240 lbs.: two to three drinks

  • One drink is 1.25 oz. of 80 proof liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 5 oz. of table wine

  • It take approximately 40 minutes for your BAC to drop by .01%

  • BAC will vary according to gender, weight, age, emotional status, how much you've eaten, alcohol tolerance, medications, etc.

*Adapted from BloodAlcoholCalculator.org

Some Great Drinking Quotes to leave you with

“I drink to make other people more interesting.” ― Ernest Hemingway

“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.” ― Benjamin Franklin

“There are two kinds of people I don't trust: people who don't drink and people who collect stickers.” ― Chelsea Handler

“Good people drink good beer.” ― Hunter S. Thompson

“Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall. I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you're allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It's like killing yourself, and then you're reborn. I guess I've lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now.” ― Charles Bukowski

“When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day, what else can change your ideas and make them run in a different plane like whisky?”— Ernest Hemingway