The first rule of thumb is that if you don’t feel comfortable drinking, or simply don’t want to, then don’t. The days when folks are impressed with, or value alcoholic consumption are long past: virtually everyone will respect your decision.
The second rule is: Gauge the crowd you’re in. If you’re with co-workers who are truly your friends, then feel free to cut lose, and have fun. But with anyone else–clients, bosses, or folks who work for you–it’s important to keep your wits about you, and don’t say or do anything that you’ll later regret. And that means, being careful not to drink so much that you act differently than you normally would. In these instances, you need to be able to carry on an intelligent conversation, and to remember what was said by you and others. The conversation in social situations can often be as important–or even more so–as any other time. You want to be sure you’re at your best to catch the nuances of what other people mean or don’t mean to reveal, and present yourself as an amiable, yet professional, companion.
The third rule: Most young professionals know their liquor better than their wine. But many young professionals pretend to know their wines and look stupid doing it. If you are asked to pick the wine or order your own then just be honest about your preferences, and ask for a suggestion if you want wine. Trying to pretend you know what you’re talking about only decreases your credibility and maturity.
The fourth rule: Hold your drink in your left hand so you are prepared to shake a hand.
The fifth rule: If you have a drink in your hand, pay close attention to your voice. Alcohol affects everyone differently–especially their voices. Some people talk more, get higher pitched voices, and interrupt more. If you tend to dominate conversations, have a higher pitched voice (like myself), or have a bad habit of interrupting people, it might be assumed that you are drunk simply because you have a drink in your hand. Be conscious of your weaknesses and pay closer attention to the body motions that may be giving off the wrong signals while carrying around a drink.
The sixth and final rule: Be the first one to exit the party: Leave people wanting more. When you are young and the first to leave a get-together that includes alcohol, it shows life balance, dedication, and control.