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What Should You Drink on a First Dinner Date
(from a bartender)

I have worked as a server, cocktail waitress, and bartender in six different restaurants, from dive bars with red solo cups to fine dining experiences. I have seen a lot of first dates, and (unfortunately) I’ve also been on a lot of first dates. If you run a bit anxious like me, you might find yourself wondering what to order on a first date. Here are my recommendations;


  1. No Seltzers or Miller High LIfe 

A first date is all about introductory impressions, and since a drink is usually the first thing people order, it can say a lot about you and the tone you want to set for the evening. If you are at a nice restaurant (or anywhere) and you want to make a good first impression, do not order a White Claw or a Miller High Life. When Miller High Life says they’re the ‘champange’ of beer, they really mean they’re a wine cooler in a bottle. I think Miller High life tastes fine, but I don’t want someone’s first impression of me to be, ‘I don’t care how this date goes at all,’ which is what you’re saying if you go to a steak house and ask what flavors of high noon they have. Just don’t.


     2. To Wine or not to Wine

A glass of red wine is a great first drink date at a nicer restaurant. The problem is that some people know A LOT about wine, and if you don’t you might accidentally invite a conversation you don’t want to have. This could be a good thing, I sometimes like to know if my date is a wine snob so I can find an excuse to leave. But if I like my date and I want to give the impression that I am an intelligent choice, a wine list can be intimidating. I could write pages on wine, but the short guide is this, order a merlot instead of the cabernet. It’s basic enough that your date likely won’t question why you ordered it, but it’s a step above asking for the house cab. Don’t order the most expensive wine on the list, but don’t order the cheapest one either. If you’re really stressing out about it, you can always ask the waiter what they recommend. However, if you do this, make sure you sneak a peek at your date to see if they have any visible reactions. For example, if the waiter recommends a wine and your date cringes, thank the waiter for the suggestion and say you need another minute to decide. If your date does something really dramatic such as scoffing or barking like a dog, you have bigger problems than what to drink. Find the nearest exit. 

     3. Cocktails are a Safe Bet

Cocktails are a safe bet if you’re looking to try something new, and they imply you’re a little adventurous.


     4. Hard liquor is a Gamble 

I am a whiskey girl, but I rarely order whiskey on a first date with a man because it can inadvertently send the message that I’m a ‘guys girl’ who is going to give him some action after the date. Alternatively, whiskey can give the opposite impression that it is not a good idea to make a move on me because I hate men and wish I was on a date with a woman. 

My point is that there’s something about ordering hard liquor on a first date (like an old-fashioned or a Johnny walker) that makes a distinct impression. You have no idea what that impression is going to be. For example, plenty of men drink vodka, but if a man orders a Grey Goose Martini on a first date with me, I immediately feel like I’m sitting across from my mother. 

If you’re ordering a gin and tonic or a vodka soda with no brand preference, that is not a big deal, and it’s just as safe and neutral as ordering a glass of wine. But as soon as you put down a drink menu and order a specific brand of hard liquor, you are making a strong but ambiguous statement. 


Ultimately, if you’re like me, and you’re unreasonably stressed about making the best impression possible on a dinner date, order a glass of Merlot at a nicer restaurant or a decent beer at a more casual one (think Sam Adams and never Bush or Natty lite). But if you have high self-esteem and you actually want to get to know your date, instead of overanalyzing your first impression, just order the drink you want to order and make it a conversation starter. 

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