The 5 Best—and Worst—Drinks to Order at Business Dinners

GettyImages-146728730-compressorTop cocktails for business dinners:

  1. Gin martini. A martini is a good bet for a business dinner not only because it is a classic that has long been a favorite at business lunches, but also because it is devoid of color, which helps eliminate judgment. But also, “since what you are up to”—i.e., having a meal at which business will be discussed—“is serious, you should have a serious drink,” according to entrepreneur.com. “All clear drinks are serious drinks.”
  2. Vodka martini. While some do not consider a martini made with vodka, rather than gin, a classic martini, other sources—including liquor.com—beg to differ, calling it a sophisticated cocktail.
  3. Scotch neat. “This is by far one of the most classic drinks,” Inc. reported. While 18-year-old scotch is “notorious for being the best,” the magazine said, many scotch drinkers actually prefer younger years.
  4. Bourbon or whiskey on the rocks, with or without a splash of soda. Like scotch neat, bourbon and whiskey are, as Inc. said, quite classic, which puts them on the roster of good options for a CEO to enjoy during a business dinner. Another point in their favor: their brown color. According to entrepreneur.com, all brown drinks, like the above-mentioned clear drinks, fall into the “serious” category.
  5. Moscow Mule. Comprised of vodka, ginger beer, and lime, the Moscow Mule has “been around since the 1940s, “when a vodka distributor and a ginger beer maker concocted it as a means of “promoting their otherwise unpopular beverages,” according to Liquor.com as reported by Huffington Post. Despite its “less than glamorous origin story,” HuffPo stated, the Moscow Mule “keeps popping up in conversation and on cocktail menus everywhere.” We think it belongs on the list of cocktails a CEO can order with impunity at a business dinner; as the Post noted, “It strikes a good balance between being sophisticated and approachable. It may be simple, but the Mule is anything but boring.”

Drinks to avoid at business dinners:

  1. Any drink whose name ends in “tini,” but isn’t a martini. Examples here include “acai tini” and the seemingly ever-popular “appletini,” to name a few. These cocktails “are not actually martinis and do not suggest a serious drinker, a serious person, or a serious business partner,” according to entrepreneur.com.
  2. Long Island Iced Tea. Typically made with tequila, vodka, light rum, triple sec, gin, and a splash of cola, the Long Island iced tea is so named because its amber color resembles that of its namesake. But that’s where the similarity between a Long Island iced tea and regular iced tea ends. Ordering a Long Island iced tea is “code for, you’re looking to get hammered fast,” not that you want to conduct business, Inc. said.
  3. Rum and Coke. Rum and Coke will forever have a reputation as the favorite drink of 19-year-olds, corporette.com reported. That alone makes ordering this particular cocktail a bad match for a business dinner—especially if a CEO happens to order it.
  4. 7 and 7. This combination of 7-Up and Seagram’s 7 also has a less-than-sterling reputation—as a “truck driver’s drink of choice,” obsev.com said. Consequently, a CEO would do better to stay away from it.
  5. Tequila Sunrise. While tequila itself is still very popular, the tequila sunrise is not a wise business dinner cocktail choice for any CEO. In addition to being a young adult’s drink, it’s passé and harkens back to the 1980s, noted entrepreneur.com.

While you may disagree with some of our choices, the cocktails on our “hit list” are definitely worth trying. As for those on the list of drinks to avoid, order at your own risk!

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Julie Ritzer Ross
Julie Ritzer Ross has been covering all facets of business in a variety of vertical markets, including manufacturing, for the past 35 years and the use of technology in business for the past 25 years. A two-time winner of a Jesse H. Neal Award for business-to-business journalism, her work has appeared in such publications as MICROSOFT EXECUTIVE CIRCLE, CONSUMER GOODS TECHNOLOGY (formerly CONSUMER GOODS MANUFACTURER), VERTICAL SYSTEMS RESELLER, RESELLER MANAGEMENT, RIS NEWS, and INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS.

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