How to Turn Down a Drink Like a Boss

Okay, so you’re sober now. But keep clean long enough, and someone will ask you if you’d like a drink. If you haven’t prepared a response, you could be caught off guard. Hell, you might even relapse.

We don’t want that. Hopefully. So what do you say when someone asks if you’d like a drink? It’s best to bring some humor to the table to break the news. You shouldn’t simply say no. Usually the person proposing a beer or cocktail will ask why.

Then what? You might be at a professional event and talking about your newfound sobriety isn’t appropriate. You may be at a church function and hesitant to disclose your days of debauchery.

Here’s a list of 15 responses, in no particular order. Choose the right one for you.

1. That’s okay, last time I drank too much and didn’t get paid for a starring role on a television show.

Person offering the drink says: What television show?

Your response: Cops

Appropriate setting: With friends or family.

2. I’ve stopped outsourcing my happiness.

This is a tricky one, witty to be sure, but should only be employed amongst close friends or family. You don’t want to come off as superior to those drinking, so try to use voice inflection to let them know you’re joking.

Do not, under any circumstance, say this to someone that you know has a drinking problem. They will not respond well.

Appropriate setting: With close friends or family.

3. I’m no Ryan Gosling, but I’m driving tonight.

Should only be used with a younger crowd – people you’re confident have seen the movie Drive.

Appropriate setting: young crowd or professional setting

4. I can’t because my doctor told me that 2 drinks a day is good for you, so that means I’m caught up until the year 2214 (or any year in the distance future).

Appropriate setting: Since this response definitely implies you drank way too much, try to avoid saying it at a professional or socially stuffy event.

5. I can’t drink because this bar prohibits nudity.

Appropriate setting: Amongst friends or family.

6. I can’t. NBC brainwashed me with public service announcements at a young age.

Appropriate setting: anywhere, but be warned, awkwardness factor of this response is high.

7. I’m allergic to alcohol.

Person offering the drink says: Really?

You say: Yeah, I break out in handcuffs.

Appropriate setting: Amongst friends or family.

8. I’m allergic to alcohol.

Person offering the drink says: Really?

You say: Yeah, I break out in cities… you know, New York, Miami, Tijuana (emphasis on Tijuana)

9. I can’t due to a recent city ordinance.

Person offering the drink will respond: What city ordinance?

You say: It’s kind of complicated. So I don’t want to bore you with details. I’m surprised you didn’t hear about it in the papers. This greasy city councilman/woman (his/her name) proposed it. They called it the (Your First and Last Name) Alcohol Prohibition Act.

Appropriate setting: this one might sound a little cheesy. It’s all about delivery here. Build up to the punch line for as long as possible. Only with friends and family.

10. I can’t. I held the trophy for a long time, retired recently and decided to give someone else a shot at the title.

Appropriate setting: anywhere

11. I don’t have many brain cells left to lose.

Appropriate setting: This is a great all-purpose response, good in virtually any situation. If you’re already known as someone with a self-deprecating sense of humor, even better.

12. My liver’s warranty expired (however long you have been sober, for example, 6 months) ago.

Appropriate setting: only with close friends and family. Be prepared for awkward silence afterwards, so respond with someone like… And I really can’t afford a new one. You know how much those things are going for these days? (laugh) Then ask them a question… What are you drinking? What music do you like? Something to transition the conversation. I will guarantee that the person will never ask if you'd like a drink again.

13. Why would you ask? Do I seem sober?

This one will, at least, get a charity chuckle. Maybe a genuine laugh. If you feel it’s appropriate, this is a great line to segway into letting them know about your decision to get sober.

Appropriate setting: If you want to talk about your sobriety.

14. I’d like a drink. But you wouldn’t like me if I drank. (flex up like the Incredible Hulk)

A g-rated response, but again, it will probably get a charity chuckle. It’s a good icebreaker and works best if you transition by posing a get-to-know-you question.

Appropriate setting: Anywhere, anytime.

15. I want to drink, but you don’t want me to drink.

Person offering the drink responds says: Why wouldn’t I want you to drink?

You say: No one wants to see me dancing naked on the bar.

Appropriate setting: Best used in a relaxed social atmosphere with friends.

If you have a favorite response, drop me an email and I’ll include it in the article. Many thanks to Reddit’s r/stopdrinking community for inspiring this post and providing some of the content.

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