How to Decide If You Should Have One More Drink at Happy Hour

Is there anything better than Happy Hour?!

Every third Wednesday of the month, you have a girls’ night at Barnett’s Pub with the gals from work—Joan from HR, Deb from Accounting, Sue from Inside Sales, and if luck should strike, even Allison from Marketing, if she can get a sitter. At 5:15 sharp you’re all sitting at your favorite high-top table with margaritas in hand, ready to vent about the frustrations you’re all feeling at the workplace.

“Seriously, could the IT department be any lazier?!” you ask, as you lick some rim salt and savor another sip of your frozen house marg, which is $2 off until 7. The gals all agree, and you share a hearty laugh. The bartender checks back in, and Sue orders the group a round of Fireball shots. “No, no, ladies. This round’s on the house!” says Federico, hoping for a big tip. “Cheers, girls!” You all do your patented “Woooooo!” as you clink your drinks, take a selfie, and feel that sweet, sweet burn.

If only this night could last forever, you think. You glance at your phone. It’s 6:50 already?! You can get one more drink in before happy hour ends, but that means risking being over the legal driving limit. On the other hand, you really need nights like these. So what if you have to leave your car, call an Uber, and feel a little rough the next morning? Maybe it’s best to do the sensible thing and just pay your tab now and leave. Maybe even try an Irish Goodbye? This is a really tough call. What should you do? Drink more, or pay up and head home to your family?

Glad you asked.

When you’re out drinking, it’s extremely important to have a plan in mind before ever arriving at the bar. Ask yourself a few questions.

  • What responsibilities do you have at home? Does your spouse have things under control, or are you absolutely vital to keeping everyone in line? If your better half can get throw together some leftovers and get the kids to bed, stay! If your teenager could be hosting some sort of group orgy, you’d better consider heading home.
  • What responsibilities do you have the next day? If there’s a big meeting at 9, you don’t want to be rushing to the garbage can to puke. But if it’s business as usual and no one would even notice you showing up two hours late, next round’s on you, girl (or man… this blog is just being written from the point of view of a woman… by a man… we’re all about equality at HTDT)!
  • If worse came to worse, could you leave your car here overnight? Will it get towed? Do you have to take a kid to daycare in the morning and it’s imperative your car is at your home in order to do so?
  • How would you get home if you were too drunk to drive? Are you in a city that has Uber, Lyft, or other ride apps? Are cabs reliable? Is someone in your group volunteering to stay sober?
  • How much money are you willing to spend at this outing? Are you strapped for cash, or is it no big deal to wake up and find out you dropped $190?
  • How much do you really like the people you’re drinking with? Are these your absolute besties for life, or are you just trying to keep your head above water in this crazy rat race of a career and make a few connections?
  • Are you a lightweight? Do you drink so infrequently that after half a Bartles & James wine cooler the gals will find you topless in the ladies’ room giggling and putting lipstick on the mirror, or could you confidently drive the kids soccer team home after a half-dozen tequila shots?
  • What kind of drunk are you? Are you just fun, sociable, and a wild dancer? Or do you tend to say things that are going to come back and haunt you the next day at work?

If you’ve considered these questions before ever arriving to the event, you’ll be in far better shape to make an educated decision as to whether or not “one more drink” is okay or a really terrible idea. You should be able to set a pretty decent timeline, and communicate it to those depending on you. Hopefully you are in a position where you’re able to enjoy yourself and get a little tipsy!

Unfortunately, we can’t always be so well-prepared. Sometimes, we’re out for a beer with the guys from the softball team and we hit that moment where your next drink is suddenly questionable. The first three pints were no big deal, but a fourth could really be a game-changer. There are many items to take into consideration if you’re even remotely considering passing on the drink.

  • Again, what are your responsibilities for the rest of the day? Are you a family man with kids waiting to be tucked into bed who are thirty minutes away if there’s no traffic? Are you a bachelor with a forty second walk back to your apartment? The correct decision should be pretty obvious to you.
  • What time is it? Realistically, if it’s before 7pm, you have all night to hang out, sober up, and find a practical way back to wherever you came from. If it’s after 11pm, your options are limited. If you think you might still be sober, now is a great time to call it a night.
  • What is the drink? If your boss is buying you Macallan 18, you sit your ass down, sir. If the gang is buying buckets of Coors Light, it ain’t worth it.
  • How will you be viewed if you were to pass on the drink? “Oh, my name’s Patrick, I’m a little girl, I can only drink three little teeny beers,” Tom will say in a mocking voice. Is it worth it to go over the legal driving limit to avoid your friends making fun of you?
  • If you were to drink one more, do you think you’d be hungover the next morning? If you’re in the frame of mind to determine whether or not you can avoid any sort of illness, then avoid the illness and go home.
  • How do you feel right now? Do you think one more drink could have you running for the nearest trash can?
  • Who’s paying? If drinks are on someone else’s tab, it’s really hard to pass up that drink.
  • Are you in the mood for one more drink? If you’re just drinking it to appease others and you have no desire to drink it, you should maybe listen to your gut.
  • Is staying longer costing you more? In other words, do you have a babysitter to relieve? Or if you were at home, could you be doing something super productive?
  • Are you trying to work up the courage to talk to that blond in the green dress at the bar? Another drink is probably just the thing!
  • Are you trying to drown your sorrows after your team just got knocked out of the playoffs? Drink away, my friend.
  • And, naturally, can you get your car home if you drove? If having this one more drink will change your answer from “probably” to “I’m not sure”, then you should have your answer.

Again, there are far too many variables to lay out a perfectly definitive answer. You need to know your alcohol limits, your audience, your place on the map, your responsibilities the rest of today and tomorrow morning, your finances, what you’re drinking, and even your mood.

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My Hot Take:
For the past ten years I have carried a breathalyzer with me in my glove compartment. I’ll have my fun, try to keep things in check, and when I feel like I’m close to ready to go, I’ll check my blood alcohol content. Sometimes I’m amazed how low it is and have another drink, and sometimes I’m dismayed at how far over I am and immediately start trying to sober up. In my opinion, that’s the only way to go.

If you’re debating having one more alcoholic beverage, think about what the repercussions may be.

Hat tip to Tom B. of Austin, TX for the topic suggestion.

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