Corporate culture is a drinking culture. Boozy business lunches and dinners abound. Not to mention the "networking" cocktail parties and receptions. When and how much to drink seems to be some unspoken code that corporate types just know. This article puts some of those rules in writing.
Rule #1 Follow your host. If the person who invited you orders a drink, it is safe to have one yourself. In a client setting, wait to see if the client orders a drink. If the client is drinking, order a drink other than water so that the client is not drinking alone. This drink can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Joining in an alcoholic beverage with the client may be considered more polite in some situations, but courtesy drinking is ill-advised if it would result in some other embarrassment.
Rule #2 Don't order liquor at lunch if you have to go back to work. A single glass of wine with lunch is advisable if you drink at lunch at all.
Rule #3 If you are an interview candidate, intern, or summer associate, the conservative approach is to not order alcohol during lunch at all, even wine. If others are drinking, put in an order for a non-alcoholic drink other than water. My go-to is sparkling water with cranberry juice and lime.
Rule #4 Despite abstaining during lunch, evening drinks are not only acceptable but encouraged. Your host wants to show you a good time and be hospitable. If you have no objection, having two drinks during the course of the evening shows an appreciation of the hospitality.
Rule #5 If you simply do not drink or do not want to drink, it is fine to decline, but do so without a criticism of drinking itself or the offerings available. If pressed for an explanation (which is very bad form on the part of your host), good excuses include a detox cleanse, a new diet program, or simply stating a stronger preference for a specific non-alcoholic drink.
Pro tip: If you drink too much and run the risk of blacking out, vomiting, or completely embarrassing yourself and your company, find an exit, either temporary or permanent. A 15-20 minute cool down may be all you need. If you feel that more serious danger is imminent, use an excuse of feeling unwell or family emergency to leave while you can. Often, despite drinking too much, you can be conscious that your state is too far gone.
Drinking is a social activity taken up by most members of Corporate America. It can be fun in moderation and many use it as a social lubricant. The common expression is to "know your limit." The truth is, there are already limits in place. Cheers!