Stealth Drinking: How to Win Friends and Influence People Without Alcohol

Have you ever been in this situation?

You’re out at a company dinner or invited to have customary drinks after work. You know how this goes: your team drinks as if it’s their last day on earth and they’re going to the electric chair tomorrow. You decide to take it easy today, but your mates chide you and give you a hard time. Suddenly you’re the object of ridicule and that stick-in-the-mud nobody likes.

Maybe you recently found out you’re pregnant, but you aren’t ready to share that news with your boss and co-workers. However, you’ve got a company function coming up, and you know people will get suspicious if you don’t drink a few like you usually do.

Or maybe you’ve been thinking about it lately, and you don’t like the impact alcohol is having on your life. You don’t like its effects on your health, your waistline, and your wallet. You want to give it up, but it’s such a part of your professional culture that you know it will hurt your career. That big promotion you’ve been eyeing? That big account you want to land? The boss isn’t sending you to the lunch with that major client if he knows you won’t drink. Nobody in your industry is going to trust the guy — or girl — who won’t tie one on.

Drinking and Culture

If any of those scenarios sound familiar, you aren’t alone. In fact, many high-level professionals feel the pressure to drink on the job.

“You’re expected to drink, and drinking is part of what you do, and there’s a little bit of circumspection if you say you don’t do it,” says Link Christin, director of a special alcohol treatment program for legal professionals. “If you say you don’t drink, you have to deal with the suspicion that you can’t play the game.”

There are many industries where drinking is considered part of the job. Abstainers are pulled aside at work functions and told they need to up their game or risk being fired. Loosening prospective clients up with booze is considered the go-to strategy — not only allowed but highly encouraged! It’s so pervasive that a study by the Office of National Statistics found that 1 in 5 high earners drink alcohol at least 5 days out of the week!

On a positive note, these habits are changing. If you don’t feel like drinking quite so much anymore, you aren’t the only one. Younger generations aren’t drinking as much as their predecessors, and the culture is slowly shifting. In fact, according to statistics published by Drinkaware, the number of frequent drinkers in England fell from 22% of men and 13% of women in 2005 to 14% of men and 8% of women in 2014. Likewise, as much as 14% of men and 21% of women report not drinking at all.

Unfortunately, this trend has not hit every industry, and many people still feel heavy pressure to drink. Maybe one day it will be different, but that day isn’t today. And let’s be real: in some circumstances saying no and keeping your job just isn’t an option.

So what are you supposed to do?

Enter stealth drinking. This James Bond-esque technique can help save your job, your reputation, and your liver.

What is Stealth Drinking?

Stealth drinking is the ancient ninja art of making those around you think you are drinking when, in reality, you aren’t.

Ok, it wasn’t really invented by ninjas. It was actually invented by my friend Adam. As a young broker, a huge opportunity for a big account presented itself. He needed to make a bold move to land it.

Adam took the senior partners out to a business lunch. As usual on these outings, they all proceeded to drink their weight in booze. However, Adam phoned the restaurant beforehand and told the bartender that no matter what he said, no alcohol was to touch his lips. Whatever he ordered, he was to be brought a non-alcoholic version. The restaurant staff was all to go along with the ruse, pretending they were bringing him round after round of alcoholic beverages.

The partners proceeded to get drunk and rowdy while Adam slogged back fake cocktails and pretended to be three sheets to the wind. As the day wore on, the partners discussed critical information and key insights about the accounts that they would have been reluctant to share when sober. Adam took note of all of it. Meanwhile, he smashed it, they loved him, and — most important — they could not believe how much he could drink! And that’s the prequalification for many deals, right?

Come Monday morning, Adam took the call about the account and offered some incredible insight based on the information he gathered at the lunch. The client immediately saw the value he added and offered him a place on the team.

Want to give it a try? Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make those around you think you’re drinking like they are when, in reality, you haven’t touched a drop.

This is some real James Bond stuff so I’ll warn you: don’t give it a try if you aren’t good at deception, can’t keep a secret, or have a miserable poker face. Stealth drinking is not for the faint of heart. It’s a real-life Ninja skill (swords and throwing stars optional).

Stealth Drinking 101

So if you’re ready, here are some tips and tricks to get you on the path to becoming a Stealth Drinking expert.

Plan in Advance: The key to Stealth Drinking lies in your preparation. Opt for an establishment where you have a good rapport with the manager or bartender. They are going to need to be in on your ruse.

Let the manager know that regardless of what you order, you are to be given a non-alcoholic version. Also, make sure they know that secrecy is of the utmost importance. You may need to threaten to put some bamboo shoots under their fingernails if they aren’t being cooperative.



If you can’t phone ahead or don’t know where you’ll be going, do this as soon as you arrive. Find an employee with a good head on their shoulders, surreptitiously pull them aside, and explain the jig. Make sure they know how to prepare your favorites without alcohol.

You may need to offer them £20 or £50 in exchange for their cooperation. Trust me — it’s worth it.

Visualize Success: Equally important is your mental preparation. Visualize success. Your behavior in that first hour or so where everyone is still sober is critical to ensure others think you’re actually drinking. Rehearse how you’re going to behave and respond if questioned.

Think about your normal habits on a night out and how you can recreate those behaviors without alcohol. For example, if you’re usually the one getting dragged out of the bar at closing time, you are going to arouse suspicion if you’re yawning at 9.30 pm. You may need to throw an energy drink or two in there.

This part can be tricky. You might not feel as comfortable hanging all over your mates when you’re sober as you are when you’ve had a couple drinks. Well, suck it up, buttercup. Nobody ever said this would be easy.

Aim for the Safe Zone: You’ll need to keep up the ruse until you enter the “Safe Zone” — that period of time where your colleagues have drunk enough that they aren’t paying attention to your behavior anymore. This will vary based on how much and how quickly they drink, but once you make it, you can breathe a sigh of relief and relax a little.

You’ll need to think about any obstacles you might encounter from the time you arrive until you enter the Safe Zone. For example, what are you going to do if someone buys a round? We suggest taking a small sip and then excusing yourself to go socialize or go to the bathroom. Find a plant along the way that needs watering or a toilet where you can surreptitiously dispose of the beverage, and no one will be the wiser!

Have a Go-To Drink: Think about what you are going to drink. It needs to be something that is easy to fake and close enough to your normal drink to not arouse suspicion. Here are a few of our favorite suggestions:

  • The Mandy Shandy: A non-alcoholic beer (most bars probably have a few gathering dust on a shelf somewhere) topped with a bit of lemonade. Sweet, easy to drink, and alcohol-free.
  • G&T without the G: This is a good choice if you haven’t had a chance to prep the bartender. Look the bartender in the eye when you ask, give him a little wink if he seems like he’s not getting it, and get back to the party. Or pretending to party.
  • Naked Shampoo: This is our code-name for a faux champagne. Every bar usually has an Appletizer or something similar and bubbly. Ask for that when your mates are drinking champagne to celebrate a big win.
  • Blanks: Almost every type of shot can be replicated with an alternative from the bar. This is where it’s essential to have the bartender on your team. If anything, just tell everyone you are drinking vodka to avoid mixing. Makes you look like a pro and is easy to fake with plain water. Win big and stay hydrated!

Add Some Motivation: The reasons to avoid drinking are plentiful — studies have shown it to have an array of adverse effects on your physical and mental health. We all know this, but sometimes we still need some extra motivation.

Bring a buddy in on your game plan. Agree to pay them a certain amount of money if you slip up and have a drink.

You could also make it about more than yourself. Agree to donate a certain amount to charity if you are successful. Makes it a lot easier to stick to the plan if you know kids in Africa won’t eat if you fail.

Include a Side-Kick: Just like every Bond movie has a co-star, you need to bring in a sidekick. Lucky if yours are as easy on the eyes as Bond’s, but any mate you can rely on will do. Make sure they hold you accountable, run interference on any doubters, and maybe take one for the team and handle any shots someone buys for you. Tough job, I know, but someone has to do it.

Bond. James Bond.

When I was a kid, I really wanted to be James Bond. But I couldn’t because I’m not that suave. Also, he’s not real.

Fortunately, Stealth Drinking in the next best thing! A little planning, a little deception, a whole lot of charm, and viola! Maintain rapport with your mates and your boss, keep a little extra cash in your wallet, and don’t wake up with a raging hangover the next morning.

If you want to learn more about Stealth Drinking or other ways to reduce your alcohol consumption while still maintaining your reputation as the hippest cat in town, click here to get the ULTIMATE ALCOHOL FREE PROGRAMME!

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