When it comes to business relationships there are no set rules about alcohol, but that doesn't meant that you shouldn't have some rules of your own that you follow. So when you go out socially with a client is it okay to have a drink or two? Who should order first? What should you drink? Let's consider some of the dos and don'ts of mixing business and drinking.
First of all, there is a big difference between going out for drinks with a colleague versus going out for drinks with a client. With colleagues you can let your guard down a little. With a client, you always have to be thinking about the business relationship. Will even one drink impair your judgment enough to where you will say or do something that affects the business relationship or even ends it? Then the answer should always be no. Do you know when to stop? If not, it is better not to start.
Another good question is, how does the client feel about alcohol? If you don't know then you don't want to accidentally have a drink in front of someone who is a recovering alcoholic or had an alcoholic parent. Are you starting to notice a trend here? There a lot of situations where it is best to say no.
A good way to play it safe is to let your client order first. If they get an alcoholic beverage, they are giving you the go ahead to do it too. It doesn't mean you have to, just that you can. What kind of drink did the client order? If they just get beer or wine, you should probably follow suit. If he hits the spirits then anything is on the table.
Those are some suggestions to use when you face this potentially touchy situation. Let the client or a drink first. Pay attention to what he orders. Don't drink if you can't handle it. Got all of that. Good. The catch is: It doesn't always apply.
There are some clients who will expect you to be a drinking buddy, and may go elsewhere if you won't be accommodating. You will have to make the decision as to whether the business relationship is worth filling that role. That is why the primary rule of thumb when deciding whether or not to order a drink while out with a client is to judge each situation as it comes along