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How to survive a first date without alcohol 

IMAGE VIA MINIMUM WINES

WORDS BY HANNAH FURST

Learning to date without the liquid courage.

“Do you want to grab a drink?” If you’re single, you will be fairly familiar with this question. The terms ‘grabbing a drink’ and ‘going on a first date’ are basically synonymous.

When a listener of my podcast, Single Minded, sent me the question “How do I calm first date nerves?” I posed the same question to my followers, and by far the most common response back was “drink”.  


Looking for more thought-provoking stories? Head on over to our Life section.


But what happens when you don’t drink? Whether you’re taking a break from alcohol or giving up the booze for good, being single AND sober comes with its unique challenges. Most importantly, dating without alcohol takes practice, so be patient with yourself. 

The first few dates will be nerve-wracking and feel bloody uncomfortable, but with time, you’ll get more used to it. As someone that has dated a lot without alcohol, these are some of the questions I had in the beginning. 

How do I calm my first date nerves without alcohol?

The simple fact is that for most people, meeting someone new is nerve-wracking. Going to a job interview to meet your potential new boss is nerve-wracking, but you probably wouldn’t take a shot of vodka beforehand. First dates are similar in the sense that you are feeling someone out to see if you have enough of a spark to go on a second date. 

In the past, a lot of my first date nerves came from putting too much pressure on the date to be more than it was. Now, first dates are just a casual chat to do a ‘vibe check’. I turn up only expecting to learn a bit more about the other person’s life and deciding whether I’d like to see them for a second date.

I put no other pressure on the date. I don’t think about the first kiss, or how to escape if it’s dragging on, or needing to look a certain way, and this seems to calm my nerves to a point that it’s totally manageable. If you’re both feeling it, you’ll plan a second date, and usually by that time I’m feeling slightly more comfortable having already met them. 

Do I need to tell the person that I’m not going to be drinking?

You can do whatever feels comfortable for you. I’ve done both. If it comes up, I’ll say, “I’m not drinking at the moment.” If it doesn’t come up, I don’t usually say anything.

One positive about being upfront is that you’re more likely to connect with someone that has a similar lifestyle. If you don’t drink, knowing whether you’re going on a date with a heavy drinker might be important to you, so this could be part of your screening process. 

Someone has asked me to go for a drink but I don’t feel comfortable going to a bar. What should I do?

I actually personally prefer a daytime date, so when someone suggests a drink, I will respond, “Would you be okay with a coffee or a walk (or both) instead?” 99 per cent of the time, the other person is fine with it. A walk or a coffee is usually 45 minutes, which I think is the perfect ‘vibe check’ date, and if you want to extend the date, there’s always brunch! 

Are there other first date ideas aside from ‘going for a drink’?

So many! Here are some suggestions:

  • Meet at your favourite coffee shop. I find the comfort of somewhere familiar makes me feel so relaxed.
  • A walk down the beach or around the park.
  • Get an ice cream as an alternative nighttime option. Places like Messina in Melbourne also have music and it kinda feels like you’re out at a bar. 
  • Visit an art gallery.
  • See a comedy show. There’s less opportunity to chat and get to know each other, but you’ll learn very quickly if you have a similar sense of humour.

I’ve chosen what feels most comfortable for me (a walk around the botanical gardens), and I just stick with it for every first date. And the more I do it, the more it feels like second nature. There are also bars that have alcohol-free options. I usually check the menu beforehand and see if there’s alcohol-free beer. 

I think I’m too anxious to kiss someone (let alone have sex) for the first time without alcohol. What should I do?

This is probably one of the most fear-inducing parts of dating without alcohol. If it’s a hurdle you can’t cross and it’s stopping you from dating altogether, just remember that it’s okay to be honest and say that you want to take it slow.

Feel free to take your time getting to know someone before even thinking about taking it further. Feel free to wait until you feel more comfortable to take that step sober. Because you are worth the wait.

Interested in learning more about sober dating? Hannah recently interviewed Sam Wilson, the founder of sober community Sober Mates, on her podcast Single Minded. You can listen on Apple Podcast or Spotify, and you can follow Hannah here.

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