How To Serve Alcohol Without Guests Getting Drunk

Avoiding Intoxication in Your Home

While you might like to serve alcohol at home, a party can become difficult if your guests get intoxicated. It can also be a trigger for people who are attempting to control their drinking or have quit drinking. Here are some useful tips on serving alcohol without your guests getting drunk.

Provide Good Non-Alcoholic Options

A variety of assorted drinks
A range of options is the key to your guests enjoying their drinks. Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Many people would be happy to drink non-alcoholic or low alcohol drinks, if these options were available. Make sure you have a selection of chilled still and sparkling water, a variety of fruit juices and soft drinks, and non-alcoholic and low alcohol beer, and dealcoholized white wine and red wine. And don't worry about your guests not liking it, research shows that even regular beer drinkers can't tell the different between the low alcohol varieties and the real thing. Providing a range of options is the key to ensuring your guests enjoy their drinks.

Put Bottles Away

Do not allow your guests to serve themselves drinks. Serve the drinks yourself, at timed intervals, not more than every 30 minutes for alcoholic drinks. Offer non-alcoholic drinks more frequently if you wish. Put bottles away in the fridge or cabinet, to avoid guests helping themselves. Making a feature of serving the drinks, for example, setting out the glasses at the table, then wrapping the bottle in a white napkin or tea towel while you are serving it will make it less likely that your guests will help themselves.

Serve Food

Even if you don't want to serve a meal, make sure your guests have snacks to nibble on. Chips and dips, cut up fruit, and small sweet or savory pastries are great options. If your guests are hungry and there is no food available, they are more likely to drink to curb their appetites, so make sure you have something on hand, even if it is just nuts. Digesting food also slows down the absorption of alcohol. If you are serving a meal, serve your guests an appetizer or put out some freshly baked bread before serving any alcohol.

Choose a Narrow Based Wine Glass for Alcoholic Drinks

The best type of glass to serve alcohol. Image © Diana Myrndorff / SXC

The size and shape of glass you choose to serve your drinks in will make a huge difference to the overall amount of alcohol your guests consume. This is the perfect shape of glass to serve alcohol. With its narrow stem, gradually widening towards the top, but only by a little, it holds less liquid than it appears to. It will give your guests small servings and encourage them to sip their wine slowly. You may be surprised to find that few guests will even be aware of how much they are drinking. And make sure you have plenty of still and sparkling water, so that your guests don't quench their thirst with alcoholic drinks. Adding ice to punch and mixed drinks will also greatly reduce the amount you are actually serving to your guests, although this varies according to taste, and is not going to work with beverages such as wine and beer.

Avoid a Wide Based Glass for Wine, But Use for Non-Alcoholic Drinks

This glass has a wide bowl which encourages drinking larger amounts. Image © Marcel Thum

This wide based wine glass is one of the worst designs for serving alcoholic drinks such as wine. It holds more liquid than it appears to, and the bulbous shape requires the drinker to tip the glass right back, encouraging gulping rather than sipping. A great choice for serving water, juice, or non-alcoholic wine, avoid using it to serve the strong stuff.


Segal, D. & Stockwell, T. Low alcohol alternatives: a promising strategy for reducing alcohol related harm. International Journal on Drug Policy.20(2):183-7. 2009. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2008.06.001.

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