It’s time you learned the art of business drinking

Taking inspiration from the Japanese art of Nomikai, learn how to seal your next deal with a little help from behind the bar

We could learn a lot from the Japanese. No nation has advanced further in the fields of science and technology. No race has learned to live longer, cook fresher or fight more effectively than the sushi-eating, judo-practising people of this far-eastern isle. The Japanese have even championed the easy, breezy kimono into mainstream fashion — and that’s no mean feat.

But business is where the Japanese really excel. From Toyota and Honda to Sony and Panasonic, there are more millionaires per capita in Japan than any other country in the world. So what’s the secret to this fiscal success?

Drinking. Known as Nomikai, the tradition of business drinking has become a social and professional phenomenon in Japan. It reinforces relationships, proves worth and shows strength. So, next time you’re looking to seal a deal, take a leaf out of Japan’s drinks cabinet — and follow the five tips below.

However much you drink, always hold your tongue

business drinking monkey illustration

Making your way to the bottom of a bottle may bring you closer together — but drink too much and you run the risk of running your mouth. It’s all fun and games before you sink that seventh shot and suddenly find yourself in a car park fist fight over which actor made the best James Bond*.

But avoiding these pie-eyed punch-ups is easy. Moderation is your watchword when out drinking with a client or potential business partner. Pause for the odd glass of water, don’t down any drinks and, if you find yourself talking to your reflection in the bathroom mirror, slow down. Follow these rules and nothing too contentious or controversial should slip out.

*It’s Roger Moore, btw.

It’s important to talk about more than work

apple macbook

These may be work drinks, but that doesn’t mean your conversation shouldn’t spread beyond spreadsheets. In fact, the main reason you’ve moved this meeting out of the boardroom is so that it can feel a little less robotic.

But don’t go too far. You want to come across more personal than professional, but sinking five drinks isn’t going to do anything for your business acumen. Instead, stick with topics such as pop culture or sports, and keep a lid on any radical right wing views or deepest, darkest fears.

Choose your drinks tactically


This is an important one. Certain drinks are entirely acceptable to order during a business meeting (think classic, refined tumbler cocktails) — while others can damage your working relationship beyond repair.

Old Fashioneds, Manhattans and Martinis will make the right impression. Even bottled beers will keep up professional appearances. But buy a pint of Stella or a lurid, fruity cocktail and you’ll find yourself sliding down the business hierarchy quicker than you can order your next Appletini. And god help you if you order anything with a sparkler stuck in it.

Learn to hit ‘the sweet spot’

pint of beer

Everyone knows — and loves — that two-drink feeling. But everyone also knows how easy it is to get swept up by third-drink frenzy and accidentally embark on an endless, drunken night. Do this among friends, and it isn’t a problem; do it in a business setting, and it very much could be.

So, if you don’t want to lose your professionalism, reputation and any number of lucrative deals, don’t get carried away. Hit that easy-chatting social sweet spot and stay there. It’s a tricky task, but you can maintain a personable level of tipsiness by pacing yourself and sticking to one type of drink. Do this, and you’ll embody that rarest of business breeds — a fun and competent professional.

Always pick up the tab

man's wallet

By stumping up the cash at the end of the night, you’ll show client, customer or colleague that you are a reliable and worthwhile person to be in business with. Not only can you have a good time, but you also see things through and display the traditional values and ideals that captains of industry hold in high regard.

Pulling out your wallet is also a healthy display of chest-puffing. It will show self-assurance, conviction in your actions and an ability to take care of money. And, after all, what could be more important in business than showing you have a handle on your finances?

You’ve got the drinking down, but what does your business card say about you?

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