When is a Good Time to Buy a Round of Drinks?

People Buying Round of DrinksFor most of us, drinking serves only one of two purposes: to drown our sorrows or to engage in some sort of social interaction. If you’re the type of drinker that falls in the first category there’s nothing we can do for you here; please seek the advice of a professional. For the rest of us, social drinking offers a variety of challenges including determining the appropriate time to buy a round of drinks.

The difficulties with buying a round are numerous. For example, there’s the obvious cost involved; a cost that can be quite substantial if you happen to have a lot of friends. But then there are also the questions of when it’s appropriate and what you should be offering to buy.

What types of occasions deserve a round of drinks?

It must be noted that, in the social environment, buying a round of drinks sometimes requires no occasion at all. In fact, we’ve probably all witnessed a friend or family member buying a round because he was too drunk to know the difference between a boy band and a group of college kids at the end of the bar singing “Oh Danny Boy”―which brings us to our first occasion.

If you’re Irish, St. Patrick’s Day is a great occasion for buying a round. It might even be an obligation in some Irish families. Just be sure to reserve the right to only provide Irish whiskey and/or Guinness to those whom you’ll be spending your hard-earned cash on. And if anyone’s wearing orange, forget about it.

Other occasions worthy of a round include the birth of a baby, passing the bar (the law exam, Einstein), getting a promotion, or finalizing a bitter divorce that’s been strung out longer than the lifespan of the average South American dictatorship.

Is buying a round ever required?

In the United States, buying a round of drinks is usually considered voluntary unless you’re at a company event and bucking for promotion. But in other countries things can be slightly different. Great Britain is but one example.

According to the Social Issues Research Center (SIRC), a legitimate U.K. organization tasked with discussing the social issues of the day, buying a round of drinks in Great Britain is just shy of a legal requirement. When drinking socially with friends and family, failing to do so is a serious breach of etiquette. Who knew?

In England, it’s apparently on par with religious ritual to purchase a round of drinks for any group of two or more. Everyone is expected to participate by continuing with the round-buying until everyone is done consuming alcoholic beverages or broke; whichever comes first. However, it can’t end until each participating member has purchased an equal number of rounds.

Should I ever buy for the entire bar?

The Art of Manliness website suggests that there are those rare occasions when you’ll want to buy for the entire bar. This is reserved for really special occasions, like your significant other accepting your marriage proposal (don’t worry, the divorce round can be saved for just a few friends) or winning the lottery. It’s also suggested that buying for the whole bar is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

That’s easy to understand if you frequent nightclubs capable of serving several hundred people. A really large crowd could set you back at least as much as you paid for that engagement ring, maybe even more. Whatever you do, don’t tell your fiancé you spent the equivalent of Delaware’s annual state budget on drinks.

One final suggestion is that you let the bartender know what you’re going to do, and why you’re doing it, early in the evening. He’ll be able to advise you whether or not you’re making a truly foolish decision. Not only that, but if everyone in the group reciprocates, you may not get out of there until the next presidential election.

What if everyone doesn’t play along?

As we said earlier, the ritual of buying a round of drinks is not compulsory in America. Therefore, plan on always having one or two cheapskates in the group unwilling to take their turn. These are the same guys that drink generic light beer or pretentious cocktails with names you can’t pronounce.

If some in your group don’t play along don’t let it ruin your entire evening. You can take some small pleasure in the fact that, if the killjoys in question do this often enough, they eventually find themselves drinking alone. And you know what they say about those who drink alone, don’t you?

Seriously, do you know what they say? Because we actually have no idea.

Now that you know all about buying a round of drinks, you’re ready to toast the town this weekend. Whatever you do remember to drink responsibly, spend responsibly, and don’t lavish your ungrateful friends with expensive drinks you wouldn’t normally buy. What’s good enough for you is certainly good enough for them.