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Social drinking refers to casual drinking in a social setting without an intent to get drunk.
Social drinking plays an important (but not traditional) role in such social functions as dating, and marriage. For example, a person buying another a drink at a singles bar is a gesture that the one is interested in the other and often initiates conversation, or at least flirtation.
Bad news is often expressed through a drink, whilst good news is often celebrated by having a few drinks - for example, one drinks to "wet the baby's head" to celebrate a birth. Buying someone a drink is a gesture of goodwill, and can be used as an expression of gratitude or mark the resolution of a dispute--to bury the hatchet, so to say. The physical act of going to a comfortable setting with friends is a large part of sharing a drink in the above situations, but the fact remains that people have found as many reasons to meet for a drink as they have to meet for tea, coffee, or to eat.