The aim of this study was to develop an exploratory approach to characterizing the pattern of recreational abuse of alcohol and other drugs abuse at Christmas work dinners. An adaptation of the rapid assessment methodology RARE was carried out through the combination of quantitative (rapid assessment surveys, n=444) and qualitative (observations and semistructured interviews, n=8) techniques. The fieldwork was carried out at 13 restaurants in Valencia and Alicante (Spain) in December 2007. In general we observed a marked increase in the use of alcohol and other substances compared to the rest of the year, though restaurant staff perceived a decrease in alcohol abuse attributable to new road traffic legislation. Cocaine is perceived as the illicit substance most widely used at such events. Younger coworkers initiate older ones in the use of illicit drugs, and the the latter may use this behaviour as a means of feeling younger and more uninhibited. Christmas work dinners propitiate a recreational substance-use pattern that requires adapted preventive and restrictive interventions, such as the introduction of suitable transport initiatives and the restriction of alcohol serving hours.