"They did not drink anything."
Translation:Sie tranken nichts.
Yes. Germans use the past perfect (sie haben getrunken) far more often than the simple past (sie tranken). We only use the latter it in written German.
I agree that the present perfect is much more common in spoken language, but it is not true that preterite is limited to written German. Depending on the region you live in, preterite may even be the preferred form in spoken language to address things in the past. At least where I grew up in the North-West, preterite is very much alive, kicking and in use.