A Drink at the Bar: Dialogue and Vocabulary for ESL Learners

Bartender talking to customer
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There are a number of phrases used when drinking at a bar or pub, or in a private home. Here are some of the most common to start off the evening:

  • Cheers!
  • Here's to your health.
  • Bottoms up (informal, used with shots)
  • Prost / Salut = sometimes people use foreign expressions with same meaning

These are more idiomatic ways to say "Cheers" 

  • Here's mud in your eye.
  • Here's to your health.
  • Down the hatch.
  • Bottom's up!

    Toasting Someone or Something

    It's also common to use the phrase 'Here's to ...' or 'A toast to ...' and include the name of the person or thing you are toasting. In more formal occasions, we also use the phrase 'I'd like to make a toast to ...' and include the name of the person or thing you are toasting, as well as include a wish beginning with 'May he/she/it...'.

    Person 1: Here's to our new contract!
    Person 2: Here, here!

    Person 1: A toast to Mary!
    Person 2: Cheers!

    Person 1: I'd like to make a toast to Jim. May he live long and prosper!
    Person 2: May he live long and prosper!

    Idiomatic Phrases 

    There are a number of idiomatic phrases that are used when drinking (of course!). A number of these expressions are slang, others are more common.

    • be on the wagon = to not be drinking, trying not to drink alcohol 
    • be pissed as a newt = to be very drunk
    • paint the town red = to go to different bars, drink and have a good time in a city
    • wet your whistle = to have a drink
    • be three sheets to the wind = to be very drunk
    • be under the influence = to feel the alcohol, usually meaning to be drunk

    Examples

    • Let's paint the town red tonight.
    • I'm afraid I'm on the wagon this week. I need to lose some weight.
    • I'd like to wet my whistle. Is there a bar anywhere near here?

      How to Say Someone Is Drunk

      Any of these words below can be used to describe someone who is very drunk. Tipsy, on the other hand, means to feel the alcohol, but not be very drunk.

      • plastered
      • hammered
      • wasted
      • pissed
      • inebriated

      Examples

      • Jim was plastered at the party last night.
      • Don't come home pissed!
      • Wow, man, you're hammered!
      • I'm feeling a little tipsy tonight.

      Other Words for for Drinking

      • to quaff = to drink (old fashioned)
      • to gulp = to drink very quickly often used with beer
      • to drink like a fish = to drink a lot of alcohol
      • to sip = to take very small drinks of something, often used with wine or cocktails 

      Examples

      • He quaffed his drink while chatting with his mates.
      • I gulped down a beer after I finished mowing the lawn.
      • Jim drinks like a fish.

      Acronyms

      • DUI = Driving Under the Influence, used as a criminal charge 
      • BYOB = Bring Your Own Bottle, used when telling someone to bring alcohol to a party 

      Examples

      • Peter was arrested on a DUI.
      • The party is BYOB, so bring anything you want to drink.

      Other Words Used With Alcohol

      • When ordering wine, you can ask for a glass of red, white, or rose.
      • A cocktail is a mixed drink, often made with strong liquor and fruit juice or another mixer.
      • Liquor is strong alcohol such as vodka, gin, or tequila.
      • A house or well drink is a cheaper brand sold by the bar or restaurant
      • Pint is a measurement used with beer
      • A shot is used with straight alcohol, not mixed.
      • A draft beer is pulled from the tap, as opposed to coming from a bottle or a can.
      • Booze/hair of the dog / the sauce are all idiomatic names for hard liquor

      Examples

      • I'll have a shot of whiskey and a pint of beer.
      • Could you tell me what your house white wine is, please?

      A Practice Dialog Between a Bartender and a Customer

      After a stressful day, Mr. Jackson relaxes at the bar. The bartender, Mark, responds to a few complaints while he serves Mr. Jackson his favorite cocktail.

      Mr. Jackson: Bartender, could I have a drink? What's taking so long?!
      Bartender: Excuse me, sir. Yes, what can I get you?

      Mr. Jackson: I'd like a whiskey sour.
      Bartender: Certainly sir, I'll get that straight away.

      Mr. Jackson: What a day! My feet are aching! Where's an ashtray?!
      Bartender: Here you go sir. Did you have a busy day?

      Mr. Jackson: Yes, I had to walk all over town to get to meetings. I'm exhausted.
      Bartender: I'm sorry to hear that, sir. Here's your drink. That should help.

      Mr. Jackson: (takes a long sip) That's what I needed. Much better. Do you have any snacks?
      Bartender: Certainly, here are some peanuts and some savory crackers, and a napkin.

      Mr. Jackson: Could I have a stir stick?
      Bartender: Coming up... Here you are.

      Mr. Jackson: Thanks. You know, I'm sorry to say this, but these snacks are awful.
      Bartender: I'm terribly sorry about that, sir. What seems to be the matter?

      Mr. Jackson: The peanuts are stale!
      Bartender: I apologize sir, I'll open a fresh can immediately.

      Mr. Jackson: Thanks. Sorry to be in such a bad mood.
      Bartender: That's quite alright. Can I get you another drink? This one's on the house.

      Mr. Jackson: That's kind of you. Yes, I'll have another whiskey sour.
      Bartender: Right away, sir. Do you have any preferences on the whiskey?

      Mr. Jackson: Hmmm, what's that bottle over there?
      Bartender: That's Jack Daniel's, aged 12 years.

      Mr. Jackson: That sounds good. I'd also like to smoke. Is that possible?
      Bartender: Unfortunately we don't allow smoking in the bar. You'll have to step outside.

      Mr. Jackson: No worries. I can wait. So how long have you worked at this bar?
      Bartender: It's been about three years now. I love the challenges of this job.