Ordering a drink in a British Pub: The Basics

Going to the bar in a pub is easy right? This very basic task can actually be a lot more complicated than you first think? Here are some key tips and vocabulary so you get what you asked for in a pub.


Beer, Lager or Ale?


When my husband first started coming to the UK he was surprised that when he asked for ‘a beer’ he was always given a huge list of numerous types of beers or more often than not  the question the barman would ask was ‘lager or ale?’. This question always confused my husband and as a result he always chose the most boring choice available, normally something like Heineken.


Beer is the group of drinks and includes both lagers and ales. So basically lagers are beers and ales are beers too.


The basic difference is that lagers are light-coloured and have a lot of bubbles and ales are heavier, less gassy, darker and quite often bitter in taste.


How to order


Beers are sold in either ‘pints’ of ‘half pints’. If you know exactly what you want, when you go to the you can simply ‘A pint of Amstel, please’ or ‘Half a pint of Peroni’. However, if you don’t know what they have or you are not sure what you want, it is best to say ‘A pint / Half a pint of Ale’ or ‘A pint / Half a pint of lager’ and then the barman will normally tell you what they have to offer.


Ordering Wine

On a wine list or in a bar you have 4 typical options, red, white, rosé and sparkling. Red, white and rosé always come with the option of ordering by the glass. It may depend on the bar if they serve sparkling wine by the glass.



How to order

In the UK you can order a bottle. A conversation may go as follows:

‘A bottle of red wine and four glasses, please’.


‘Can I get a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon and 4 glasses?’


If you order a glass however there are typically 2 sizes in the UK small (125ml) and large (175ml). If you wanted to order you could say something like this:

‘Could I get a large red wine, please?'



Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Taster


If you want to order either beer or wine but you haven’t tried this variety of beer or type of wine before, you can ask for a small taste to see if you like it called a ‘taster’. This is free of charge and is so people don’t choose something they don’t later like. When you are at the bar choosing, if the barman is making a suggestion, simply ask if you can have a taster. A conversation may go something like this:


Customer: Can I have a pint of lager, please?

Barman: Which lager would you like? We have Mahou, Starpramen and Stella.

Customer: Could I have a taste of the Staropramen? I haven’t tried it before.


Some pubs may say no, but most traditional pubs offer customers the chance to try a beer or wine if they want.




Ordering Spirits and Mixers


Like with wine spirits are served in measured amounts. You’ll often hear people say in bars single, double and even sometimes triple. If you don’t specify you will be served a single.


Drinks are often served with a ‘mixer’ which is a non-alcoholic drink, like Coca-Cola, tonic, lemonade etc. When ordering the order is always as follows: Spirit then mixer. For example, ‘vodka and orange’, ‘gin and tonic’, ‘rum and coke’.


If you want to specify the measure you say the measure first, for example, ‘a single rum and coke’ or ‘a double vodka and cranberry’.



Well I could write for hours about the different drinks you could order, but I hope these basic tips now make ordering a drink in English much easier.