15+ Useful Drinking Idioms with Meaning and Examples

Learn useful drinking idioms with meaning and examples in English.

List of commonly used drinking idioms in English.

(See the) Glass (as) Half Empty/Half Full

  • Meaning: To have a pessimistic (optimistic) perspective
  • Example: Mark is a glass half full kind of person. He’s always convinced that things are going to get better.

Note: These images are used in sentences with various constructions. The phrase can be an adjective or the object of the

110 Proof

  • Meaning: Stronger than strong, very strong, pure
  • Example: Bob is a 110-proof Conservative – I’ve never seen him vote for a Labor candidate.

Amber Nectar

  • Meaning: Beer
  • Example: The beer market used to be controlled by large companies, but now many small firms are producing the amber nectar.

Note: This idiom is British.

Back Burner (On The)

  • Meaning: Not urgent; set aside until later
  • Example: The mission statement is on the back burner. We have more important problems to deal with.

Note: Used with “on the.” Can also be a verb: to back-burner something.

Bend an Elbow

  • Meaning: Drink alcoholic beverages at a tavern
  • Example: I have to work tonight, but let’s go bend an elbow later in the week.

Champagne taste on a beer budget

  • Meaning: Expensive or extravagant tastes or preferences that are beyond one’s economic means.
  • Example: I only earn minimum wage, but I can’t stop buying designer clothes and eating at the best restaurants—I guess I’ve got champagne taste on a beer budget!

Do 12-Ounce Curls

  • Meaning: Drink beer
  • Example: I was sitting in the bar, doing 12-ounce curls, when she walked in. My life has never been the same.

Note: This idiom is primarily American.

Drink the Kool-Aid

  • Meaning: Accept a set of ideas uncritically, often dangerous ones
  • Example: John has joined a religious cult, and he’s drinking the Kool-Aid. You can’t reason with him right now.

Note: The idiom refers to the Jonestown, Guyana, massacre in 1978, when followers of the Rev. Jim Jones committed mass suicide by drinking Kool-Aid (a sweet drink) mixed with poison.

Useful Idioms about Drinking in English

15+ Useful Drinking Idioms with Meaning and Examples

… Useful Drinking Idioms …

Dutch Courage

  • Meaning: Alcohol drunk with the intention of working up the nerve to do something
  • Example: With a generous intake of Dutch courage, I finally gained the confidence to ask Maria out.

Note: “Liquid courage” is also used and is more common in the USA.

Go Cold Turkey

  • Meaning: Stop using an addictive substance suddenly, without tapering off
  • Example: I quit smoking cigarettes cold turkey five years ago today, and I haven’t had a cigarette since.

Note: This is often used with “quit,” as in the example.

Hair of the Dog (That Bit You)

  • Meaning: A small amount of the alcoholic beverage that caused your hangover
  • Example: Do you have a hangover? Try a hair of the dog that bit you.

Hold One’s Liquor

  • Meaning: Be able to drink a large amount without being affected
  • Example: Jed can hold his liquor. I’ve never seen him pass out. But I still wouldn’t let him drive.

In His Cups

  • Meaning: Drunk
  • Example: Don’t bother Joseph when he’s in his cups – he’s very irritable.

On the Wagon

  • Meaning: Not drinking alcoholic beverages; having given up drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Example: I’ll just take a Coke – I’m on the wagon.

Note: You can also “fall off the wagon.”

One for the Road

  • Meaning: A final drink (or something else) before leaving
  • Example: Give me a beer. I’m having one for the road.

Note: This may also be used for other things besides drinks (like cookies).

Paint the Town Red

  • Meaning: Go out drinking and partying
  • Example: I just finished my last exam. Let’s go out and paint the town red!

Wet Your Whistle

  • Meaning: Drink someting
  • Example: You’ve been out in the sun for two hours. Come on in and wet your whistle!

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