Bar vocabulary and slang in English: 21 terms

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Many meetings with friends and business colleagues happen at the bar. It’s a good place to be social and have fun.

In the United States, the legal drinking age is 21. If you are younger than 21 years old, it is illegal to drink alcohol.

So going along with that theme, here are 21 vocabulary words and phrases related to drinking alcohol at a bar or pub.

Bar vocabulary and slang in English: 21 terms Espresso English

Image source: Rich Renomeron

happy hour (noun phrase)

A time of the day at the bar when drinks and food are discounted; generally, happy hours happen around the end of the workday (3PM-6PM)

Example Sentence: I am joining a few co-workers for happy hour today.

top-shelf liquor (noun phrase)

The highest quality / most expensive liquor and alcohol that is usually kept on the highest shelf behind the bar

Example Sentence: My rich friend only drinks top-shelf liquor.

booze (noun/slang)

“Booze” is a slang word for alcohol.

Example Sentence: There was plenty of booze at the college graduation party.

draft (draught) beer (noun)

Beer served from a keg, rather than from a bottle or can

Example Sentence: I love cold draft beer more than bottles or cans.

Bar vocabulary and slang in English: 21 terms Espresso English

Image source: @ccfoodtravel

on tap (phrase)

Beer that is available as draft beer at the bar

Example Sentence: What kind of beer do you have on tap?

mixed drinks (noun) 

Drinks made with liquor and another beverage, like soda or juice

Example Sentence: Rum and Coke is my favorite mixed drink.

a round (of drinks) (noun)

A group of drinks, one for each person present.

Example Sentence: Hey, guys – I’ll buy the next round.

barkeep (noun/slang) 

Another word for bartender

Example Sentence: Hey, barkeep! How are you today?

bouncer (noun) 

The security guard at the bar who makes sure everyone is safe, prevents fights, and often checks identification to make sure you are legally allowed in the bar

Example Sentence: The bouncer is a nice guy, but he looks intimidating.

ID (noun)

Short for “identification”

Example Sentence: The bouncer asked for our IDs before we entered the bar.

on the rocks (phrase) 

A drink “on the rocks” is a drink on ice

Example Sentence: Can I please have a whiskey on the rocks?

Bar vocabulary and slang in English: 21 terms Espresso English

Image source: Dhruvaraj S

chug (verb)

To drink fast

Example Sentence: It can be dangerous to chug your beer. Drink carefully!

a fifth (noun)

Slang term for a 750ml bottle of alcohol

Example sentence: I bought a fifth of vodka last night. Want to drink some with me?

hard liquor (noun phrase) 

Alcohol that is strong, like vodka, whiskey, gin, etc.

Example sentence: This restaurant has wine and beer but no hard liquor.

soft drink (noun)

a non-alcoholic drink, like soda

Example Sentence: Sometimes, soft drinks are free at the bar if you buy lots of alcohol.

Bar vocabulary and slang in English: 21 terms Espresso English

Image source: Jannes Pockele

DUI / DWI (acronym)

Driving Under the Influence / Driving While Intoxicated; this means, driving drunk. It is a crime.

Example Sentence: Sandy got a DUI and is in trouble with the law now.

designated driver (noun phrase)

When you go to a bar with some friends, one person might volunteer to be the “designated driver” – this means they will not drink any alcohol, so that they will be OK to drive everyone home safely.

Example Sentence: It’s my turn to be the designated driver, so I’ll just have a soda.

last call (noun) 

The time when the bar is about to close, and the last drink should be ordered

Example Sentence: 1:45 AM is time for last call.

buzzed (adjective)

Mildly drunk; feeling good, but not losing control like you might when you’re drunk

Example Sentence: After one or two glasses of wine, I get buzzed.

plastered / wasted (adjectives)

Slang ways to say someone is very drunk.

Example Sentence: He has the habit of getting plastered every weekend.

virgin (adjective)

A drink that has similar ingredients to an alcoholic mixed drink, but made without alcohol.

Example Sentence: Is it possible to order a virgin margarita at this restaurant?


This “adult” blog post is very useful for everyday English, especially in professional environments (many after work functions and events can involve being in a bar) and it’s also useful for travel or fun times with friends in casual settings. Thanks for reading and I hope you learned some good bar vocabulary.

About Ryan

Bar vocabulary and slang in English: 21 terms Espresso EnglishRyan taught ESL in South Korea for several years, and now he’s taking his teaching online to help professionals learn English all over the world.