What’ll You Have?
I’m not entirely sure whether she’s a real barmaid, but she’s definitely not from around here. This is apparently the modern equivalent to the traditional ‘busty barmaid’ of yore, now slimmed down and underdressed for modern tastes.
Like her predecessor she does, however, have a bewildering array of drinks to serve. And just when you think you’ve mastered cricketing terms (I never did; I stood in the outfield discussing James Bond movies with the other last-to-be-picked kids) here’s another set of terminology that’s just as mystifying. The language of pubs.
I’ve uncovered a book by Maurice Gorham and Edward Ardizzone (a very popular artist in the 1950s) called ‘Back To The Local’, which explores different types of English boozers. In the back there’s a glossary to pub terms, and I hereby present a palimpsest of the section on drinks. Please note, if you are visiting London for the Olympics or the Jubilee and attempt to use these, you’re on your own…
ALE Stands for Mild Ale, reddish-brown in colour, the staple drink of the Public Bar. It is mixed with bitter (mild-and-bitter), Burton (old-and-mild), strong ale or stout. The belief of overseas visitors that English beer was weak arose from a confusion of terminology in which ‘ale’ was requested, being different from and lighter than beer.
BEER All malt liquors, sometimes including stout. If you ask for ‘beer’ in a pub you would traditionally be served bitter.
BINDER A final drink, usually a short after several beers, the progression being; ‘Have one with me’, ‘the other half’ (or ‘wet the other eye’), ‘the odd’, ‘a final’, ‘a binder’ and ‘one for the road’.
BITTER Strong hoppy beer drunk mainly in the Saloon Bar.
BALACK VELVET Champagne and stout; once fashionable though rather fast. A morning pick-me-up.
BOTTLE-AND-JUG A bar reserved for people to take away. Bottles are charged for (up to threepence a quart) so it was important to bring them back. Many people brought their own jugs.
BROWN ALE A bottled beer more like a Burton than a bitter. Each brewery makes its own.
BURTON A draught beer darker and sweeter than bitter originally named after the brewery. B&B is Bitter and Burton, not to be confused with BBW, Bass Barley Wine, which is a powerfully strong beer. Burton is considered a winter drink and not kept in hot weather.
DOG’S NOSE Beer with a drop of gin in it.
DRAUGHT Beer, stout, cider etc served from the cask without the interposition of an engine, but without being bottled first. Cheaper and less gassy than bottled beer. Varies widely from brewery to brewery.
FOUR ALE BAR Public Bar (no longer exists). Pubs were divided into PUBLIC (working class), SALOON (middle class), PRIVATE (compartment between Public and Saloon) and SNUG (semi-private compartment within pub). There was also the LADIES’ BAR (unaccompanied women) and CHILDREN’S ROOM (Mothers and children).
HALF AND HALF Ale and porter mixed together. Coming back in popularity.
PORTER Stout blended with a mix of other drained-off beers, once popular with Covent Garden porters, now widely available after half a century of unpopularity.
PALE ALE Brewery-bottled equivalent to draught bitter, which breweries do no bottle. When a draught pale ale is brewed it is lighter than draught bitter.
PONY Smaller measure than a half pint (usually a gill), taken as a gesture of goodwill when the drinker does not want any more.
RED BIDDY A drink made of cheap red wine fortified with spirits. Nicknamed ‘Lunatics’ Broth’,
SCOTCH ALE Nothing to do with whisky but a Younger’s brewery bottled or draught ale.
SHANDY Beer and ginger beer or beer and lemonade, drunk in hot weather.
STOUT Dark beer (like Guinness) that can be mixed with mild or bitter, often drunk with oysters.
STRONG ALE or BEER Not always strong at all, although others are, including Bass No 1 and Younger’s No 1.
WALLOP Mild ale, usually ordered by darts players in pubs.
WOMPO East End best ales (esp. round docks)
Obviously these are all beer references. You could try to do what I saw a pair of very sweet American tourists do in a tiny local pub behind Harley Street, and try to order a Chocolate Martini, but you’d most likely be laughed at (as indeed they were).