What’ll You Have?

Great Britain, London

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).

12 comments on “What’ll You Have?”

  1. Ford says:

    May I add “Golden Showers” aka Lager and Lime!

  2. Ford says:

    I was in De Hems, in Macclesfield Street, with the wife. Shwe got very amused, because a group of Italians were disappointed that they couldn’t get English beer!

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    Pony is also a term used on the musical stage to describe a short dancer(s) in a dance troop.
    I can’t tell if the young lady is a pony, but after a quick glance it does appear that she’s not wearing earrings, finger rings or possibly toe rings (out of frame), which is unusual. Therefore, I deduce she is a model brought in for a promotion shoot. Is she supposed to have noticed a spot of dust on that bottle up on the shelf?
    And you don’t now the name of the pub or where is it is? Crying shame, actually, just look at how clean and well stacked those glasses are. Sigh.

  4. BangBang !! says:

    That would put me right off. I can’t be doing with ladies with their bits hanging out while I’m trying to sup my ale. There’s a time and place!

  5. Ken M says:

    …and we should recall that half a pint of half-and-half is a narfanarfanarf

  6. Bramble says:

    You still hear the term ‘dog’s nose’ being used by sailors in the Royal Navy to describe exactly that drink.

    Although it’s possibly no surprise that such names linger on as this is a Service that holds strong to its traditions. For example, any matelot with the surname Ford is still nicknamed Florrie after the music hall artist.

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    BangBang!! I couldn’t agree with you more… That said, sometimes multi-tasking is a good, if not perfect, way around when both time and place are limited. Maybe, it’s easier to do when you’re sipping white wine, as the ladies often do.
    Ken M – I’m seriously having difficulty saying: narf-an-arf-an-arf. It seems to my jaw there are either one too many “arf”s in there, or a superfluous “narf”.

  8. Roger says:

    “a pair of very sweet American tourists… try to order a Chocolate Martini”
    Young’s- and other brewers- make a very good chocolate stout from time to time. Perhaps that would do as a substitute.
    Young’s also had a poster depicting the Queen Mother, well into her nineties at the time, visiting the vanished brewery and pulling a pint of draught bitter with perfect skill and aplomb. I wouldn’t trust the young lady you show to pull a decent pint.

  9. Gretta says:

    Surprised to see no mention of milk stout, which until recently I’d always thought the most disgusting drink created. It was surpassed by Nigella’s Lagerita, but now is also being chased down(see what I did there?) by that beer/gin combination.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Plain and simple + fewer choices = less confusion There is something on offer here called a sleeve of beer. I always want to ask if they’re cap, three-quarter or full and cuffed or not. In any event it is a confusing term when all I want is a half pint – or an arf of arf ‘n arf. Perhaps that should be an extra ‘f’ to stand for the ‘of’.

  11. Alan Morgan says:

    Yeah, time and a place. It’s one thing by choice or laugh (punk girls on a night out didn’t use to wear much more, or in your own local Chris when bold Alpine explorers cross the bar nekkid) quite another if expected as part of the job. It used to be rather horrid when in a ropey pub down Brick Lane at lunchtime there’d be a pair of naked women, looking bored (or worse), standing by the bar with a pint pot half full of coins.

  12. Anne Fernie says:

    Did a lot of pub work in Newcastle and London in the 1970s-80s and a really popular drink was a ‘Black and Tan’ (Guiness and bitter half and half). You never hear about that any more. Has it fallen prey to political correctness just like the trainers?

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