Your Complete English Vocabulary Guide for Ordering Beer and Wine at Restaurants

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A great way to meet new friends and practice your English is on a restaurant patio in the summertime, sharing some food and having a drink or two.

When you’re out at a restaurant, talking with the server or host may be confusing.

There may be some words or phrases on the menu that are just too weird to understand.

We get it.

This article is going to help you sound like a native speaker and have a relaxed, fun time out with your friends.


Your Complete English Vocabulary Guide for Ordering Beer and Wine at Restaurants

So let’s start at the beginning.

Go to the local, independent newspapers. Each city has one or two (you’ll see them in bright boxes for free on street corners). In the listings, you’ll be able to find a good place to go for your budget or for the kind of music you like. If you’re still not sure, ask any bartender or local buddy—they’re usually more than happy to guide you to a great spot.

Especially in northern climates, summer is so precious that people are always excited to spend extra time outside and get a beautiful seat out on a restaurant patio.

The patio is the outdoor seating area where you can eat and drink while enjoying your surroundings.

But how would you get someone to go with you to a great new place you found?

How to Invite People to Go Out with You

It’s quite easy to offer a friendly invitation to friends, coworkers, family or even new acquaintances (people you do not know very well). Here are some phrases you can use for different situations:

  • “Are you up for a drink?”
  • “Are down for a drink?”
  • “Who’s down for a drink on a patio someplace?”
  • “Who’s up for a pint/cocktail?”
  • “Fancy a drink on the patio?” (This is more British English, and less used in the United States.)
  • “It’s so hot today, I am totally down for a drink!”
  • “Let’s grab a drink after work!”

In North America, people can be quite competitive to get seats on patios. It can seem unfriendly at first. Just try to remember: People have been indoors for at least four months of winter—and when the sun is shining, they want to sit in it and enjoy it!

When you walk onto a patio, particularly on a very sunny day, it might be very busy. Some patios allow you to seat yourself. Some prefer that you let a server to find a spot for you and your friends. There will usually be a sign telling you how it works on that patio. The sign might say:

  • Please wait to be seated.
  • Our host will seat you soon, please be patient!

A good way to avoid any confusion is to catch a server’s eye (get them to see/notice you) and ask:

  • “Can we sit anywhere?”

Or you can simply say:

  • “Is anywhere okay?”

It helps to tell the server how many people are in your group as well:

  • “Can we sit anywhere? There are four of us.”
  • “Table for five?”
  • “Is there a table for four free?”

Servers love when you ask this. They know what spaces are available, so they will be able to seat you faster and take your order sooner. For example, if there is only one four-person table open, then they will know that they have a perfect table for your group of four people.

In some parts of the world it’s perfectly fine to sit with other people who you do not know at large communal tables. North American patios are a little different and you’ll notice that the tables are set up mostly in twos and fours.

If you need to grab chairs and move tables so more people can sit at your table, it’s considered polite to ask your server—and the people sitting at the other tables—before you do this.

For moving tables or chairs, you may need to ask the people at other tables:

  • “Can we squeeze these tables and chairs together?”
  • “Will we be in your way if we sit like this?”
  • “Is anyone sitting here?”
  • “Could I grab this chair?”

So now you’re all sitting down, it’s super hot outside and you’re thirsty… now what?

Ordering Drinks in an English Restaurant

If you order drinks and food for the whole table, the server may only bring one check after you’re all done.

Your server may ask if you want separate check. However, you may want to let them know before you order that everyone will need a separate check. This is the simplest way to do things.

This is entirely up to you and your budget, but try to make sure your server knows which you prefer before they put the order into the computer.

Beer generally comes in bottles, pints or pitchers. Pitches are for sharing, bottles and pints are for individuals. One bottle is 341 ml, a pint is 500ml and a pitcher (large jug) holds 1500 ml or just around 3 pints. Your server may ask you if you want a glass with your bottle, so you can pour your drink into the glass. They may also ask how many glasses you want with your pitcher.

In many English-speaking restaurants you’ll find two options for beers: bottled and on tap.

Beer on tap is poured from a keg instead of from cans or bottles. Which one to choose? That’s the fun part!

You’ll usually have the choice between a lager (light in color and quite refreshing) an ale (slightly darker with less fizz) and a stout or porter (very dark with very little fizz). To help you find out what your taste might be, try these “tasting” terms. Don’t be afraid to ask for a small sample or taste. You server may pour you a small mouthful to taste to help you decide.

  • “Is that beer accessible?” — A beer that is easy to drink (mostly light in color)
  • “Does the beer have a strong aftertaste?”  A term for the taste left on the tongue after you have swallowed it.
  • “Does it have a bitter taste?” — A bitter taste can be pleasant, but many people do not enjoy this.
  • “Is this beer very fizzy/carbonated?” — Carbonation is what gives beer its bubbles or “fizz.” Some beers can be very carbonated, some can be quite flat.
  • “Which is your most chocolaty beer?” — Chocolaty is a term most often used to describe rich brown beers such as porters and stouts. It describes the flavors and aromas associated with chocolate or dark malts.
  • “Do you have a fruity beer?” — With some beers, you can really notice fruity characteristics, including but not limited to pineapple, apricot, banana, peach, pear, apple, mango, orange, raisins, plum, dates, prunes, figs, blackberry and strawberry.
  • “Do you have a full/full-bodied beer?” — A term usually used for beer with heavy weight or “body,” it’s the opposite of light beer. It can also refer to a beer that’s full in flavor.

Here is some more descriptive vocabulary you can use to talk to your server about options, or to describe the delicious beer you chose to your friends:

  • Head — This refers to the foam on the top of the beer after it’s poured into a glass. The foam head should be thick and dense for most beer styles. When there’s a lot of foam on top of your beer, you can call it heady.
  • Hoppy — A beer with the smell and taste of hops (the plants used in beer brewing). Hops in beer can smell like flowers, herbs or fruit.
  • Bright — Used when the beer looks clear and golden, the opposite is cloudy.
  • Mouthfeel — Try using your imagination with this term. When you drink the beer try to describe the “feel” of it in your mouth. Is it creamy, smooth, silky, velvety, tingly, warming, oily, thin, watery or heavy?

Finally, if you have the bad luck of getting a beer that just doesn’t taste good it may have spoiled (gone bad). This is commonly referred to as skunky, which is a very negative term.

Some handy phrases for ordering beer are:

  • “What local beers do you have on tap?”
  • “I’ll take four bottles of Corona please.”
  • “I’ll take a pitcher of Canadian please, two glasses.”
  • “I’ll have a pint of the amber lager please.”

When you’re trying to learn English it can be a good conversation starter to ask about the local beer available in the area. Some of this beer will be on tap, again just meaning that it’s pumped from a barrel or keg and poured into your glass. Many local beers on tap are fresh and taste a bit different than the big companies beers and are always worth a try.

If your favorite drink is wine, your server will ask if you want white or red. The patio will probably have a house red and house white (which is always the cheapest) if you don’t care about what other wines they may have just ask:

  • “What is your house white/red?”
  • “I’ll have a glass of the house white/red please.”

If you feel like you may have more than two glasses, it can save you some money to get a carafe.

Carafes are really just nice-looking jugs for wine. While a full carafe holds four glasses, you may be able to order a half carafe that will hold two glasses.

If you want to get a bit more information from your server about the wine you have chosen, try these flavorful questions out when you ask about the wine:

  • “Is the red full-bodied?” — Mostly used to describe wines that are strong tasting.
  • “Is the white clean?” — Used to describe wine that leaves a fresh taste in your mouth.
  • “Is the white crisp?” — A wine that has a taste of fruit.
  • “Is the white dry?” — Describes a wine that seems to have no taste of sugar.
  • “Is the wine sweet?” — A wine that is high in sugar and quite sweet tasting.

When the server comes back, if your whole table wants exactly the same drink again you can ask for:

  • “Another round please.”
  • “We’ll all have the same again, please.”

Or if you’re alone and want the same drink you could say:

  • “Same again, please.”

If your server comes and asks you if you want another drink but you don’t need one at that moment, it’s okay to say:

  • “No, I’m good.”
  • “I’m alright for now.”

Vocabulary for Paying: Credit Cards, Cash or Debit?

When it’s time to pay, it’s a good idea to ask your friends how they want to pay.

That way, when your server comes you’re ready and you don’t take up too much of their time. Try one of these phrases, they all mean the same thing: that you would like to pay.

  • Can we/I get the bill, please?
  • Can we/I settle the tab, please?
  • Can we/I settle up, please?
  • What do we/I owe you?

Your server may ask you if you want “separate bills,” this means you’ll only pay for what you had. If you’re feeling generous, though, and want to pay for everything, it’s fine to say:

  • “I got this”
  • “It’s on me”

If you’re staying for a year or two in a foreign country, your local bar and the people that work in it may become your best friends (or at least will be a great source of information).

Smaller neighborhood pubs and bars tend to attract more local people, so you can really immerse yourself in the culture quickly by going to them. In North America too, if you’re polite you’ll be remembered and treated better than if you were rude.

Most bars often serve tourists, so don’t be shy—try out some of the phrases you’ve seen here and enjoy the summer.

Chances are you’ll make some new friends, buddies, mates, peeps or homies. Whatever you call them, they may be friends for life.

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