One thing is for certain: nowhere does drinking establishments like the UK. The pub, boozer, local, call it what you will, is the fulcrum of British social life and, whether you’re visiting on holiday or moving here to live, you’re bound to find yourself at a bar at some point wondering what to order.

To help you avoid looking as clumsy as Del Boy Trotter and fit right in with the locals, here is a guide to what British beverages to order in the pub.

Beer - Photo by Patrik Kristian (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Beer served in a traditional tankard – Photo by Patrik Kristian (CC BY-ND 2.0)

6Real ale

Read my piece on real ale for the full lowdown on this wonderful style of beer, which offers a flavour profile, strength, colour and taste to suit any palate, but suffice to say it’s a classic pub staple.

Pick your ale from the selection of hand pumps illustrated with pump clips at the bar – it always pays to ask for a taster before you buy as each one is different.

5Craft lager

Inspired by the real ale revival, lager is leaving its loutish reputation behind and an increasing number of British brewers are producing craft lagers which are as full of flavour and variety as real ale. Try it as a refreshing but hearty alternative to those bog standard lagers you’ve been drinking for years.

4Gin and tonic

Another drink with an increasingly artisanal profile, this most English of drinks has enjoyed quite a renaissance since Sipsmith won its licence to produce gin on a small scale from a London garage in 2009.

Ever since, micro distillers of mother’s ruin have been popping up all over the place – gin hasn’t been this popular since William Hogarth painted his infamous ‘Gin Lane’ in 1751, albeit the stuff we drink now comes from beautiful copper stills instead of bathtubs. There’s even a market in artisanal tonic these days to accompany the refined new botanical flavours.

As pre-dinner drinks go, nothing quite beats a G&T served with chunky ice cubes and a slice of lemon.


Nothing screams summer more fervently than a brimming jug of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup and lemonade, garnished with the traditional accompaniments of mint, orange, strawberries and cucumber.

The drink of choice in SW19 on a hot summer’s day during the Wimbledon tennis championships, Pimm’s goes down as quickly as one of Milos Raonic’s first serves. I’m thirsty just thinking about it.


In England’s West Country (Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall), apples rule. Scrumpy ‘zider’ (cider) is the drink of choice round these parts and it’s another cracking beverage for the summer, but watch out because those fermented apples can pack quite a punch – many traditional ciders weigh in at 7% ABV and upwards. It’s certainly best to pace yourself when you’re drinking scrumpy. 

1Single malt whisky

The perfect night cap, a glass of warming Scotch whisky is a real treat, especially when it’s cold and dark outside. Whether you fancy the peaty blast of an Islay or the smoothness of a Speyside, there’s no drink more comforting than a glass of single malt. Well, maybe a cup of tea.