What Else Can You Drink in a Pub?
British pubs are as much about socializing as they are about drinking. In many rural communities, the local pub is the focal point of village social and civic life, a place where everyone drops in, including families with children. To cater for all tastes, and ages, a wide variety of both alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages are available. You'll probably find:
- Cider - Cider (at least one brand) is usually on tap. British cider is more like a beer made with apples than the sweet ciders you may be used to. It is also stronger than beer with an alcohol content of between 4.2 and 5.3%. Strongbow, Bulmers and Magners are popular brands that are widely available on tap.
- Perry is similar to cider but is made from pears. A few commercial brands used to be available as "ladies" drinks before wine was available in pubs. They are no longer popular and perry is not widely available. You may come across it in country pubs, particularly in fruit growing areas.
- Wines - Pub wines used to be dreadful, served in stingy, 125 ml glasses and hardly fit to cook with. That's all changed. Most pubs now carry one or two reasonable quality red and white wines in small (175ml) and large (250ml) glasses. Some pubs even cross into wine bar territory, offering a good selection of high quality wines by the glass.
- Spirits - Pubs serve brand name whiskies, vodka, gin, rum and brandy along with specialty alcohols like Avocaat, Ginger and English fruit wines. Mixers readily available include fizzy water, tonic, orange and tomato juice. If you ask for a mixed drink - a G&T for example, you'll get a measure of gin in a glass, a small bottle of tonic water and a slice of lemon or lime. You then mix in as much tonic as you like and add ice cubes from the bucket on the counter. Pubs aren't bars and publicans and barmaids aren't mixologists so don't ask for fancy cocktails. You'll be disappointed and you might even be the butt of some sarky jibes.
- Soft drinks,coffee and tea Pubs serve bottled juices,cola and a small selection of sodas. Some especially British soft drinks are lemonade - a carbonated beverage in the UK, and St. Clements - a carbonated mixture of orange and lemon flavors. It gets its name from an old nursery rhyme about London's church bells - "Oranges and lemons say the bells of St. Clement's."
Most, but not all, pubs can rustle you up a cup of coffee or tea.
How to Order in a Pub
One of the most mysterious aspects of pub behavior for many first timers is how to order in a pub. Pubs don't have table service, as a rule, and at busy times, with people crowded around the serving bar four or five deep,getting the attention of the landlord or the barmaid can seem virtually impossible. Don't worry, though, because by some mysterious trick of pub server's magic, they do see you and they seem, in their chaotic way, to serve people, roughly, in order. Here's how to ensure you get service with a smile.
- Be patient - By all means have your five or ten pound note ready and visible, but don't wave it about to get the server's attention. That is one sure way to be ignored in a busy pub. So is shouting for the server. Make eye contact, when you can, and smile. Pub servers work their way up and down the bar and, remarkably, no one ever goes away thirsty.
- Know what you want and ask for it - Dithering at the bar of a busy pub annoys everyone. Before you get up to the bar, have a rough idea of what you want and how much. Beer and cider are served in pints and halfs (half pints), so ask for the beer or drink you want in the quantity you want, along with any snacks, all at once. "Two pints of lager, a half of bitter and three packets of crisps (potato chips) please."
Know what to expect
- British people don't like a big foamy head on a glass of beer (it makes them feel that they're being cheated out of a full pint or half), so don't be surprised to be served a glass that is full to the brim without any head. The exception is Guinness which is valued for its creamy head.
- Draft beer is served slightly cooler than room temperature. Cold beer comes from bottles
- Ice for soft drinks is usually available but rarely offered. If you order a Coke or an orange juice, ask for ice if you want it. You may get one or two cubes, or you may be directed to a bucket where you can help yourself.
Keep track of just a few rules of pub etiquette and you'll be pub crawling like a native.
- Be nice to the barman or barmaid - that way they'll remember you and you may get served with more alacrity later. Thank them with a breezy, "Cheers" and tell them to keep the change. If you have a large order for several people, you might leave a little bit more money - perhaps the price of a beer - and say, "have one on me." By the way, this is a throwaway line, don't make a big deal out of it. And if you are served by the pub landlord or landlady, being nice is enough of a tip - you don't need to leave any money. Find out more about tipping in general and tipping in pubs.
- Don't hog space at the bar. Particularly when pubs are busy, space at the bar is at a premium. Once you've got your drinks in hand, move off and find another spot. On the other hand, if a pub is really empty, the bar staff might not mind a bit of conversation.
- Take your turn buying rounds. In Britain it's customary when groups of people meet up in a pub for each person to take a turn buying a round of drinks for everyone in the group. People who never seem to buy a round get noticed and commented upon. If you can't afford to take a turn buying drinks for everyone in this way, then at least offer to pay for your own drink when someone else buys a round.