Is there any idiom in English describing a strong desire to have a drink or two (or more) of an alcoholic drink?


I am interested more about an idiom describing a case of an alcoholic wanting a bottle of some alcoholic drink (for example, whiskey).

Something like a person would say about himself: "I really ______________ today", especially when the great such opportunity is coming like a banquet or a birthday party.

  • General English, as understood by most native & non-native speakers, or a colo(u)rful colloquialism or dialect word? – Mawg says reinstate Monica Aug 29 '18 at 14:02
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    @Mawg: General English. American English is okay, too. – brilliant Aug 29 '18 at 15:29
  • You've made a few edits to the original question, and they aren't all harmonious with each other. It would be helpful if you could restructure your request instead of appending edits to it. Am I saying this about myself or someone else? Is there any tone that you're looking for (you said not very negative, but then removed that)? What is driving the desire (addiction, fun, peer pressure)? And what is the end goal of the alcohol consumption? – mathewb Aug 30 '18 at 14:28
  • @mathewb - "You've made a few edits to the original question, and they aren't all harmonious with each other" - How are they not harmonious with each other? – brilliant Aug 30 '18 at 19:14
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    I think my main hangup may be the second use of alcoholic, as in, a person. Alcoholism is defined as: A chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol. Is that really the scenario that you're trying to describe? – mathewb Aug 30 '18 at 19:46

12 Answers 12


A very common verb used here is crave:

They really crave a drink. But one could crave ice-cream as well.

To give anything for: I'd give anything for a drink.

The same meaning goes for die for, as in:

I'm dying for a drink. He's dying for some chocolate cake.

Less strong: I could really use a drink. I could really use some coffee.

There are, of course, many other ways to say this.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ColleenV Aug 29 '18 at 18:45

In US English, a strong desire for something, especially something like a drug, is sometimes called a jones, and a person can be said to be jonesing for something.

So you could say

He's jonesing for a drink.


He's got a jones for some booze.

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  • "Jonesing" was common in the 1980s. Is it in common usage among people who watch Flock of Seagulls videos and laugh at their parents (even grandparents)? – RonJohn Aug 29 '18 at 3:25
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    Jonesing was always more popular on one side of the pond than t'other. I have use dit int the UK to be met with blank stares. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Aug 29 '18 at 14:03
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    @Mawg you'd get one from me too (I'm British) :) – John Aug 30 '18 at 2:26
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    You should mention this is US only (unless you have evidence it's well understood elsewhere). jonesing means nothing to me as an Aussie. – CJ Dennis Aug 30 '18 at 4:58

People usually crave chocolate or have a hankering for a hamburger, but whenever we talk about substance abuse or habitually self-destructive behavior, we may say that they are fiending for something.

Slang. to desire greatly:

just another junkie fiending after his next hit;

As soon as I finish a cigarette I'm fiending to light another.


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to have a strong or persistent desire

is a word that could be used in this case. If you take a look at the synonyms, some similar words are hunger, thirst, and long, but the nuance given to hanker is that it:

suggests the uneasy promptings of unsatisfied appetite or desire.

Two ways that you could use it are:

He's got a hankering for a bottle of whiskey

He's hankering for a bottle of whiskey

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  • Use it carefully; it has a rustic/archaic connotation. – Anton Sherwood Aug 30 '18 at 7:37

One can say gagging for a drink, in the same way as gasping for a cigarette.

A number of online sources focus on the idiomatic (in the UK at least) use of this to refer to sexual lust, but we equally use it to mean thirst, e.g. see gag for at The Free Dictionary:

To have a strong desire for something, especially a beverage of some kind. Primarily heard in UK, Ireland. Good lord, I am gagging for a cup of tea.

If someone is gagging for something, they want it very much. I arrived there late, hungry and gagging for a drink.

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  • I would say that I hear 'gasping' in the context of drinks more than anything else - I think that should be your answer – Christian Palmer Aug 30 '18 at 14:39


  • drink like a fish (usually describing others as alcoholics)
  • down a bottle
  • go for a drink
  • throw back (as in do a shot)
  • sloshed / sloshed to the gills (be very drunk)
  • drink happy (This is the only one that really fits into your desired sentence and isn't really a common phrase but works as an adjective and in the right context could be understandable).


To fit with your prompt precisely

  • I really could do with a drink today

  • I'm really drink happy today


  • I'm down to throw a couple back

  • I'm ready to get sloshed

  • I'll probably drink like a fish today

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    Thanks a lot! Is it okay to say "I think I'll slosh to the gills tonight."? – brilliant Aug 29 '18 at 6:09
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    The proper way to phrase it would be "I think I'll get sloshed to the gills tonight." Though it still sounds odd to me. I think simplifying it to "I'm gonna get sloshed tonight" sounds much more realistic. I've only ever heard people use the full "sloshed to the gills" to describe others, not themselves. – quittle Aug 29 '18 at 18:31
  • "Drinks like a fish" is often paired with "smokes like a chimney", which describes chain smokers. – 200_success Aug 30 '18 at 5:06

"I could really use a drink today."

(AmE) - It's generally understood that you mean an alcoholic drink.

From the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Drink...2) alcoholic liquid. Have we got time for a quick drink? Whose turn is it to buy drinks?

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Here's a colloquial "Australianism" to describe this:


i.e., "Mate, I'm absolutely tonguing for a pint"



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There are two very good and more importantly extremely popular expressions that I can think of: to get wasted which, with respect to alcohol, means to get completely drunk and to have a cold one which is most typically understood as having a bottle of beer.

The expression to get wasted is a variation on the idiom wasted which is usually defined as follows:

very drunk or ill from drugs


Dude, I really wanna get wasted today! Let's go to a pub tonight.

It's Friday night! Guys, let's get wasted!

And here's the definition for the expression a cold one:

a cold glass, can or bottle of beer


There's nothing better than a couple cold ones after a hard day's work.

Pass me another cold one there, Jim.

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    The question is about the desire, not the result. – Anton Sherwood Aug 30 '18 at 7:37
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    Let's get wasted is an expression of the desire to get drunk. – Michael Rybkin Aug 30 '18 at 11:08
  • @MichaelRybkin - it means a little more than just "drunk". I don't know the "drunkness hierarchy", but being wasted is a step or two beyond simply drunk. (Not saying this doesn't apply, but it does infer that you plan on having more than just a couple drinks). – BruceWayne Aug 30 '18 at 13:38
  • I suspect that the OP already knows enough synonyms for “drink” (noun and verb) and “drunk”. None of your answers, in my humble opinion, address the request for an expression meaning an urgent desire of a specific kind. In the context you gave, “let's get wasted” seems more like a suggestion of how to pass the time. – Anton Sherwood Aug 31 '18 at 19:42
  • Well, that's just your opinion. No more, no less. – Michael Rybkin Aug 31 '18 at 20:00

If you are focused on an alcoholic, as per your edit, the it could be:

I'm really going off the wagon today.

Goping off the wagon is a reference to being on the water wagon, ie. staying sober, not drinking alcohol.

If the focus is less on an alcoholic, but more on a person 'needing' a bit more than a drink you could use:

I could really do with a few.

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"How dry I am."

This line from a (now rather obscure) 1919 song is still often used ironically to express a desire for alcohol.

"Dry" is a common term for abstinence, as in "a dry tavern" which serves only soft drinks.

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To go on a piss-up or a booze-up means to have a heavy drinking session

  • "I really want a piss-up today"
  • "I really want a booze-up today"

To go on a bender means to have an extended drug binge, such as alcohol, usually lasting for several days.

  • "I really want to go on a bender today"
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