What's the idiomatic way of describing the fact that someone has had some alcohol?

For example, a husband is coming back home from work and starts talking to his wife. He is not drunk, so he speaks and acts just as usual. However, from the scent coming from him she understands that he had some at work. So she says, "I see you have already ________________!"

What would put in the blank here? (Any part of speech and any number of words in the blank are okay, but only one verb - if that's possible and idiomatic - is preferred).

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  • 2
    I see you have already wet your whistle. – Michael Harvey Feb 7 at 17:11
  • Or "had a little nip.". There are many possibilities here. – cobaltduck Feb 7 at 17:13
  • There are very many idioms for having an alcoholic drink. It is a mistake to suppose that you can ask for "the" idiomatic way of discussing this. So it becomes opinion-based and thus off-topic. – Michael Harvey Feb 7 at 17:33
  • 1
    I see you've had "a head start on happy hour" – Katy Feb 7 at 18:15
  • Out of interest why did you add the word "already" in this situation? It's correct but has the implication that either they are expecting to consume more alcohol after, or that it's a (semi-)habitual occurrence... – seventyeightist Feb 7 at 20:34

Some options are

knocked back a few

cracked the bottle

hit the bar

had your three martini lunch

got a head start

These are mostly based on US English.


There's a lot of possibilities.

"I see you've already been drinking"

"I see you've already started drinking"

"I see you've already had a drink"

Drinking or having a drink, in the right context, implies alcoholic drink. It's idiomatic in the sense that it's not literal.

"I see you've already wet your whistle"

Literally means drinking, basically, but almost always refers to alcohol.

"I see you've already had a few"

Doesn't really fit your scenario because you'd use that when someone was noticeably tipsy (or worse).

Lots of more or less regional slang. "Had a swift half" if you want to imply that they had a half a pint of beer, or colloquially any other "small serving". "Had a/some tipple". "Had a cheeky one" if you're suggesting that it was in a situation where it's not socially unacceptable, but not entirely proper either. After that I'm getting onto really quite obscure slang, so I'll stop there.


"imbibed" could work - a more formal word that could be used somewhat humorously to refer to drinking alcohol.


As one of the comments above notes, there are so many options available here.

You could go for the literal:

I see you've already had a drink

"A drink" often refers to an alcoholic drink.

If the intention was that they would drink alcohol later:

I see you've already started [drinking]/already had one

There are also idiomatic options:

I see you've already had a tipple/already wet your whistle/already had a cheeky one

I owe the 'whistle' suggestion to the commenter above, and it normally implies consuming a small amount of alcohol.

The 'cheeky one' is extremely idiomatic, and could refer to many things not just alcohol. It makes the act of already having a drink sound 'naughty' but in a (normally) good way.

  • 3
    Assuming you are British? As a speaker of American English, the word "cheeky" sounds, well, very British to me. :-) – Mixolydian Feb 7 at 17:45
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    Cheeky is one of those annoying things millennials say. – Michael Harvey Feb 7 at 18:05
  • 1
    @MichaelHarvey Pretty much only British millennials: mentalfloss.com/article/66021/… – Katy Feb 7 at 18:18

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