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Drink-Based Characterization

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Bartender: What will it be?
Meryl Stryfe: [bangs fist on counter] A banana sundae!
Milly Thompson: A g√Ęteau mille-feuille with Ceylon tea!
Drunk Customer: Listen, missies, the gag won't work unless you order milk!

In certain moments, attention is drawn to what a character is drinking because it emphasizes their personality in some way. "Harder/grittier" drinks, such as black coffee or strong alcohol, contrast against "softer/weaker" drinks, such as mocha cappuccino latte or milk. Sometimes these characterizations are temporary, such as when a teetotaler decides I Need a Freaking Drink. Other cases may be examples of Trademark Favorite Food, where it implies an urge of consistency in their personality, but rarely anything else. The examples below should indicate both a drink and a trait.

Sometimes characters order "against type", subverting audience expectations (although this is still playing the trope straight), such as a hardboiled character ordering milk or something sweet and girly.

Some common personality shorthands are as follows:

  • Bubbly and upbeat feminine/effeminate personalities are often indicated by especially sweet/fruity cocktails or sparkling wines. If they order tea or coffee, this would be indicated by having some milk and lots of syrup/honey/sugar (or sugar substitute).
  • Tough/dangerous is indicated by drinking something with a very strong and usually bitter taste. Real Men Take It Black is a Sub-Trope in this category and is specific for coffee. The Gargle Blaster is usually a "hard" liquor that shows how high a character's pain tolerance is. Hard-boiled detectives, gunslinger and pirates drink hard liquor.
  • British or Asian culture/affectations can be indicated by characters having tea frequently, or in unusual situations.
  • Snobbery or pretentiousness can be indicated by characters creating an Overcomplicated Menu Order.
  • Wine Is Classy is a Sub-Trope indicating the drinker is a sophisticated intellectual or Officer and a Gentleman, if used to indicate a heroic personality that is rich/well-bred. Does not apply for cheap wines (especially boxed wine), which instead indicates low economic class/upbringing. A further Sub-Trope is A Glass of Chianti, where drinking red wine is used to indicate a villainous personality that is rich/well-bred. Either version may appear as an Invoked Trope where the character is attempting to appear high-class but doesn't actually know how to "properly" enjoy the wine.
  • Tea Is Classy is another Sub-Trope which demonstrates the drinker is of a wealthy background. Tea times are typically the favorite activity of the Idle Rich ojou, Proper Lady, Gentleman and a Scholar or Man of Wealth and Taste, who would often sip their tea from an expensive tea set.
  • Naivete can also be conveyed by the circumstances surrounding the order. Asking for milk or tea in a bar is considered "inappropriate" because people are there to get drunk. Water and soda are often exceptions to indicate designated drivers or The Teetotaler (marking a dramatic shift if they suddenly change to alcohol). Milk is also used as a set-up for a vulgar joke, or a reversal of said joke. With the right tone, however, milk can also signify a stone-cold badass who doesn't give a damn about what people think, especially if it's filled with "unconventional" ingredients (e.g. the Korova Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange); they might even be baiting others into drawing the wrong conclusion.

The drink order can be code for nationality and social class. See National Drinks for more details.

Has some overlap with Age-Stereotypical Food. See also Luxurious Liquor, when what is communicated by a character's choice of drink (one rarely ordered but always found on hand) is their liquid assets. Also goes well with Must Have Caffeine.

Contrast Your Favorite and Trademark Favorite Food, where the drink doesn't represent anything about the character's personality, it's just a character is expressing a fondness. These tropes can overlap, and drink orders themselves are likely to be delivered in the form of The Triple.

Example subpages by drink type:

Other examples (which do not fit in the previous types):

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    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A successful filmmaker in Four Rooms (played by Quentin Tarrantino) raves about his Cristal for almost 10 minutes of screentime. He shares it generously, but one of his buddies (played by Bruce Willis) drinks something brown in a chaser.
  • Parodied in the second Naked Gun movie:
    Lt. Frank Drebin: Give me the strongest thing you've got.
    Waiter: [brings out a bodybuilder]
    Drebin: On second thought, how about a black Russian.
    Waiter: [looks at camera, shakes head]
  • In X-Men: First Class, it's subtle, but every time they're in a pub, Charles orders a cola, rather than alcohol, for Raven. He doesn't want her "slipping up" and exposing her true form.

  • A Confederacy of Dunces: Ignatius will have a Dr. Nut (an almond-flavored soft drink produced in New Orleans at the time).
  • Discworld: Igors "do not drink... wine." Being hardworking henchmen, this is the cue to offer them a slug of something stronger.
  • Dracula does not drink... wine.
  • Harry Potter students will drink butterbeer, while their professors enjoy Firewhiskey or a Gilly water.
    • The composition of butterbeer is up for debate. J. K. Rowling claimed she made it up but described it as probably tasting "a bit like less sickly butterscotch". It is mildly alcoholic, not enough to get humans tipsy but enough to get a house elf drunk. The Harry Potter wiki describes an actual beverage called butterbeer which was documented in a 1588 cookbook from Tudor England containing beer, butter, sugar, eggs, nutmeg, and cloves, probably resembling early eggnog; Heston Blumenthal made some to a Tudor-era recipe in 2009, and contrary to his usual portrayal as a "culinary mad scientist", he hardly changed a thing about it, it was so good. Home attempts at Defictionalization tend to revolve around either these old beer recipes, actual butterscotch spirits, or for kid-friendly consumption, cream soda. A soda base is plausible when you consider that old-fashioned sodas got their carbonation from yeast—the same way beer gets its alcohol and fizz, the main difference being time—and do actually contain trace amounts of alcohol. "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" theme park serves its own, secret, soda-like butterbeer formula.
    • Butterbeer is favoured by students visiting Hogsmeade, but at Hogwarts proper, the most popular drink is pumpkin juice. Less unusual drinks seen in Hogsmeade and its surrounds include tea, coffee, and Madame Rosmerta's oak-matured mead.
    • In Prisoner of Azkaban, the trio overhear some of the staff discussing Sirius Black with the Minister. McGonagall has a small gillywater, Hagrid has four flagons of mead (hey, he's half-giant), Flitwick a cherry syrup and soda with an umbrella, and the Minister has redcurrant rum.
  • Jeeves and Wooster: Gussie Fink-Nottle has an addiction to orange juice which he drinks the same way as his friend Bertie Wooster drinks alcohol (whenever he has received bad news to strengthen himself for example).
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle: Kvothe The Bard regularly performs at an upmarket tavern and is happy to let his admirers buy him vintage Sountenwhich is to say, the bartender gives him a mug of water and half of what said admirer pays for the "wine".
  • Nero Wolfe: Archie Goodwin's drink of choice is milk. He knows things are getting serious when Inspector Cramer, who's butted heads with him and Wolfe countless times throughout the series, brings him a fresh carton as incentive to secure their help with a murder case.
  • Steve Martin, in his book on writing, uses the following (roughly paraphrased) example to illustrate his point on demonstrating characterization through actions. (Frappe is, like many unfathomable terms, a regional term for what would otherwise be called a milkshake, or it can be a fancy coffee drink. Presumably it means he's considerably less of a threat than you might think.)
    [a red guy walks into a bar]
    Bartender: What'll you have, red guy?
    Red guy: I'll have a frappe.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Stannis Baratheon is a hard and bitter man, and to reflect this, he drinks plain water with a pinch of salt. It probably doesn't hurt that his older brother is a massive alcoholic and he's spent his entire life trying to get out of his shadow.
    • Aeron Damphair, a priest of the Drowned God, carries a water skin filled with seawater, which he drinks from.
    • Roose Bolton, a health nut, drinks the medicinal wine hippocras.
    • And then there's Robert/Robin Arryn's favorite drink. It's his mother's milk. He's far too old to be suckling.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of The Big Bang Theory had Penny practicing making alcoholic drinks, and got frustrated when Sheldon wouldn't order. When he does...
    Sheldon: I'll have a virgin Cuba Libre.
    Penny: That's rum and Coke, without the rum.
    Sheldon: Yes.
    Penny: So, Coke?
    Sheldon: Could you make it diet?
    Penny: [growls] There's a can in the fridge.
  • Blake's 7. In one episode where Travis is supposed to be a tough gunslinger, he walks into a bar and orders a vitazade. Which unfortunately is now an Irish soft drink. Apart from this the usual booze of choice is "adrenaline and soma", implied to be a pick-me-up with the soma to take the edge off.
  • In Fawlty Towers, Basil Fawlty insults another person's lack of sophistication by saying "they wouldn't know a Bordeaux from a Claret." The joke is, of course, that a claret is a type of dry, dark Bordeaux tailored to British tastes, and so in British wine parlance, those two names are synonyms.
  • Used regularly in Forever. Henry recognizes a wine's vintage by scent, orders whiskey by name and year, and asks for cognac "the older, the better." He also frequently drinks tea and coffee made by sophisticated processes rather than drip or a tea bag. Jo, meanwhile, orders "double whiskey, whatever's well" and drinks police station or carry-out coffee.
  • Kenan & Kel: "Who loves orange soda? Kel loves orange soda! Is it true? Mmm-hmmmm! I do, I do, I doo-oo!"
  • In Kung Fu (1972), Caine, being a Shaolin monk with appropriately simple tastes, usually just asks for plain water when at a bar.
  • In Once Upon a Time, The Charming Family's signature drink order is hot chocolate with cinnamon. Snow White, her daughter Emma, and Emma's son Henry all either drink it on-screen or mention that they like it at one point or another.
  • In Rizzoliand Isles the two characters each have a consistently preferred drink when they get together, the subject of occasional playful squabbling; Rizzoli drinks beer, demonstrating her blue collar background and greater street sense, while Isles prefers wine, befitting an intellectual who comes from a wealthy family.

  • John Lee Hooker's Blues song: "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" has said drink order as the chorus.
  • "Whiskey and women just about done wrecked my life."
  • Taylor Swift mentions whisky in some of her darker songs, seemingly preferring Tennessee which makes sense, considering how long she lived in Nashville. All those years in Britain seem to have affected her too, tea time seems to be Serious Business in some of her lyrics too.
  • Unknown P, a parody drill rapper whose schtick is being a Spoiled Brat wannabe tough guy, is very partial to some Shloer — a posh, non-alcoholic, sweet sparkling grape juice, often given to kids in place of wine, demonstrating both P's upper-class background and his desperate attempts to be something he's not.

    Video Games 
  • Bar Oasis has several signature drinks, all of them alcohol, and are associated with characters. Boa Noite is for Carla, Caol Ila a la Murakami and Desree is for Desree Mboshi, the titular drink Oasis for Risa, Ile de Re a la Eric for Eric Lang, and Guinness for Sheila.
    • As for the gameplay, the game zig-zags this trope. You may have men order June Bugs or women ordering a Black Russian. And it's possible for both to get drunk on Cinderellas (basically, a juice cocktail) and Shirley Temples.
  • KanColle: The feature "Anchorage Bar" will make your current "secretary" ship girl serve a certain drink that's mostly appropriate to their age (or at least, how old they look). Most destroyers and coastal defense ships, who look like little girls, serve juice; the only "older" girls who serve juice are Tenryuu, Naka, Sakawa and Nagato (who are in touch of their "child" side). Most older ship girls (heavy cruisers, battleships, aircraft carriers) serve hard drinks that vary between each girl and the hour you visit them. A few of them may serve food (of different kinds) in addition to drinks. Pola, the hardest of the Hard-Drinking Party Girl lineup, has wine 24/7 on the bar.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Being a classy and intelligent woman, Doctor Chakwas enjoys high-end spirits, particularly Serrice Ice Brandy. You can even obtain some and have a drink with her, reminiscing about the old crew and your adventures in the first installment.
    • Shepard seems to favor 'whatever the bartender can throw at me, and keep them coming.' It almost gets them killed when one Jerkass batarian bartender poisons Shepard with turian booze. Depending on how you play Shepard, you can pay the bastard back by making him drink it.
    • If the player is persistent enough at the bar in the Citadel, the bartender will ramp it up all the way to ryncol, a krogan drink that is insanely toxic. The barkeep warns Shepard that drinking it will make them set off radioactivity alarms for a while. If the player chooses to partake, Shepard (who is already well snockered at this point) passes out and wakes up on the floor of the bar's bathroom.
    • In Mass Effect 3, vaguely Scottish engineer Donnelly declares that The Illusive Man's preference for bourbon over scotch is proof that he's evil.
  • Shantae: Risky's Revenge: Abner calls a Latte a girl's drink.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, the gritty, fast-paced protagonist drinks beer, while the classy, upscale Veronica drinks fancy mixed drinks.
  • Sin With Me: A scene in Wrath's first season shows a variety of drinks ordered by the troupe, reflecting their different tastes and personalities. Darius ordered amaretto shots topped with cream (aka blowjob shots), Wrath has a dark beer, Onyx has a pink fruity cocktail, and Malakai has a bourbon.
  • Starship Promise: In Nav's A Cosmic Match short, the heroine's drink order is a neat whiskey, which Nav lampshades as "the most stereotypical 'Hello, I am a grizzled private eye' drink ever." Nav, meanwhile, has a "cheerful neon cocktail".
    Nav: There's nothing wrong with wanting a little sweetness from life, [MC].
    MC: I prefer to stay bitter.
  • Sweet Enchantments: A scene in Lucien's first season helps to establish the cast's personalities via the coffee Zain serves them: Lucien's is "dark as midnight," Roman's is loaded with whipped cream and syrup, and Runa's is spiked with liqueur.


    Web Original 
  • "What your drink says about you" lists are practically their own genre of Internet humor. Examples here and here.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • An amusing scene in one episode of Disney's Aladdin: The Series had Mechanicles enter the Bad Guy Bar and order mint tea. Abis Mal mocks him for it.
  • Bojack Horseman at his lowest starts drinking a stupendous BOTTLE of vodka per day! In season 6, we discover that when he was a small child, his abusive parents had passed out in the living room after drinking and smoking the night away, leaving a bottle of vodka open on the coffee table. He crept in, snuck a small sip, and then curled up in his mother's arms and fell asleep. He associates it with a very rare moment of safety and comfort with her. But like most things from his childhood, dwelling on it now costs him his health.
    • The vodka also characterizes her, a miserable semi-impoverished housewife who neglected her son. Vodka is high-strength, very cheap, looks like water, and pairs well with food, so she could drink throughout the day, pair it with meals, and keep her son in the dark about what she was doing.
  • Family Guy: Stewie is very fond of Lois's breast milk, to the point of addiction.
  • In Episode 88 of Kaeloo, Quack Quack walks into an Old West Saloon and orders a yogurt drink.
  • Barney's girlfriend (a Yoko Ono pastiche) in the Be Sharps episode of The Simpsons orders "A single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man's hat." Moe conveniently has exactly that behind the bar.
  • Played with surrealistically in South Park. Officer Barbrady walks into Tweak's dad's coffee joint and orders "the usual", which turns out to be a slap across the face with a cat.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Drink Based Characterisation


"What Your Drink Choice Says A

College Humor covers what kind of person you are based on your drink order.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / DrinkBasedCharacterization

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