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belt the grape To imbibe heavily; to get drunk; to get a buzz on. Belt, an obsolete slang verb meaning to swallow, was popular in the mid-19th century. As part of the U.S. slang phrase belt the grape, it again gained currency in the 1930s. Grape usually refers to wine but can be used loosely to mean any alcoholic beverage.
Jack takes to belting the old grape right freely to get his zing back. (Damon Runyon, Guys and Dolls, 1931)
bend the elbow To drink liquor excessively and habitually; to tipple, to booze. Variants include to crook or tip or lift the elbow, the last apparently the oldest, since it appears in an OED citation dated 1823.
down the hatch A popular toast, usually said before tossing off a drink in one gulp. Hatch, a slang term for throat, is a figurative extension of the nautical hatch ‘covered deck opening on a ship”
have one for the worms To take an alcoholic drink; to have one for the road. The former belief that alcohol killed worms in the stomach furnished yet another convenient excuse for having a drink.
smash the teapot To fall off the wagon, to resume drinking alcoholic beverages after a period of abstinence. The teapot of this British expression is no doubt a punning reference to that of a teetotaler.
splice the main brace To indulge in alcoholic beverages; to celebrate an occasion with potent whiskey. The main brace of a ship is the rope which controls the main sail. In the British navy, the sailor who performed the difficult task of splicing the main brace was often awarded an extra ration of rum; hence the expression’s current figurative use.
I can tell him enough Navy yarns to fill a book—providing the main brace is spliced occasionally. (J. H. Jennings, in Life, November, 1940)
tap the admiral To open a cask of liquor, usually secretly; to open a bottle, to pop the cork; hence simply to drink, to hit the bottle, to have a nip—all usually on the sly. This phrase reputedly derived from an incident in which a group of sailors surreptitiously broached a keg of liquor, only to discover that it contained the corpse of an admiral, apparently placed in the brew for purposes of preservation while being transported back to England.
wet one’s whistle To drink, usually a small quantity of hard liquor; to imbibe a bit, to take a nip. Whistle is here used jocularly for the mouth or throat, which must be kept moist in order to speak, sing, or whistle. Wet whistle appears with this meaning as early as the 14th century, in Chaucer and in the Towne-ley mysteries. The expression using wet as a verb does not appear until the 1500s.
Lets … drink the other cup to wet our whistles, and so sing away all sad thoughts. (Isaak Walton, The Compleat Angle, 1653)