In Portuguese, the expressions "ter mau vinho" (have bad wine) and "ter mau álcool" (have bad alcohol) refer to people who become violent when they drink too much. Typically, these people are considered nice and even kind when sober, but become aggressive or violent after a few (or too many) drinks.

It's usually used in dialogue similarly too:

Daniel? Oh, he 'has bad alcohol'. I wouldn't go drinking with him, if I were you.


Daniel is such a nice guy! I'd never have thought he 'has bad alcohol'.

Is there a similar idiom in English?

  • 8
    How about a new one...booze berzerker? Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 15:49
  • 2
    "Malacopa" would be the answer in (Mexican) Spanish which is one of my favourite words
    – CharlieB
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 19:13
  • 2
    Two-pot screamer.
    – Alan B
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 8:41
  • In vino veritas Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 8:59
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    @PedroLobito That does not normally mewan violent - more that you say true unkind or things or things that should be kept secret
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 17:32

7 Answers 7


A "mean" drunk

...describes someone who gets aggressive when drink taken.

Why People Get Mean When They're Drunk, According to LiveScience.com:

There may be a mean drunk inside every man — and now scientists think they might know why.

According to a new paper published in the February issue of the journal Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, MRI scans of drunk and sober men show that alcohol-related changes in the prefrontal cortex — the region of the brain thought to be responsible for moderating social behavior and aggression, among other executive functions — may be responsible for booze-induced anger.

Also, we have:

Personality Trait Reveals Who Becomes a Mean Drunk

Drinking can make some people more aggressive, and now researchers have found a particular personality trait — a focus on the present, with little regard of consequences — that appears to make someone under the influence more likely to become mean.

So you could say:

"Daniel is such a nice guy. I would never have thought that he is such a mean drunk."

Also see:

As you can see, it is used both formally and informally.

  • 4
    Note that "mean" doesn't inherently state violence, but rather a lack of manners. People who get belligerent can also be described as being mean drunks, but they're not violent.
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 14:31
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    I think you can extrapolate this to any other scenario too. I've heard happy drunk, sleepy drunk, loud drunk, violent drunk, and so on...
    – dwizum
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 15:51
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    I've also seen "ugly drunk" used, with the same caveat Flater noted also applying.
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 16:00
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    I don't see anyone else mentioning it, but I've heard the term "angry drunk"
    – mattgately
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 20:07
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    @mattgately American here, “angry drunk” was the first thing I thought of. Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 20:49

Daniel is such a nice guy, but gets belligerent when he drinks.

This is the term I've most often heard in the United States, especially among younger generations, to describe a person who becomes angry and / or violent when drunk.

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    +1.. that is a very good description. Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 22:42
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    I like it, but it feels less informal. The Portuguese idiom is 100% informal. Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 22:49
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    @Michael_B while I've definitely used it in informal situations, I wouldn't call it slang. In a different context, it could be used very formally (e.g. "the suspect became belligerent and combative" could probably be said in a court room). I'm just nitpicking though :)
    – mbrig
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 17:49
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    @mbrig, Agreed. That's why I focused my comment to apply only "in this use-case". I think in most, if not all, other use-cases it would be considered more formal usage. Thanks. Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 17:52
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    This isn't really much of an idiom, it's pretty close to literal.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 18:16

In the UK, we use the term "violent drunk" to describe somebody who becomes aggressive after a few drinks.

Daniel's usually a great bloke, but he's a really violent drunk.

From https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/feb/14/children-parents-alcoholics-nacao-alcoholism:

Unlike a lot of people, my mum wasn't a violent drunk...


Another option that seems to fit your literal Portuguese translation is:

We never bring John out if we're going somewhere nice, he can't handle his liquor.

This usage is more neutral and often refers to other alcohol-induced debauchery (usually towards getting rowdy or sick) but also can be used in your case. However, it may be necessary to also include some indication of aggression for the case you're after.


I have personally heard (and indeed use myself) the term "angry drunk"; though this is from my British perspective.

For example:

My friend Kevin started a fight in a bar last night. He's such an angry drunk.

It's not so much just an adjective to describe someone's demeanor when drunk (angry), as the term can be used as an umbrella for a set of actions (which includes, but is not limited to including, violence).

Source demonstrating use: https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19528649/the-reason-why-you-re-an-angry-drunk/

The accepted answer of "mean drunk" sounds ever so slightly old fashioned.


From a British point of view you could go with 'lout'.

Dave has a few drinks and turns into a bit of a lout.

As per 'lager lout'.

Dave is a lager lout!

Although this sounds like it implies lager or beer, it's used more generically.


Dutch courage

England and the Netherlands were commercial and political adversaries throughout much of the 17th & 18th centuries. As a natural but politically incorrect consequences, many pejorative expressions crept into the English vernacular. Here are a few that survive in varying degrees of common use today...

  • Dutch uncle - the father of a bastard
  • Dutch treat - no treat at all, as all parties pay their own way
  • Dutch comfort - alternatively, Schadenfreude or acceptance that things could be worse
  • Dutch bargain- agreement between drunks
  • 2
    Dutch courage isn't about violence or tendency to abuse when drunk, it's about the effects of lowered inhibition and stronger inclination to take bold risks, exercise bravado - more of a "damn the torpedoes" type of attitude.
    – J...
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 19:22

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