- The drinking straw is a device used for sucking up a liquid - usually a drink. A thin tube of plastic (especially polystyrene) or other material, straight or with an accordion-like living hinge, it is employed by being held with one end in the mouth and another end in the drink. Muscular action reduces air pressure in the mouth, whereupon atmospheric pressure forces the drink up the straw. The first straws were made by the Sumerians, and used for drinking beer (as to avoid the solid byproducts of fermentation). Argentinians use a similar device called bombilla that acts as both a straw and sieve for drinking mate tea. The modern drinking straw was patented in 1888 by Marvin C. Stone.