"Down the hatch" is an English idiom that is used to encourage someone to drink the entire contents of his or her beverage of choice. In this manner it serves as a kind of toast to be used in polite company when drinking alcohol. This phrase can also be used whenever anyone is eating or drinking something right before the person opens his mouth to take in food or drink. It appears that "down the hatch" originated from the practice of ships carrying freight below deck in the hatch area.
An idiom is a phrase or word that develops a meaning that doesn't necessarily match its literal definition. Its meaning may also vary from what the meaning was when it was first originated. Instead, it gains its new meaning from the way it is used among the people of a particular culture. Idioms provide color and impact to speakers who don't want to sound mundane. Many idioms have to do with food and drink, and one of these idioms is the phrase "down the hatch."
The most common usage of this idiomatic expression occurs whenever two or more people are preparing to drink alcohol at the same time. At occasions like these, it is common for one member of the group to say a few words right before everyone drinks at the same time. This is known as a toast, and "down the hatch" is one of the most popular general toasts available. It implies that those drinking should finish all of the drink before them in one lift of the glass or container.
Although it is often used as a toast, the meaning of this expression is versatile enough to include any occasions when food or drink is involved. Essentially, the "hatch" could mean the person's mouth, throat, or stomach, since all of those areas are destinations for food and drink in the human body. As an example of how this phrase is used, consider the sentence, "Don't be afraid of the size of that steak; just throw it down the hatch."
In days when ships were a more popular method of transport for people and freight, this phrase literally referred to the part of the ship where cargo was stored for the voyage. It is likely that this caused people to think of eating and drinking since the ship was figuratively eating the cargo. Sailors were also known to drink and give rowdy toasts, so it's likely that "down the hatch" originated in that setting.