Sunday, September 9, 2012

Apple #602: Toasting Etiquette

I've had a request!  Daily Apple reader Jarred wants to know:
Apple Lady, what's the deal with toasting etiquette? I have always heard that you only clink glasses when it's wine, but nothing else.  Do you think this would be a good topic for a Daily Apple?

Of course it's a good topic for the Daily Apple!

My first response was that what's in the glass should be alcoholic, not necessarily wine.  But I looked into it to see if that's correct.

They're toasting with wine here, but you don't necessarily have to have wine in your glass to drink a toast.
(Photo from Taylor

What's in the Glass
  • Traditionally it was considered de rigeur that everyone's glass contain alcohol, but most people now agree that that's not necessary.  The only beverage which you are not supposed to drink during a toast is water.
  • Why not water?  According to superstition, it's bad luck.  I couldn't find much about why, except that among sailors, drinking a toast with water is considered hoping that the toast-ee will die by drowning.
  • What is important is making sure that everyone's glass is filled before offering a toast. 

This is Virna Lisi and she's toasting you.  I think that's champagne.
(Photo from Starlet Showcase)

Other Toasting Etiquette
  • The host should be the first to toast.
    • Exception: If you're into the dessert and the host still hasn't offered a toast and doesn't seem likely to do so, it is acceptable for a guest to offer the first toast.
    • Exception: At less formal occasions such as at a small dinner party, if a guest wants to toast the host in thanks, that's acceptable.
    • Exception: At weddings, it is traditional for the best man to offer the first toast.
  • If it's a large group and you want to get everyone's attention, stand up.  Don't click silverware against the glass because 1) that's annoying and 2) you might break the glass and no one wants shattered glass all over the table.  Simply standing will get people's attention.  Invite them to stand with you and soon everyone will be standing and ready to listen.
  • The only person who should not stand is the person who is being toasted.  If you are the one being toasted, for example, you should remain seated, accept the toast graciously but do not drink from your glass, and after everyone has drunk, thank the person who made the toast.  To participate in the toast when you are being toasted would be like applauding yourself. 

Proper toasting etiquette is being observed here for the most part. The toast-er is standing, holding his glass to the toast-ee, who is apparently the bride, who is sitting. The other guests are also sitting, but since it's a small group, that's OK. The only etiquette violation here is that the bride is apparently planning to drink to herself, and that would not be OK.
(Photo from eHow)
  • It's not necessary that everyone clink glasses, especially if it's a large group.  Raising your glass and calling out something like, "Cheers!" or "To Jarred!" or some other group response following the toast, and then drinking, is perfectly appropriate.
  • If you are the one making the toast:
    • Keep it short.  Everyone is holding their glasses aloft, patiently waiting to be allowed to drink. They don't want to stand there holding their glasses while you go on and on about what happened in the second grade. If it's a formal occasion and you want to give a moving, personal, delightful performance, preparing something ahead of time may be appropriate. But still, brevity is the soul of wit and much appreciated by thirsty party-goers.  Write down what you want to say and cross out about half of that.
    • Keep it sweet. Even if you want to begin a toast by remembering someone who is no longer alive but dearly missed, that's fine, but end on a positive note. Any group gathering is a celebration among those present, so let everyone enjoy the current, happy occasion.
    • Make eye contact with the person being toasted.  You're offering that person a gift with your toast, not grandstanding so that everyone can admire you. Looking at the toast-ee will invite the rest of the group to do the same, thus putting the focus on the correct person.
  • If you are in another country, other or additional rules about toasting may apply. In France, for example, you should never allow your arm to cross another person's while clinking your glass. In Japan, the glass is continually refilled so that it never goes empty. In Korea, the glass is not refilled until it is empty. It's even good form to shake out the last few drops so that the host knows to refill your glass. The best policy is to keep your eyes and ears open and do as the [insert name of country here]s do.

Of course, even the most formal occasions can veer toward the informal as the evening goes on. Regulations about proper toasts get a little looser too. Though I think the no-water rule would still apply.
(Photo from Wikimedia)

Some Short & Sweet Toasts
  • Cheers!
  • Salud!  (Spanish)
  • Prost! (German)
  • Skål! (Swedish)
  • L'chaim! pronounced leh-CHAY-eem (Hebrew)
  • Sláinte pronounced SHLAWN-cha or SHLAWN-ta (Irish)
  • My heart is as full as my glass when I drink to you, my friend!
  • May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.
  • Here's to your health! You make age curious, time furious, and all of us envious.
  • To your very good health. May you live to be as old as your jokes.
  • May your joys be as deep as the ocean, and your misfortunes as light as its foam.
  • A full belly, a heavy purse, and a light heart.
  • May the road rise to meet you.
    May the wind be always at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face;
    the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
    may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
  • May those who love us, love us
    And those who don't, may God turn their hearts.
    And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
    May He turn their ankles
    So we'll know them by their limping.
 For more toasts for all occasions, check out the Etiquette Scholar.

Some of those toasts are for decidedly less formal occasions.
(Photo from 100 Beers)

History, or at least Legends

These little tidbits have been repeated several places as historical fact. I can't verify that they are historically accurate, but if only through sheer repetition, they have come to be regarded as fact.
  • Supposedly, the practice of raising and clinking glasses prior to drinking originated in Greece. Apparently, sneaking poison into other people's drinks was a rather common practice.  Everyone taking their first drink together was considered a gesture of good faith--or else it was a way to find out fast if anyone at the table had been poisoned.
  • Clinking glasses is also thought to have originated with that fear-of-poisoning thing. The idea was that clinking glasses would make the topmost contents of your glass, including any poison lingering at the top, slosh out and into your neighbor-and-possibly-poisoner's-glass. How's that for convivial sharing?

Clinking glasses: sharing the poison as well as the pleasure
(Photo from Skeptic Money)

  • The term "toasting" originated from the Roman practice of putting a piece of toasted bread into a goblet of wine before drinking, which helped to mellow the flavor of the wine.
  • The practice of adding toast to a goblet of wine continued into medieval English times, except their practice was to drink the wine until you got to the piece of bread at the bottom.
  • This one I can verify: even though we all know that Spock liked to say "Live long and prosper," it was Washington Irving who first penned that one. 

Spock and Washington Irving -- both said, "Live long and prosper."
(Photo from the Star Trek Database and from

Etiquette International, Toasting - A Memorable Art
German Toasting Glasses, Proper Toasting Etiquette 
Etiquette Scholar, Toasting
Kevin Toyama, Honolulu Star Bulletin, Well-delivered toast makes memorable event
Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table, Toasting Etiquette
InSide the TravelLab, Wine, Health, and Seven Years of Bad Sex: Toasting Traditions in France

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Apple Lady!!!! That answered all my questions. Cheers to you!


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