History and Elements of a Proper Toast

Published: Jun. 27, 2005 at 7:36 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2005 at 8:59 PM CDT
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You may have asked yourself, "What does a crisp piece of bread have to do with complimenting someone with wine?"

The two could not seem more unrelated. The first known incident of toasting was in the 6th Century B.C. by the Greeks. They would toast to each other for a very practical reason; to make sure that the wine they were about to drink had not been poisoned. Spiking wine with poison had become a common way to dispose of an enemy, whether it is in competition or to avoid a messy divorce.

So what happened was the host (or the person serving the wine) would pour a little bit of wine from his glass into to glass of the guest and the guest would in turn pour a little bit of wine from his glass into the glass of the host, both making a clinking noise with their glasses.

Through the years we no longer need to pour our wine into each others glasses but we kept the clinking noise to be symbolic of trust and comradary between the people present. The term toast came from the Romans. They would put a piece of burnt toast in to their wine glasses to temper some of the bad wine the Romans sometimes had to drink. The charcoal from the toast would reduce the acidity of off wines making them more palatable.

By the 1700's, socialites would even toast to people that were not present at their parties-usually celebrities and especially beautiful women who later became known as the "toast of the town."

By the 1800's toasting was the proper thing to do. Here are some things to remember for the next time that you give or receive a toast:

  • The host gives the first toast, usually right before dessert. Champaign may be poured for this reason. Even if you do not drink alcohol, allow it to be poured. You do not have to drink the contents to participate in the toast but everyone should have a full glass of Champaign for the toast.
  • The first toast is given to the guest of honor, if there is no specific guest of honor; the toast is given to the guests at the table in general.
  • If the toast is given to you, do not drink or toast to yourself. Although, you should stand and reciprocate a toast to the host.
  • You should always stand to give a toast unless it is a group of eight or smaller.
  • Be prepared with something to say before you stand to give a toast. Toasts should always be short and to the point.
  • Never push someone to make a toast that is not prepared or uncomfortable doing so. It will not come out right and cause for an uncomfortable situation.
  • Clearly define the end of the toast by saying, “Cheers!” or ask the guests to now raise their glasses.