A Toast By Any Other Name

Any time delicious drinks and good company intersect is an occasion worth celebrating in my book—but June’s Celebrate with Bubbles Box provides even more opportunities to clink glasses by nature of the tipple it trumpets. The more I thought about it, though, the more I wondered why that is—where’d this whole idea of toasting come from, anyway? Ever curious, I looked into it and discovered that the origins of champagne toasts aren’t exactly as clear as the liquids they include.


I suspected that the roots of the toasting tradition had something to do with avoiding being poisoned. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Game of Thrones, but the idea of mixing the contents of your very full glass with those of someone else’s through a vigorous clink seemed like a reasonable enough way to stave off death by drink, at least until the next meal. Turns out that theory’s as accurate as Melisandre’s visions thus far. Apparently, the clinking aspect of making a toast is only about 300 years old, while toasting’s origins can be traced back more than 3000 years (Ulysses raises a glass to Achilles’ health in the Odyssey, believed to have been published around 1200 BC).

And this wouldn’t have made much sense as a proof of trust if everyone were drinking from the same bowl, anyway. Researchers seem to agree that not only the tradition of toasting (aka saying nice things to the people you’re with before taking a sip of alcohol), but also the term “toasting” itself, has its origins in the “loving cup,” a shared drinking vessel of wine present at banquets and weddings in ancient times. Typically, a piece of cooked bread (ya know, toast) was added to the vessel’s contents to absorb some of the wine’s acidity and thereby improve its flavor. There’s even an early account of this in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (believed to be published in 1597), when Falstaff says: “Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in’t.”  By the 1700s, a toast was no longer the piece of floating bread, but the person being honored (potentially the “toast of the town,” depending on his or her popularity).

The “loving cup”

But when people started taking a more hygienic approach and drinking from individual glasses as time went on, the sense of camaraderie and unity that came with the more communal tradition of the “loving cup” was lost. And so, by bringing everyone’s glasses together and taking a sip at the same time, the drink—and the people consuming it—became reunited as one. Cheers to that! And champagne toasts in particular? Well, effervescence is kinda just ever-present at celebratory occasions in modern times (more about that in an upcoming post).

In case you’re also wondering how the word cheers came about: chiere in Old French meant “face.” Middle English extended cheer to mean a mood—good or bad—reflected in the face, and the word’s been shouted in encouragement at alcohol-infused occasions of celebration and lamentation alike ever since.

Wanna add a little variety to your future toasts? Here are some ways people say cheers around the world:

  • Afrikaans: Gesondheid
  • Chinese (Cantonese): Yám būi
  • Chinese (Mandarin): Gānbēi
  • Croatian: Živjeli
  • Filipino: Mabuhay
  • French: Tchin Tchin, Santé, or Cul Sec
  • German: Prost / Zum wohl
  • Greek: Yamas
  • Hebrew: L’Chaim
  • Irish: Sláinte
  • Italian: Cin Cin or Salute
  • Japanese: Kanpai
  • Korean: Gun bae
  • Nepali: Tarang
  • Polish: Na zdrowie
  • Romanian: Noroc or Sănătate
  • Russian: Vashe zdorov’ye
  • Spanish: Salud
  • Swedish: Skål
  • Thai: Chai-yo
  • Turkish: Şerefe
  • Vietnamese:

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