Here's Lookin' at You, Kid: The fine art of the toast

Wine ToastingIn the movies, the debonair leading man pulls a bon mot out of the air with a wide grin, demonstrating his good breeding and social grace. The girls swoon as his words hang in the air. But one need not be Humphrey Bogart to deliver a festive toast.

Toasts, memorable celebratory lines that convey friendship and humor, can turn an otherwise humdrum dinner into something fun, bawdy or even touching. The term “toast” reportedly dates back to Roman days when people dunked burnt toast into wine to reduce its harsh acidity. Much later, clinking glasses supposedly came into fashion when bumping off your enemy was as simple — and untraceable — as slipping a vial of arsenic into a wineglass. A conscientious host gained your trust by presenting his glass to you. You’d then pour a splash into his glass, and he’d take a swig to assure its purity. To show you trusted him, you would simply clink his glass when he presented it. Now that wine has improved and poisoning has lost its legality, the act of toasting has taken on a gracious air, fostering a sense of friendship.

But with tradition, comes etiquette. A few suggestions: 1. Everyone agrees a toast should be succinct, since blathering can get tedious; 2. If you are the toastee, don’t drink with the others, but do thank the toaster; 3. Standing is optional, yet less rude than banging a glass to gather attention; and 4. When you’re in a small group, you should look into the eyes of the person you are clinking glasses with before drinking.

The easiest toasts to remember and deliver are the short one-liners from each language. In English, it’s “Cheers.” In French, “Santé”, German and Dutch “Prost,” Italian “Salute,” Spanish “Salud,” Japanese “Kanpai” and in Scandinavia, they say “Skoal.”

Longer toasts, whether funny, sentimental, wistful or corny, can celebrate an occasion. Try these toasts on for size next time your group needs some enlivening:

“As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.”

“Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.”

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door.”

“To lying, cheating, stealing and drinking: May you lie to save your brother, may you cheat death, may you steal a woman’s heart and may you drink with me.”

“Here’s to heat: not the heat that burns down shacks and shanties, but the heat that brings down slacks and panties.”

“May you live as long as you want, and may you never want as long as you live.”

“May friendship, like wine, improve as time advances, and may we always have old wine, old friends, and young cares.”

“May you always work like you don’t need money; dance like there’s nobody watching; and love like it’s never going to hurt.”

“Friendship’s the wine of life. Let’s drink of it and to it.”

“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been; the foresight to know where you are going; and the insight to know when you’ve gone too far.”

Cheers.

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