A Gentleman’s Guide to Making a Toast
Good Health! Chin Chin! Cheers!
Across the planet there are varying continents, countries, cultures and languages but one tradition which remains constant is making a toast. Despite local variations, each toast points towards a common celebration; one of friends, old and new.
In the UK a raised glass can be met with a cry of ‘cheers’, ‘chin chin’ or ‘good health’ but how are our worldly neighbours toasting? A well-travelled modern gentleman will always be prepared to say ‘lechaim’, ‘salud’ and ‘sante’ where appropriate.
We spoke with Chivas Regal Scotch whiskey brand ambassador and toasting expert Mr Max Warner who has spent the last eight years travelling round the world gathering toasting knowledge. Enjoy his findings below. Cheers!
Coming together over a drink has always been at the heart of Chinese culture, but the blast of economic growth is accelerating this to new levels. At clubs and bars in the big cities you’ll see a bottle of whisky or vodka in the middle of the table for guests to share. At a big meal you might find three glasses on your table – a glass for your drink of choice, a wine glass, and a shot glass. A few notes of caution when in China: not finishing your glass may be seen as disrespectful and the local spirit ‘er gua toe’ can bring down a dragon – we would suggest sticking with your whiskey.
Ganbei! or Kai Wei!
The Chinese toasting ritual may be casual but, whether in a social or business setting, it is deeply associated with friendship, trust and respect and a simple ‘cheers’ is seriously frowned upon. The host will make the first toast, probably ‘ganbei’ (‘bottoms up!’) or ‘kai wei’ (‘starting the appetite!’). Touching the other person’s glass below the rim is a sign of respect. If you are drinking shots, always turn your glass over to show it’s empty.
Many travellers believe the Russian toast is ‘Na Zdorov’ye’ but they would be wrong unless they are having dinner. In fact Russians as a rule enjoy making up long and complex toasts such as ‘Za druzhbu myezhdu narodami!’ (To friendship between nations!). However, if you aren’t well versed in Russian and want to be on the safe side, go with a simple ‘Za Vas!’ (To you!).
In Russia toasts are made with spirits and empty glasses are always refilled. Expect frequent toasting throughout a meal. If the toaster stands, everybody else must stand. Be sure to make eye contact with each person you clink glasses with, then finish in one swallow and place your glass down on the table. It’s typically the host or the senior guest who kicks off the proceedings and ifsomeone toasts you, you must toast them back – it’s the height of rudeness not to do so.
France, Germany, Italy
Across France, Germany and Italy there are many quirky local twists – and words – but in all three countries you must make eye contact as you touch everyone’s glass at the table. Not looking into the eyes is not only ‘bad luck’ but it threatens disaster for amorous pursuits. In France you’ll have seven even year’s bad sex unless you clink every glass individually without crossing arms. In Italy you’ll have the same fate if you fail to meet absolutely everyone’s eyes.
A voter dante! Prost! or Salute!
While you are holding that ever important eye contact prepare to toast ‘a votre sante’, ‘sante’ or ‘tchin’ in France, ‘ZumWohl!’ or ‘Prost!’ (‘good health’) in Germany and ‘Salute’ (health) in Italy, although ‘Cin Cin!’ (onomatopoeia of the sound of clinking of glasses) will also work.
Spain, South America and Mexico
Young Spanish speaking South Americans have a curious toast that’s most often heard if you’re enjoying a night out in a large group. You’ll often hear ‘arriba,abajo, al centro, al dentro!’ and see some matching movements with theglass: up (raising glass), down (lowering glass), in the center (putting glasses together), inside (drinking!).
If you are guest in these countries, it’s polite to make a toast of thanks your host. The most appropriate toast in this case is ‘Salud’. You may want to personalise yourtoast by using variations on ‘Salud’ such as ‘un salud por la familia’ (cheers to family) or ‘un salud por la amistad’ (cheers to friendship).
The Scandinavians have a rather bloodthirsty cheer, ‘Skol! According to folklore ‘skol’ (which translates as skull), is derived from the time when Vikings drank ale or mead from the skulls of their defeated enemies.
So after you toast in Scandinavia drink, then nod and be thankful they’re no longer Vikings.
What do to if you forget the local toast
The five universal truths of toasting – the modern gentleman is well versed in international etiquette, so that no matter where they are in the world they can present themselves with the same confidence as they would at home. But if your toasting know-how fails you at the crucial moment, here are some tips. I’ve observed many different ways of raising a glass and though it is important where possible to respect local traditions, if you aren’t versed on how thelocals do it, here are five good rules of thumb:
- Try and judge the situation and formality of the occasion as toasts not only differ around the world but also depend on the venue and situation.
- Stand to make your toast, where appropriate.
- Always raise your glass, face the host first and make eye contact with youraudience one by one.
- Where possible clink the glass of every guest before taking a sip. If you are not drinking, you should still raise a glass to the group as a sign of respect.
- Keep your toast short and non-specific but acknowledge the host and bring in a personal touch by highlighting your relation to the person or group.
Real Friends Make Time
The essence of a toast is acknowledging friendship, something any Ape or Gentleman needs in his life. Chivas Regal have put together two fantastic films depicting this as part of their ‘Real Friends Make Time’ campaign. Our favourite is Big Bear, take a look at the trailer below.
Ape to Gentleman would like to thank Scotch whisky manufacturers the Chivas Brothers for this guide. Purveyors of Chivas Regal, a Scotch whiskey first introduced in 1801, with a heritage and history lending itself well to the art of toasting. If you wish to join the toasting conversation and answer, ‘Toasting is a ritual practiced around the world to celebrate special moments so tell us: The last special moment I toasted was —-‘. do so at facebook.com/ChivasRegal