Here’s the video explanation of ‘why we drink a toast and raise our glasses to the host’
Think about the last wedding, dinner party or fancy get together you went to and I’m pretty sure you drank a ‘toast’ to the guest of honour. But what is a toast and why do we drink it?
Let’s look at the background about why we raise our glasses to the host.
A few thousand years ago in ancient Greece we didn’t have Crime Scene Investigation units and fancy forensics. But human nature hasn’t changed much and the quickest way to get rid of that unwanted business partner, politician or pesky spouse was to poison them. It was as simple as getting them around to your place, slipping a few lethal drops into their glass and then blaming the gods. Quick, simple and clean and no messy blood soaked dagger to explain away.
Obviously people figured out to not drink anything put in front of them when they were socialising with their enemies and simply stopped drinking. But that was a pretty rude way out.
The easier solution was for the host to have the first drink from each bottle. His survival showed it was safe for everyone and this is how the phrase ‘drinking to one’s health’ started.
Now let’s jump forward several hundred years to the Roman times where it was still socially acceptable to poison people. Adding a small piece of burnt bread (toast) to each glass of wine was a bizarre Roman practice of the times. The best historical guess we have says this was a ‘treat’ but that sounds pretty far-fetched.
A more realistic explanation relates to the lousy wines of the times. Burnt toast is a primitive form of ‘activated charcoal’ filtration and sucks up off smells and flavours. Simple – but effective.
And the word toast derives from the Latin ‘tostus’, meaning ‘roasted’ or ‘parched’.
The craze of drinking wine with a lump of toast in it made it to England near the end of the middle ages. By the 16th century drinking a ‘toast’ was the same as saying you’re drinking a glass of wine with a chunk of burnt bread in it.
Even Falstaff said ‘put toast in’t’ when requesting a jug of wine in Shakespeare’s ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’ published in 1602.
‘Drinking a toast’ was the height of fashion during the 17-18th centuries. And like all good drinking games with rules dependant on how much you drink, once they ran out of legitimate guests to toast they used absent friends as an excuse to just keep on drinking.
Toasting competitions, saluting a lass’ beauty by drinking from her shoe and other drinking games thrived. But sure as night follows day, the moral minority stuck their noses in and anti-toasting laws knocked the fun out of all things wine related.
Clinking your glass
I’ve found two popular theories about this.
Number one theory says the noise scared away evil spirits residing in the drink. So, clinking glasses drove them away.
A more believable theory comes back to poisons. Having the host sample the first sup from a fresh bottle showed that bottle was safe, but what if the poison was in the glass? Now we had guests pouring wine from and into each others glasses before drinking the rest. And this soon turned to a symbolic touching or clinking of glasses to prove confidence in the host.
And that folks is why we clink glasses and drink a toast to the host.