Drinkers Drinks Those That Serve Them

Nicely toasted…

“I drink to your health when I am with you,

I drink to you health when I’m alone,

I drink to your health so often

I’m beginning to worry about my own”

            Those people who know me will know that I have a great passion for drinks, drinking, drinkers and bartending. I freely admit that I like the whole ritual of drinking and bartending: often I think that cocktails are so interesting because they can be  more about the process by which they are made than by the actual ingredients themselves. Also those people who have met me know that I am a slightly ‘pukka’ person with my British tailoring, handkerchiefs etc. Thus hopefully this months topic will be no big surprise. I am attempting to resurrect the ancient ritual of The Toast.

            A toast is defined as “ to call to an admired  person (normally a woman) or object”. How ever a better description is that a toast is a basic form of human expression that can be used for any emotion from love to rage. They can be sentimental, cheesy, cynical, defiant, comic, poetic, long ,short or even one word. What they do very well is mark a drink or drinking occasion. It makes a drink more personalised as well as the experience of drinking it. Some have said that when one toasts something truly special then the glasses should be broken afterwards to ensure they are never toasted with again!

            My interest in toasts however is not to drive up your glassware costs but to help make drinks and drinking more enjoyable to the drinker. A good/funny toast or remark when serving a drink or drink order can surely only help make it more memorable. The toast, tho’ coming after the order can definitely be an upselling tool or good service practice.

            No-one is entirely sure who the first toast was for but the custom of drinking to health permeated the ancient world with mentions in the Odyssey, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Shakespeare. The habit of clinking glasses is said to have come from the need to  make bell-like sounds to ward off evil spirits when drinking – devils being banished by bells . Mostly the act of toasting occurred at organised dinners and the like with imbibers drinking to gods, then rulers then friends/guests and then even absent friends! Toasting became less pragmatic and more social in the 17th century: as one unnamed Englishman said “to drink at table… without drinking to the health of someone special, would be considered drinking on the sly, and as an act of incivility”.

            Toasting became even more pervasive in the 18th century when they solidified their formal aspects (Nelson himself decreed that every day in his officers’ wardroom would have a different toast – Monday “our ships at sea”, Tuesday “our men”, wed “ourselves”, thurs “a bloody war or a sickly season”, Fri. “a willing foe and a sea room”, sat “sweethearts and wives” and finally “absent friends”. But also with this the Toast was used as an opportunity to show some wit and banter: “these were not an excuse for speeches but for wit and wine” as one expert toaster put it.

            More toasts of course led to excessive drinking and in many places the practice was banned or outlawed. Louis XIV forbade the offering of toasts at his court and Massachusetts put into place a law banning the “abominable… and useless ceremony” of drinking to another’s health. One of the major concerns with the Temperance Movement (founded 1517) was to abolish the custom of toasting whish they saw leading to debauchery. Others saw it differently with a toast being described as “ a quality as pleasant as a handshake, as warm as a kiss” by an unnamed Victorian.

            Some toasts are well known to all – especially what is seen as “National” such as “cheers” in the UK and US, Santé in France, Skål in Danish etc. We all surely know “here’s looking at you kid” from Casablanca. Even “here’s mud in your eye” is well known but interestingly it is a shortened version of a longer “ here’s mud in your eye while I look over your lovely sweetheart”… makes more sense now doesn’t it. Many great Toasts of course have already been said and I shall end this article with a selection that I use and find that they work. How do I mean work? Well if you drop them in at the right time they will make the customer feel more like a guest. They will feel more human and the experience more personal. You might want to choose a shorter one for 9.30pm on a Friday but I hope you will find that they make people smile and make you more money. Cheers!

“only the young die good”

“here’s to you… no matter how old you are you don’t look it”

“here’s champagne for our real friends and real pain to our sham friends”

“joy to the world and especially to you”

“may your sex life be as good as your credit”

In English beer/with English cheer/to the right little/tight little island”

“eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we diet”

“may the hinges of friendship never rust and the wings of love never lose a feather”

“blue skies and green lights”

“may the most you wish for be the least you get”

“may we be happy and our enemies know it”

“may our house be too small to hold all our friends”

“here’s to your health! You make Age curious, Time furious and all of us envious”

“here’s to my car and your car and may they never meet”

“may you be hung drawn and quartered… yes – hung with diamonds, drawn in a coach and for and quartered in the best houses in the land”

and finally when you have served a “nasty” drink or been served one by a bartender:

“may we never drink worse than this”

“I used to know a clever toast,

But doh! I cannot think of it – so fill your glass to anything

And, bless your souls, I’ll drink it”