We all know it, or at times say it, or at least have heard it. If you’re a whisky drinker, chances are you’ve uttered that word with as much mustered panache as Rick displayed when toasting Ilse with his, “Here’s looking at you, kid!” in the 1942 movie Casablanca.
But the art of toasting is slowing slipping away.
And with the huge influx of innovative and enthusiastic spirit makers across the world—not to mention the great vintners, bartenders, brewers, mixologists and, most importantly, the consumers—we need to reach back into history and take back the toast.
I’m not talking about the forty minute lament given at state dinners or ambassadorial functions, and certainly not the half dozen words flung out in an inebriated slur, honoring a newly wedded couple with, “Here’s to the gride and broom!” Instead, I’m hoping you might find that same sliver of urgency that tugs at my sentimental heart strings, the one that insists we’re losing the plot when it comes to raising a glass.
We’ve filled our lives with myriad moments of recognition and celebrations—from baby’s first steps to your finally reaching one thousand likes on your Facebook page. Countless gurus, psychologists, self-help guides and insides of bottle caps encourage us to seize the day, cherish this accomplishment and make every moment count. And because of that and the strength of mass-marketing to those sentiments, we try our level best to fulfill those suggestions. We find reasons to pop open a bottle and mark occasions to note one’s age, to acknowledge a death, to support our team, and to welcome friends back. Occasionally, we make an about face and reverse the form, throwing out plagues on our enemies and wishing ill luck at every turn.
But most of those are reserved for diplomatic dinners where prickly critiques are well-disguised and nestled within perfectly wordsmithed acknowledgements.
Likely, most of us find ourselves at less formal affairs, or at least among folks who understand that if we make a gaff in conversation or protocol, there’s little worry we’ve breached a treaty and war will ensue.
As we’re usually in the thick of preparing for some family event or holiday season, there is ample time to research and practice a toast of first-rate quality and class—if not for that event right around the corner, then for the one that soon follows.
There is always an occasion to salute, pay tribute, honor, show goodwill, memorialize, profess, appreciate or commemorate a fellow being or moment on the timeline of life.
And to help you on our quest, I offer you a few of my favorites; a fraction of available verses ready-made in case your mind is blank and your tongue grows tied at moments of needed inspiration.
Birthdays: May you live to be a hundred years with one extra year to repent! ~Irish
Christmas: Here’s to the holly with its bright, red berry.
Here’s to Christmas, let’s make it merry.
Death: Though life is now pleasant and sweet to the sense,
we’ll be damnably moldy a hundred years hence. ~Old pirate toast
Friendship: Never drink anything without first smelling it,
never signe anything without first reading it.
Never dive into pools of depth unknown,
and rarely drink—if you are alone. ~17th century philosophy
Husbands: Here’s to the man who loves his wife, and loves his wife alone.
For many a man loves another man’s wife, when he ought to be loving his own.
Love: Brew me a cup for a winter’s night.
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
and I’ll toast your bright eyes, my sweetheart fair. ~Minna Thomas Antrim
Luck: As you slide down the banister of life,
may the splinters never face the wrong way.
New Year’s: As we start the New Year,
let’s get down on our knees to thank God we’re on our feet. ~Irish
Weddings: Look down you gods,
and on this couple drop a blessed crown. ~Shakespeare
Women: Here’s to the lasses we’ve loved, my lad,
here’s to the lips we’ve pressed;
For of kisses and lasses,
like liquor in glasses,
the last is always the best.
So raise your glass and be a good host. Practice the art and give a fine toast!
I leave you with one last sentiment by Phyllis McGinley:
~Stir the eggnog, lift the toddy,
Happy New Year, everybody!