The origins of toasting dates back to a time when it was polite, and at times necessary, to prove that you didn’t poison your drinking buddy. To do this, you clinked your full (non-glass) mugs together with enough force to make a splash, at which point some of your drink would splash into their mug, and some of their drink would end up in yours. The reasoning was that if you poisoned their drink, you wouldn’t be foolish enough have any of it end up in your vessel — unless of course you spent the last five years building up an immunity to iocane powder.
Today, toasting (or “cheersing” as some may incorrectly say) is a way of showing respect to your fellow drinkers. You touch glasses, say a few words, make eye contact, and imbibe at your leisure. The current incarnation of toasting transcends borders and is universally accepted worldwide as a pre-drinking ritual. The most significant difference being the words that are said over such an event.
Drinking at establishments, homes, and remote locations in 72 countries around the globe, I've learned how to toast in many languages. Below are some of most unique toasts to impress your friends. As such, they're some of my favorites. I hope you adopt one to class up your drinking experience!
Pronunciation: BOO-lahOrigin: Fiji If you’ve been to Fiji, I could convince you that “Bula” is the most frequently spoken word there. Similar to Hawaii’s “Aloha", Bula is used to greet people and to bid them farewell. However, unlike Aloha, Bula is also the most popular drinking toast. You could absolutely get through an entire day in Fiji with just using the word Bula to communicate with others. This is a bit off-topic, but it needs to be stated that the people in Fiji are hands-down the nicest people on the planet. I hate to generalize people, even for something complimentary, but this is a fact that I would be remiss for not mentioning.
Translation: “To breathe”
Pronunciation: HERE-upOrigin: Malaysia There are several languages spoken In Malaysia, and are therefor several words used for toasting. “Hirup", my favorite, translates into “breathe”. It’s a reminder to relax for a moment, take in your surroundings, and appreciate this moment in your life. I learned this toast while drinking a fermented coconut concoction in Kuala Lumpur. And, of all of the toasts that I’ve learned, it’s the most profound.
Translation: “To your health!”
Pronunciation: egg-uh SHEG uh-druhOrigin: Hungary This is the second most difficult toast that I’ve learned, which is likely why it’s one of my favorite. I first heard this while drinking palinka (a clear Hungarian spirit made from local fruits), and finally mastered it a few days later. Once you get the hang of it, you can spice things up by interchanging it with egészségedrunka (egg-uh sheg-uh DROON kah), which translates as “to our health”.
Legend has it that “Skall” was originally belted out just before a victorious Viking drank mead from the skull of his defeated enemy. That legend has been debunked on several occasions, but there is likely an ounce of truth in it, or at least one instance where it was true. I learned this toast, and its legendary origin, while over-drinking aquavit (ah-kah-veet) in Denmark. Unfortunately, the mention of skal or aquavit immediately transport me to the next morning’s debilitating hangover.
Translation: “To your health!”
The Philippines live on a tropical chain of of islands with too many people and not nearly enough resources. Poverty is rampant, but self-pity is not. Despite many of the local’s living conditions, smiles and positive attitudes abound and Mabuhay can be heard echoing around every corner. The Filipino level of humble appreciation for life is something many of us can learn from.
Translation: "Bottom’s up!”
Pronunciation: Oh-KOE-lay Muh-LOO-nah
This is my favorite American toast. Born on the idyllic Hawaiian islands, it’s how the locals begin their drinking. There’s no selfish platitudes exchanged, like wishing each other good health as they tip back their booze. It’s simply “bottoms up” or “here we go” or “shut up and drink”. It’s a perfect way to get things going, and let the beauty of the islands do the heavy lifting.
Slainte braden, bas en Eireann, agus bod mor!
Translation: (see below)
Pronunciation: slahn-chuh BRAY-den, boss en AIR-ren, ah-gus BODE more
Just outside Galway, Ireland, I found myself at a bar where the preferred conversational language was Irish (not “Gaelic” as it’s often called). While I expected to find a bunch of local farmers who only interacted within their own community, most of the people in the bar actually worked for the Irish TV station, which broadcasts programming (including a soap opera) in the Irish language. This wonderfully honest toast translates as; “To the health of the salmon, a death in Ireland, and a big penis” Hey, two outta three ain’t bad!
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