The recipe for a great toast

Forget the long speeches or cheesy limericks; we dissect the elements of a great toast so you can raise a glass any time you want.

Illustration: Martini 2024 – Karan SinghIllustration: Martini 2024 – Karan Singh
Annie Fox

While the exact origin of toasting is murky, we do know that the ancient Greeks raised a glass to their guests, took a sip, and toasted to health to prove their wine was safe. The tradition of toasting is deeply ingrained in many cultures worldwide, serving as a universal expression of celebration and gratitude.

These days, we tend to reserve the ritual for weddings and funerals, but raising a glass can be a simple way to experience mindfulness.

A toast in one word

For those who want to keep a toast short and sweet, nothing beats raising a glass to one word, “Cheers!” That sentiment of celebration is repeated the world over, from “Cin cin!” in Italy to “Şerefe!” in Turkish and “Sláinte!” in Gaelic.

While drinking to health in Greece by saying, “Υγεία” (Yamas) may be where the tradition of toasting began, it’s not the only place where people raise a glass to well-being. Drinking to health is also common amongst Afrikaans, Portuguese, and French speakers everywhere.

Perhaps rooted in the Ancient paranoia that everyone is trying to poison everyone else, many cultures toast to emptying your glass. In the Philippines, the sentiment is simple: “Tagay!” which literally means “drink.” In both Korea and China, it’s “empty glass” or “干杯” (Gānbēi) and “건배” (Geonbae).

How to give a meaningful toast

Aletta Rochat from Toastmasters International, a global not-for-profit that helps people build their confidence in public speaking, shares the elements of a great toast for any occasion.

Give the audience a few moments' warning before you toast

This might not be necessary in casual situations with a few friends, but if you’re in a more formal setting like a wedding, it’s a good idea to let your audience know you’re about to make a toast. “This gives them a few moments to make sure they have some kind of beverage in their glass,” suggests Aletta Rochat.

Keep it short

“Toasts are not designed to be speeches,” says Aletta. A short anecdote about the person you want to honour or a story that captures the moment you’re giving gratitude to is a good way to set up the context for your toast.

Keep the audience in mind

This one might seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget that one-size-fits-all isn’t the right recipe for a memorable toast. At best, reaching for a canned toast ends up feeling generic or irrelevant; at worst, it’s offensive. “A toast you would share within a small group of close friends might not be appropriate to an audience in the workplace,” says Aletta.

Make it personal

There are simple ways to make a toast personal without needing to know the topic or subject inside and out. “While a toast to the bride and groom is technically correct,” says Aletta. “using the names of the bridal couple makes the toast more personal and memorable.”

Try and try again

As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect, and Toastmasters is designed for people to come together and do just that —in a safe atmosphere. “This sets them up well to take that confidence back to work or into social situations that might require them to propose a toast,” says Aletta.

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