Raising your glass in a toast was common from ancient Greece to fairly recently, but appears to have fallen out of favor in the 21st century, outside of weddings. The group act of drinking in unison with a common thought is a way of bonding, of communicating a sentiment, and a ritual that should be brought back. To understand the reasons why, we need to look at the history of the toast. It has gone through a few changes while keeping the same basic form.
Indeed, amongst both the Greeks and Romans, toasting could not only serve as a declaration of well wishes (and an excuse for copious drinking!), but also a provocation — a challenge. Being able to hold one’s liquor was considered a form of toughness and discipline, and a night of toasting surely tested a man’s capaciousness. Just as the Greeks who pledged their drinks to the gods expected blessings in return for their sacrifice, toasts made to one’s fellow mortals were expected to be reciprocated. One toast would beget another, and back and forth the tributes went. With each, the vessel would have to be entirely drained of its intoxicating contents; as we’ll see, merely sipping one’s drink after a toast is a modern refinement. Thus, offering a toast was sometimes a way of throwing down the gauntlet — an invitation to competition and a kind of duel; could the others match you cup for cup? Unsurprisingly, a night of toasting frequently found participants passed out in a stupor by its end.
In later eras, toasting did not automatically mean drinking more than you should. The history of toasting is followed by an elegant argument for reviving the custom at The Art of Manliness. -Thanks, Tim!