Years ago, I heard the theory that civilization sprang up because of alcohol. The hunter-gatherer life required less of a time commitment, the theory goes, than did the agricultural life that led to modern civilization, and the only reason we opted for more toil and strife was because we discovered the joys of fermentation. A day’s work isn’t so bad when you can finish it off with a shot and a pint. As Rudyard Kipling once said, “Payday came, and with it beer.”
As it turns out, this theory is absolute bunk — the truth is we were just tired of being eaten by lions and dying in childbirth — but it didn’t stop me from relaying it to my drinking buddies and then offering the necessary toast: “To civilization!”
Toasts are probably my favorite part of drinking, mostly because I like to think I’m drinking for a cause or a purpose. Am I drinking because I had a rough day? Of course not! I’m drinking to my good friend’s health! As long as her health doesn’t include her liver!
But toasts aren’t just pointing at a random person and then drinking in their honor or to their health. They’re an art form. One that civilizations have been perfecting for thousands of years. Here’s a list of some of the better toasts that go beyond the typical salud and sláinte and simple tributes to health.
Sant Hilari, Sant Hilari, fill de puta qui no se l’acabi. The first part is a reference to the Catalonian Saint and martyr Jaime Hilario Barbal, and the second basically translates to, “Whoever doesn’t finish their glass is a bastard/son of a whore.”
Bunden i vejret eller resten i håret is a fantastic Danish cheer meaning, “Bottoms up or the rest in your hair.” More toasts need to be in the form of direct threats.
The English naturally have a ton of toasts, but one of the most inexplicably weird is “Here’s mud in your eye!” The origin may be a reference to trench warfare, horse racing, farming, Biblical faith-healing, or simply the sediment in the bottom of a drink. No one’s quite sure. But, hey, they say it anyway.
Hau weg die schiesse. Basically, “Away with that shit.” Bravo, Germany.
If you’re going to use the classic Celtic toast, sláinte, try this variant: Sláinte bradán bod mór agus bás in Eireann. It basically means, “To having the health of a salmon, a large penis, and a death in Ireland.” Another worthwhile toast of Irish origin is Jonathan Swift’s, “May you live all the days of your life.”
Kanpai! While this is basically just the equivalent of “Cheers!” the direct translation is “Dry the cup.” It can also mean complete defeat or annihilation, which may be the most fitting toast I’ve ever heard. The Japanese may also say Otsukaresama deshita, meaning, “You’re tired,” or Ikkinomi, meaning, “Drink it in one breath.”
Salud y amor y tiempo para disfrutarlo. Translation: “Health and love and time to enjoy it.”
The Zulu variant on “Cheers!” just means “Cheers!” but it gets on this list simply because of how amazing it is: Oogy wawa
A popular one in Spain (I’ve heard it used in several other Spanish-speaking countries) is Arriba! Abajo! Al centro! Al dentro! and has accompanying actions: Arriba! or “Up!” and you lift your glasses up. Abajo! or “Down!” and you touch your glasses to the table. Al centro! or “To the center!” and you all tap your glasses in the center. And Al dentro! or “To the inside!” and you down the drink.
And if these don’t work, you can always go for the classic, “Fuckin’ get it in ya.”