By The Glass
Well-delivered toast makes memorable event
IN HAWAII, with its fusion of cultures, I've found social gatherings often provide charming insights.
Here is a short list of native toast phrases:
Chinese: Gom bui! (Cantonese), Gan bei! (Mandarin)
Ireland, Scotland: Sláinte!
Persian: Salam ati!
Russian: Vashe zdorovie!
Filipino: Mabuhay! (Tagalog)
Earlier this month, I accompanied my wife to her friend's wedding. One of the many highlights was the traditional "banzai" toast from guests to the bride and groom. A gentleman in his 20s bounded up to the microphone and began by explaining that although he was youthful, he was eminently qualified to lead the toast. His resume included the conspicuous consumption of alcoholic beverages earlier in evening, which had lubricated his vocal chords so he could muster the low guttural tones required of a rousing Japanese banzai.
I thought his was the best version I'd heard in a long time!
Conveyed with a sense of style, eloquence and wit, a well-delivered toast can turn the simplest of occasions into a memorable event.
Many believe that the tradition of toasting started with the ancient Greeks, who habitually "spiked the punch" to poison their rivals. Despite this somewhat dastardly origin, the toast eventually was deemed a gesture of good faith and trust.
The term "toasting" is actually derived from the Roman practice of placing a piece of toasted or burnt bread into a goblet to mellow the flavor of the wine.
In Asia, drinking etiquette differs by country. In Japan, the glass is constantly refilled so that it is never empty. In Korea, a glass is never refilled until it is dry. The last few drops are shaken out before the host refills the glass.
As far as toasting terms, the Chinese say ganbei (gon-bay), which means "dry glass" or "bottoms up." In Japan, the word is kampai (kahm-pie).
Think of a toast as a miniature speech. Few people give thought to what they're saying and turn it into more of a roast. A good toast should be a gift, not an insult: appropriate, upbeat and flattering; succinct, not long-winded.
Toasting with water is generally believed to be bad luck. In the Navy, a toast is never made with water, this being said to indicate that the honoree might be doomed to a watery grave.
Some suggest it is better to toast with an empty glass, but not if you are the one offering the toast.
When receiving a toast, do not drink or stand. That would be like applauding yourself. Afterward, you should stand up and respond, even if only to say thanks.
As for my personal toasting traditions, champagne always lends a sparkle to my eye. Here are a few recommendations: Comte Audoin Dampierre "Cuvee Ambassadeurs" NV, Krug "Grande Cuvee" MV, Louis Roederer Brut Rose 1999, Billecart Salmon Brut Rose NV.
Kevin Toyama is a sommelier at the Halekulani and an advanced certificate holder from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org