Raise your glass and say Cheers! Saying a few good words is a practice that is known all over the world. When it’s time to celebrate, wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks are served. The tradition of saying a toast dates back to the times when people were wary of their drinks for fear that it was poisoned. Others believe that it was the Moguls in India and the Vikings from Scandinavia that started the practice of saying a toast in honor of other warriors, or in some instances, as a tribute to their women.
Whatever the roots, the practice of saying a toast is now done in various parts of the world. In Africa, they say “Ooogy Wawa!” while in India, a toast to the good life is expressed as “Tulleeho!” Alongside a toast, each country has come up with its own favorite drink. Also, while the legal drinking age is typically 18 for many countries such as in the United Kingdom, it is 21 for Sri Lanka, Fiji and the United States. On the other hand, 16 year olds can start drinking in Greece, Germany and Poland, while in Jamaica, Albania and Ghana, there is no set legal drinking age.
Here are some drinks and drinking traditions as practiced by people from other parts of the globe.
The Germans made Oktoberfest popular, so it’s not surprising that beer is a big deal in the country. It is said that one of the best beers in the world is made in Cologne, called Kolsch. Since 1986, the beer can only be brewed in the Cologne region. Also, it must be served at a temperature of ten degrees Celsius in a long thin glass called Stange or pile. A serving size is only 0.1 or 0.2 liters to fully enjoy the robustness of the flavor of the beer. When saying a toast, the Germans exclaim, “Prost!” which translates to “may it be good.”
The Irish are known to be a hardy lot when it comes to drinking. Irish whiskey or Fuisce or uisce beatha has an alcohol content level of up to 94.8% and is made from cereal grains. The toast is “Slainte!”, though it can be accompanied by poetry or even songs in honor of a person or a particular celebration.
The French are known for making some of the best wines in the world, and are also popular for coming up with its bubbly cousin, champagne. For the French, a drink is meant to be savored rather than something that will propel a drinker into an alcoholic stupor. When filling a person’s glass, the drink should only be poured halfway and everyone must first be served before the drink can be tasted. A toast to good health is expressed as “A votre santé!” or simply “Sante!”
Raki is the drink of choice for the Turks. This is a liquor flavored with anise and is made from the distillation of grape pomice. The potent drink is served with some water, changing the color of the booze into white, which is how the drink earned its moniker, “Lion’s milk”. For the Turks, raki is best enjoyed with a group of friends and consumed with some appetizers. The glass is raised and “Serefe!” is said as the toast, which means, “to honor”.
In Kazakhstan, the national drink is kumis, which is made of fermented mare’s milk. Traditionally, it is fermented in a horse hide jug, though in modern times, the fermentation process is completed in a large vat. It is considered impolite to waste even a drop of this beverage so drinkers must either finish their mugs, or pour back into the kumis jug whatever drink is unfinished.
A toast in the Ukraine is said as “Budmo!”, which means, “We’ll live forever!” Others in the room respond with a hearty “Hey!”, which is repeated at least twice before the crowd drinks their beverage. Beer and horilka or Ukranian vodka are the top choices when it comes to drinking.
Hungary is most well known for its brandy drink palinka. When it’s time to say a toast, they say, “Ege sze ge re!”, which is a toast to good health.
Bai jiu is the drink of choice of the Chinese to mark special occasions. It is also known as firewater, since the spirit leaves a distinct kick. For those willing to try, there is also Lizard wine, which is fermented rice wine made actual lizards.
During a celebration the guests often raise their small shot of bai jiu, turn to a person at the table and say “Gan Bei!” or “Wen Lie!”. This is done while maintaining eye contact as a sign of respect. Another sign of respect is serving the eldest person in the group first. When pouring a drink, it must be up to the brim. When it’s time to toast, don’t raise your glass higher than those who are considered more superior than you on the table.
The custom of serving elders first when it comes to drinking is also practiced in Korea. It is also considered impolite to pour your own drink, just like in Japan. Also, it is considered improper to refill a person’s glass when there is still some drink left in the glass. An unusual drink in Korea is Baby Mouse Wine, made of days old mice and is considered to be a health tonic.
A traditional drink in Japan is called Sake, or rice wine, though beer is often consumed to unwind at the end of a long day. When it comes to gatherings, it is customary for a person to serve another person whenever any type of alcohol is being presented. It is not considered polite to pour your own drink for yourself. When saying a toast, the Japanese say “Kanpai!” Another way of saying it is “Banzai!”, which translates to “May you live a thousand years”.
Mexico’s contribution to the world of alcoholic beverages is tequila. This drink, which dates back to the 15th century, is made from the blue agave plant, which can be found in the city of Tequila and in the highlands of Jalisco. It was only in the 1950s when the practice of putting a worm in the bottle became popular as a marketing gimmick. As in other Spanish-speaking nations, the Mexicans raise their glass and say “Salud!”