Multiple Theories Behind Clinking Glasses

clinking glassesI’ve always found it fascinating that no matter where you go in the world, people clink their glasses and simultaneously voice their linguistic equivalent of “Cheers!” It’s “A la votre,” in France; “Prost” in German; “Na zdravi” in Czech, “Kanpai” in Japan, “L’chaim” in Hebrew. (For a list of how to say “cheers” in 50 different countries, click here.)

But why does this tradition even exist? And what’s its origin?According to a recent post on the Bottlenotes website, there are several theories behind the genesis of the clinking custom. They are:

1.During the Middle Ages, when deception and mistrust were commonplace, people would clink glasses so that wine would spill between cups, insuring that one reveler was not attempting to poison another.

2. The sound of glasses colliding would scare away evil spirits hovering in the midst. As written on Bottlenotes: “Many societies all over the world, including ours, practice some kind of noisemaking to scare away demons–bells rung on a wedding day, shouting on the New images-1Year–and perhaps the clinking of glasses was meant to serve the same purpose.”

3. Some believe that the wine experience is meant to satisfy all five senses–it’s color, scent, body and taste take care of four–and that clinking takes care of the fifth.

4. Clinking is meant to be a symbol of the time when everyone at a gathering drank from the same goblet. While everyone now drinks from her own glass, the tradition is a nod to the time when passing one cup around was a chance to bring people together–a sort of group bonding exercise.

Do any of these ring true to you, or do you have another theory about why we clink glasses? If so, let us know…

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I Love/Hate You Champagne

I have a love/hate relationship with Champagne. Ever since the New Year’s Eve dinner party I threw for my high school friends during my sophomore year in college, it’s been a long road to gain comfort drinking bubbly.

An evening of cooking, celebrating and reminiscing with friends–as we ushered in the start of 1984–turned into a memorable night of not only getting sick, but also experiencing the worst hangover of my life, during which I had to take an airplane.

I’ll never forget the waiting time in the airport terminal, where my grandmother doted on me, wiping my forehead and urging me to drink water. It’s hard to imagine a dainty 80-year-old woman nursing her college-age grandkid after a a night of too much partying, but that’s the kind of grandmother she was.

At least five years went by before I could even be near a glass of champagne, and many more passed before I could get my lips to touch a glass of it. Champagne has always been representative—for many—of New Year’s Eve, but I happily did without it.

Eventually, New Year’s Eve took on a new importance in my life. Not because I was growing more comfortable cradling a champagne flute in between my first and second fingers, but because it is the night I met my husband, at a New Year’s Eve party. It’s important to mention that he dated a friend of mine before it was my turn, and exactly one year later—on New Year’s Eve—we started dating. The rest is history.

Each year, we look forward to celebrating—not just the start of a new calendar year, but another year that we’ve been together. We’ve celebrated in some far-flung places and also in the coziness of our home. We’ve sipped wine and drank beer to ring in the New Year, and little by little, I’ve eased my way back to appreciate the flavor, glamour and buzz of a glass of Champagne. Minus the hangover.

Caren Osten Gerszberg is a co-founder/editor of the Drinking Diaries. You can see a selection of her work at, and follow her on twitter: @carenosten

Note: This post was originally published in 2010

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Cheers to All That

by Helene Stapinski

Every year it’s the same drill. Our family and friends ask, “So what are you doing for New Year’s Eve?” and we always answer, “Staying in our pajamas.”

It wasn’t always that way.

Years ago, back in the early 90s, we tried to go out. We really did.

There were the parties, where people either threw up or passed out, or both. We tried parties at our place, but people either threw up or passed out, or both.

There was the time I tried to go to Times Square, and had to maneuver through the underground subway tunnels to get by the police barricades and drunken fools lining the streets. There was the year we went for a fancy prix fixe dinner in SoHo. We got dressed up and drank champagne and blew noise makers and had a fun time. But when we got the bill, we felt like patsies.

There was the night we went out with my best friend Sara and had a good time. But on the way home, a belligerent drunk called my husband an asshole.

My husband, who never loses his temper, lost his temper. He grabbed the guy by the lapels and threw him on the hood of a car right there on Sixth Avenue, as I stood there screaming. All the guy really needed was a gentle push and he would have gone down; he was that plastered.

That was the last time we ever went out for New Year’s Eve. Sara still hasn’t recovered. And neither have I.

My husband and I like to drink. We consider ourselves professionals. Experts, if you will. We go to the oldest, most sophisticated bars and hotel lounges to sip $15 martinis. We love to make cocktails at home in Brooklyn — complicated creations involving absinthe and orange blossom water and maraschino cherries (not all inthe same drink usually).

But we know how to hold our liquor. We know when we’ve had enough, and we don’t pick fights with people on the street.

New Year’s Eve is amateur night. The streets and bars and restaurants and cabs are filled with people who don’t don’t know what they’re doing, and who don’t usually drink — or drink Schlitz out of a beer bong maybe. They’re the people who wear baseball caps instead of neckties to those sophisticated lounges and talk too loudly at the bar.

These people are not serious drinkers like we are. They don’t appreciate a finely made ice cube or a high-end, meaty olive. New Year’s Eve — much like St. Patrick’s Day — is their night. We leave it to them. Bottoms up. Cin-cin.

For the past two decades, we have refused to leave the house on New Year’s Eve. (Just as I refuse to go into Manhattan on St. Patrick’s Day). We put on our flannels, turn on some cocktail music, then have a couple of Old Fashioneds. We make kid cocktails for our children — orange juice, ginger ale and maraschino cherries in tiki mugs. Then whip up a cheese fondue, followed by a chocolate fondue, then drink a little bit more. Some champagne or an after-dinner snort perhaps.

Dick Clark is too depressing. And Carson Daly? No thanks. We watch Woody’s Allen’s love letter to 1940s New York, “Radio Days,” which ends with a touching New Year’s Eve moment on the roof of one of our favorites, the King Cole Bar. The best scene, though, is when  one of the characters runs out of the house in his boxers, terrorizing the neighborhood with a meat cleaver.

“That’s what Daddy is like when we go out on New Year’s Eve,” I tell the kids. They laugh and laugh.

We don’t wait for the ball to drop, and are in deep REM by midnight.  I go to sleep slightly toasted and listen as the fireworks and horns in the harbor blend into my pleasant dreams, ushering in another new year.

Note: This post originally appeared in 2010.

Helene Stapinski is the author of the bestselling memoir Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History, and Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair, with Music.  She has written articles for The New York Times, New York magazine, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure and Salon. To read other essays written by Helene Stapinski, click here.

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Step Two: Came to believe a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity


“One Step at a Time” is a series of original essays we will be running monthly. We are excited to have writer and mom Patty N. share her fresh perspective as she embarks on the road to sobriety.


by Patty N.

Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  That pretty much sums up my relationship with alcohol, especially in the past 5 years. I’d drink moderately, then get drunk, then beat myself up, then quit drinking, then decide I could control it because I’d been able to stop, then start drinking again, then get drunk, then quit, then start all over.  It was insane. I was insane.

But there was something about A.A.’s Second Step – the idea that I had to buy into this “Higher Power” thing in order to get sober — that made me a bit uncomfortable.  Not because I didn’t believe – I was raised Catholic, I converted to Judaism in 1996, I certainly believe in God.  It just sounded a little too much like “Jesus Saves” which totally freaked me out.  Because I had been “saved” once before — and it was scary.

When I was 12, my friend Roberta invited me to Wolf Mountain, a weeklong sleep away camp located near the small Northern California town where we lived. She told me it was co-ed so we could meet boys (not like the all-girls Catholic camp from which I had recently returned).  She told me it was “Indian Camp” so we would sleep in giant tee-pees.  She did not tell me, however (maybe she didn’t know) that the camp was run by fundamentalist Christians.  Every night at the campfire, Running Bear or Spotted Wolf (all the staffers had Indian names) would announce the campers who had accepted Jesus Christ as their “personal savior” that day.  I had no intention of adding my name to the list. I’d had my First Communion, I went to confession regularly, I was going to be Confirmed in the coming year. I assumed I was on the fast track to Heaven.  Then on the last night, all the campers were herded into a barn-like auditorium to watch a film about the Rapture. The film depicted, in terrifying detail, the moment when all of the “true Christians” would be gathered together to meet Christ upon His return, leaving all of us fakers behind to die a lonely, miserable death on Earth. It scared the crap out of me. Afterward, I sprinted back to my tee-pee, dropped to my knees and begged my counselor, Little Duckfeet, to save me, too.

Rationally, I knew that A.A.’s traditions were nothing like Wolf Mountain’s salvation-by-intimidation approach.  Still, around my 40th day of sobriety when my sponsor wanted to meet to review the Second Step, visions of Little Duckfeet danced in my head.  I told her I needed more time.

That same week, I was invited to an event at the very trendy Standard Hotel in New York City’s Meatpacking district. Some of my former Conde Nast colleagues had rented the terrace overlooking the High Line with panoramic views of downtown Manhattan.  As we got off the elevator, a young, good-looking waiter greeted us with a tray full of champagne.  I watched enviously as my friends lifted the gold-filled flutes, clinking, toasting, and drinking.  Then my insanity came knocking.

I can have one drink.

I have been so good, I deserve it!

How can I not have a glass of champagne?

Everybody else is drinking, why shouldn’t I?

I walked toward the bar.

“Champagne?” the bartender said as he popped the cork on another bottle.

I imagined the bubbles in my mouth, tickling my palate at first and then becoming sweet and smooth as my troubles melted away with each sip.  I wanted to say “Yes” so badly, and had I been trying to get sober on my own, I probably would have.  But I thought of all those people I had met in my A.A. meetings — unfailingly honest, day after day, sharing their experience, strength and hope with me. They’d given me their phone numbers, invited me for coffee, clapped and cheered when I announced my sober day counts: 12 days…23 days…36 days…41 days.  As the waiter filled up the glass, I imagined calling my sponsor to tell her that I’d have to forfeit those hard-earned days of sobriety and start over. I pictured myself telling all those people who had been rooting so hard for me that I “went out” over a glass of champagne.  I couldn’t do it.

“Just a Perrier with lime,” I finally said. The waiter handed me the unfamiliar drink and I winced as the bubbles stung the inside of my mouth. It was a lot to swallow – this unsatisfying champagne substitute, this strange state of sobriety, this saying no when I wanted to say yes, this Second Step. But I did it.  While physically I was at a glamorous Conde Nast event, mentally I was in a church basement with these strangers I’d come to know, trust and rely on for help. Together, they formed a power that was greater than myself. Together, they helped rescue me from my own insanity.

In the book, Twelve Jewish Steps of Recovery, Rabbi Kerry Olitzky writes, “It doesn’t matter if God has a long white beard, what matters is there’s someone beyond you and beside you.  You just have to connect with it.”  I realized that day that it’s irrelevant whether I am Catholic or Jewish; Born Again or Atheist. What’s most important is that I’m not alone.

Read Patty’s first post of this series .

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