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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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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An interview about drinking & traveling

caipirinhaWhen I’m not writing about drinking, I’m often writing about traveling. The daughter of two Europeans, I was taken along with my brother wherever our parents went–from France and Jamaica to Israel and Venezuela. I didn’t realize how lucky I was at the time, and as a result of all those journeys, I was bit by the travel bug at an early age. Experiencing different and foreign places, seeking adventures and exploring cultures are what I like to write about most.

At a recent adventure travel conference, I had the pleausre of spending time with a talented travel journalist and blogger, Ellen Barone, who invited me to do a Q+A for her blog about two of my favorite pastimes: drinking and traveling.

Of all the countries you’ve traveled to, who  are the heaviest drinkers and who are the lightest? 

The Brazilians love to party. I’m not sure if it has to do with the consumption of those potent, simultaneously sweet and tart Caipirinhas—touted everywhere as the Brazilian national cocktail—but after a couple, I had no trouble dancing the samba late into the night. The lightest would probably be in Israel. Israelis are not exactly known for their drinking prowess.

What’s your favorite country to drink in? 

While France first comes to mind, I’d have to say that Italy offers me a more diverse selection of drinks I like. An evening that begins with a glass of Prosecco, a Campari and soda, or a Negroni is bound to be a good one. I enjoy Italian wine, and then of course, what is better than a true Italian-made cappuccino?

If you’re a non-drinker, where’s the worst place to visit?

That’s a tough one. I can’t think of a place that I’ve been to where alcohol is not rooted in the culture—from Ouzo in Greece to Arak in Jordan. By the same token, many countries serve delicious, alcohol-free drinks with locally grown fruits. It’s easy to get hooked on passion-fruit smoothies in chicha moradaThailand and on Chicha Morada (made with purple corn, fruit, cinnamon and cloves) in Peru.

Is there a travel story in your book, Drinking Diaries?

There is a wonderful essay in our book, “Veni, Vidi, Bibi (I Came, I Saw, I Drank”), which is essentially the writer’s quest to find information about an Italian peasant woman whose image adorns the bottle of a liquor called Amaro Lucano and who may be the author’s ancestor. The writer, Helene Stapinski, travels back to her family’s southern Italian town of Pisticci, to get answers. The way she describes her encounters with the locals—all of whom attempt to serve her Amaro Lucano—is very colorful.

To read the complete interview on Travel Updates by Ellen Barone, please click here.

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Interview with Mary Campbell, Founder of The Cocktail Party

Each week, we post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you. 

Mary Campbell is founder of the Cocktail Party, based out of Atlanta, Georgia. The Cocktail Party is an anti-movement, a philosophical call for people to remember that politics need not stand at the center of our lives the way it so often does today. Members wish to drink excellent cocktails, but the core of the Cocktail Party’s anti-mission runs deeper. The Cocktail Party exists to recognize and celebrate a less instrumentalized existence, a break from the world’s constant pressure to turn every occasion into an opportunity for achievement, improvement or growth. Cocktail Party members share an appreciation for the great beauty the world has to offer and which is so often missed. This, of course, is often done over cocktails.

Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?

Mary Campbell: Despite coming from a family of professional drinkers who live in a town that has made binge drinking a competitive sport, I did not have my first drink until I was a junior in college. It was an amaretto sour. Shortly thereafter, I segued to Tanqueray and tonic.

How did/does your family treat drinking?

I grew up not thinking of alcohol as something that was “taboo.”  My parents often had wine with dinner, sometimes cocktails beforehand. They were very “European” in their relationship to drinking.

How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?

Cocktail hour–whether it involves actual cocktails or wine—is part of my daily ritual.  It is a signal that the workday has ended and the time to unwind and talk about the day’s events has begun.

If you have kids, how is the subject of drinking handled? Do you drink in front of them? With them?  

I have dogs and, yes, I do drink in front of them.  I used to have a cat who drank Manhattans out of martini glasses, so I think I have passed the love of cocktails on to my four-legged children.

Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?

I tend to embrace the idea of steady moderation.  Over-drinking results in hangovers and behavior unbecoming of a proper young lady.

What’s your drink of choice? Why?  

How do I pick one?  I love wine.  It is likely what I drink the most–perhaps because I continue to read studies suggesting that moderate wine drinking is both good for the mind and body.  That said, I have a hard time turning down a well-made margarita.

Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?  


What about the worst time?

If I could remember it.

Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?

Culture, perhaps.  Southern Louisiana is a culture that emphasizes food and wine/liquor.  This was not lost on me. I did hear a story about Jesus turning water into wine, which I thought was pretty amazing, so perhaps religion has reinforced my love of the cocktail as well.

Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?

I recently got the book, In the Land of Cocktails, written by Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, which I have enjoyed thoroughly.  The stories are fabulous, and the recipes are wonderful.

What do you like most about drinking?

The ritual around it: the glasses, the accoutrements, the preparation. Having friends over for drinks and dinner is something I savor; those details set the stage for what I hope will ensue each time–great conversation.

If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?

Probably a margarita.  Tequila has a reputation for being a little edgy and provocative.  Good tequila is perfect for sipping, like a cognac. Mediocre tequila can be mixed with lime juice and cointreau and transformed into something delicious.  Tequila can make the most out of any situation and, though it appears fun and lighthearted on the surface, has depth and complexity that not everyone can appreciate.



Interview with Colleen Mullaney, Author of “It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere”

Each week, we post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you.

Colleen Mullaney is the author of many lifestyle books, including It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere, The Stylish Girl’s Guide to Fabulous Cocktails, and Punch.

Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?

Colleen Mullaney: I was about 8 and I had a sip of my grandmother’s sherry.

How did/does your family treat drinking? 

My parents used to drink pitchers of Manhattans with the neighbors on the weekends (I had a sip and thought they tasted like gasoline) and there was always a lot of drinking going on at family gatherings. They drank spirits–vodka and Scotch–very 60’s.

Now they don’t drink anymore. My dad will maybe have a Scotch during the holidays. My mom stopped drinking years ago.

How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?

When I’m writing a cocktail book I’m experimenting with cocktails, or testing them, and I’m out shopping for new spirits, wines, or liqueurs for my recipes, but the testing in done in small batches.

But in my normal everyday life, I love wine, so it’s always around. I love to cook, and so I’ll use it for cooking as well. But I don’t drink every day, usually end of the week and weekends. I really try to lead a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise, and cocktails every day  doesn’t fit.

My go-to cocktail would be a really good margarita in the summer, or a fun cocktail, like the one I made this weekend when we had friends over. It had vodka, St. Germain, pomegranate  juice, and was topped off with Prosecco. They were tasty!

If you have kids, how is the subject of drinking handled? Do you drink in front of them? With them?

I have three children who know what I do (although many of my books/articles/videos are not about cocktails!). They know that having some friends over means opening up some wine or mixing cocktails for the adults, and whipping up a pitcher of Shirley Temples for them. I never think of handling the subject. I hope I’m showing them by example.

Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?

When I was single and living in the city, I would go out and drink wine with work friends, and have no problem getting up and working the next day. Now, forget it, I don’t have half the energy I had back then! There’s too much I need to focus on: my family, my kids, my work. I have to be on my toes!

What’s your drink of choice? Why?

My favorite drink is white wine. It’s easy, smooth, enjoyable, and is just strong enough. I used to only drink chardonnay, but I’m branching out to other whites and reds.

Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?

I don’t have one specific time but many, and they are always with friends.

What do you like most about drinking?

Its social tendencies.

Why do, or don’t you, choose to drink?

Because I enjoy it.

How has alcoholism affected your life?

It’s put warning flags up for me. I know what is good for me and what is not.

If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?

A margarita on the rocks with salt and lots of fresh lime (Patron, Grand Marnier, fresh lime juice, splash of pineapple juice), because I would be on a beach somewhere with great island music playing in the background.