How Toasting Drinks Is A Bit More Complicated In France

The French have been producing world-renowned wines for thousands of years, beginning in the 6th century BC with the settlement of Greeks in the south of Gaul (via Direct Wine Imports). It may not be a coincidence that around this time, when wine production and appreciation began to reach communities around the world, the tradition of raising a wine glass in the form of a toast began to gather steam (via Wine Folly). But while toasting drinks distinctly imparts a sense of celebration, there are also certain implications for upholding etiquette expectations.

Perhaps no country takes this as seriously as France, which maintains an almost superstitious adherence to traditional toasting methods (via French Together). These traditions are believed to have originated in Medieval Times as a means of demonstrating to those in your party that you were not attempting to poison them (via Mosa Lingua). Even if you don't believe in the curse of seven years of bad luck should you fail to toast correctly, it's worth knowing how to toast someone the right way — whether you travel to France or invite a French person into your home. 

The nuanced toasting customs of France

According to French custom, it is traditional to wish good health to those present — though this can be dictated in a number of ways, ranging from "à votre santé" or "à la vôtre" for formal gatherings, or "à ta santé," "tchin tchin," or "à la tienne" for closer friends and family (via Master Your French). However, if you're in doubt about the best phrase to use, you can generally get away with simply saying "santé," or "health" (via French Together). While this is usually regarded as a safer option, the rules for an acceptable French toast don't stop at the language.

Other French toasting customs include making uninterrupted eye contact while toasting, never adding ice to your wine, waiting your turn to clink glasses without crossing someone else's arms, keeping your glass raised until the speaker is finished, not leaving anyone's glass untouched, and waiting for everyone to finish "clinking" before taking a sip (via French Together). It's also considered bad luck to toast with water, which is believed to have stemmed from an ancient Greek custom of sending off dead souls with a water toast (via HuffPost).

This is not to say the French are above draining their glass in a single shot — at any point, a participant can exclaim "cul sec," which means "dry bottom," indicating that all must drink until their glass is empty (via Fluent U).