“So my friend was telling me that the reason why you clink cups together is because back in like the olden times, when if you match really full cups of beer, people used to clink cups together so that a little bit of each person’s drink would slosh into the other persons drink and it was kind of like about a sharing of a drink and also like to make sure that people weren’t getting poisoned because the cups… the liquids would like mix together.”
While there is truth to the amicable aspect of sharing a drink, the mixing of liquids to prove that no poison is present is just a very well-known and well-shared lie. Firstly, sloshing that much liquid would surely produce more waste than desired in olden times when food was much more scarce, but more importantly, proving a lack of poison was at best unnecessary and at worst rude. Often people drank from shared vessels, where drinks were already in a sense mixed, so mixing them again would be redundant. At the other end of the spectrum, requiring proof of safety may be regarded as the same as using a food taster, which displays a lack of trust and hostility. For these reasons, it doesn’t really make sense that clinking would show trust in lack of poison, although the story is interesting and possible enough that it makes sense the story is still told.
Clinking and toasting, in general, are, at their core, a carryover from those more communal days. By clinking cups and drinking together, drinkers can maintain that sense of camaraderie that comes with drinking of the same container. The sound made by clinking is also rumored to complete the fulfillment of the five senses that comes when drinking something like wine. The remaining four are already satisfied, so by adding in the resonating sound of clinking glasses, the drinkers are pleased in all five senses, which is a rather rare sensation, culinarily or otherwise.
The interviewee is a 23-year-old male who attends the University of Southern California, pursuing a masters degree in computer science. When he was very young, he lived in India, until he moved to South Africa. He lived in South Africa from then until he moved to New York City to pursue his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. He is very into alcohol and the history and science behind it, which explains why he would know and tell this tidbit, accurate or not.
This interview was conducted in person at the interviewed party’s house. The audio was recorded in order to aid in accurate transcription of the dialogue that took place.