12/23/2014 12:16 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2015

Bottoms Up: Seven Tips for Tasteful Toasting

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A toast is the perfect way to recognize a special occasion or celebration, especially during the holidays.

The custom of raising a glass of wine or champagne is attributed to ancient Greece, when a sip was taken to demonstrate that the drink was not poisoned. To ward off evil spirits, guests believed in clinking glasses together, a tradition that is still practiced today in some cultures.

The tradition of clinking glasses together also dates back to the Borgia family, Spanish aristocrats who were firmly established in Italy when Alfonso Borgia was names Pope (Calixtus III) in 1455. The infamous Lecrezia Borgia was said to have poisoned any number of rivals by dropping lethal fluids into their drinks. The splashing of wine from cup to cup became a safeguard against poisoning.

Although toasting traditions have evolved, the etiquette of toasting has remained the same for centuries.

Here are seven tips to observe when making or receiving a toast.

Do your research. If you know you will be making a toast, take a moment to write down what you are going to say. When your nerves kick in, it's better to be prepared than to find yourself speechless.

Follow the host's lead. It's appropriate for the host to propose a toast at the beginning of the meal to welcome all the guests. After the host makes a toast, anyone else can propose a toast.

Keep it brief. The toast is more memorable if you keep the three S's in mind: keep it short, simple and sincere. Remember you're giving a toast, not a roast.

Toast at the beginning or the end of the meal. A toast is most appropriate before everyone begins eating or during the dessert course.

Everyone drinks except the guest of honor. If you're the one being toasted, don't touch your glass and don't drink to yourself. It's like patting yourself on your own back. When the host sits down, you'll be expected to return the toast and then you may drink.

Always participate in a toast. Even if you don't drink alcohol, it's perfectly acceptable to toast with a soft drink, a glass of sparkling cider, or mineral water. Or you can raise a glass of wine or champagne to your lips, pretend to drink it, then set it aside.

It's not necessary to clink glasses. In some cultures, this is considered bad form and should be avoided. When in doubt, watch the host. If you're in a small group, always look each person in they eye when you lift your glass. This shows respect. You can complete the toast by saying something like, "Cheers" or "Bottoms Up."

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