We already know that you can drink like a Viking, but can you offer up a toast-worthy of such a great warrior? You need a few things to complete a Viking toast: a good drink, a good cup, a good occasion, and amazing words.
For the Norse, the Viking drinking toast was pretty damn important. They were a way of celebrating your fellow warriors, your gods, your hearth, and your kin, so you better get it right. Here’s how:
Pick a good drink
Obviously, we all know how the Vikings loved their mead. But beyond the delicious, sweet taste, was the purpose. Mead was seen as divine. It was used for important ceremonies and religious rituals. You could pay your taxes in honey, so valued, was it.
But if you don’t have mead around, there are other options. An ale or a beer is worth a toast (especially if it’s a home-brew and especially if it’s one made with barley– a staple crop in Scandinavian). You could also pick a typical Scandinavian drink, like glogg, which is a type of mulled wine.
Pick a good cup
Every Viking needs a good drinking horn cup to toast from. And this isn’t just an advertising ploy– so much Norse lore is devoted to drinking vessels. Think back to Odin stealing the Mead of Poetry in his mouth, if you need an example. The bearer of house drinks, the vessels they carried, and the booze within is a part of legend the world over, not just for the Norse. Don’t believe me? How about the Holy Grail? Said to carry the dying blood of Christ, it actually stems from a sacred Celtic cauldron carried by the Dagda, a deity who offered it to the worthy.
But back to the Vikings. What did they drink out of? If you’re chomping at the bit to say, “the skulls of their enemies,” well, simmer down. It most likely wasn’t, but it’s more metal to picture it that way. Still– don’t go lopping off heads to make your Viking toast more authentic. The obvious next best thing to the skull of your enemy is a horn cup, like the one above. It’s still made of bone, and it looks a whole lot better than a tumbler or a teacup.
If that’s not available to you, go true Viking fashion and find something storied and powerful. An old pint glass handed down from your grandfather, or a clay mug made by your kid. Something that has special, sentimental value, or that you can tell a tale about is far better than a red Solo Cup.
Pick your words
Yes, words. Contrary to popular belief, the Vikings weren’t just barbaric berserkers or men and women of few words. They praised those who spoke with talent and wit– in fact, mead was the drink of such verbose men and women– called skalds. Now, a true skald could just come up with someone off the top of their heads. This takes a lot of time and practice, particularly if you aren’t very silver-tongued in the first place (although the idea of Vikings attending a Toastmasters’ meeting is pretty great). So for your first few Viking toasts, don’t be afraid to practice beforehand, and be sure to keep a horn cup on hand.
You may want to speak from the heart instead of writing something. That's hard if you don't have the gift of Blarney-- just a warning. Doing it in front of your mirror 100 times may be fine, but doing it in front of people is different. So don't be afraid of taking a few notes ahead of time and writing them on your hand or a small piece of paper.
If that’s too intimidating, then make sure your first toast isn’t coming during your first drink of the night. The skalds believed they spoke better when drunk– not falling over, white girl wasted mind you, just pleasantly tipsy enough to be sentimental and unafraid.
Pick a good occasion
Finally, the last thing you need to toast like a true Viking is a good occasion. Obviously, the slaying of a legendary foe is a good starting place, but since there are fewer dragons (though no fewer trolls) in today’s world (though no less evil), you may have to scrounge or think outside the box.
Did someone you know and love recently get married/have a kid/get a promotion? Those are all good reasons for a toast. To imbibe these more mundane activities with true Viking style, don’t be afraid to compare them to dragons and trolls in your speech through simile or metaphor.
Remember: the more you toast, the better you get at toasting. So keep at it, even if the first result ain’t so great, and may Odin’s wisdom shine through your words. SKOL!