Champagne sabering dos, don’ts, and (of course) fails
World Best Bar
Dec 28, 2020
10 January 2019
You’ve probably seen videos of this impressive trick all over the Internet. While guaranteed to draw “Oohs” and “Aahs” from all your friends and loved ones, it’s actually not that hard to execute – provided you follow a few important rules.
Champagne sabering, also known as sabrage, is a technique that became popular during the Napoleonic Wars. At that time, the saber was the light cavalry’s – or Hussars’ – weapon of choice. Each victory won by the Emperor’s army was followed by festivities where it was in good taste to open champagne bottles “à la hussarde”, putting the soldiers’ sabers to good use in a show of theatrics. During one of these celebrations, Napoleon himself is believed to have said “Champagne. In victory one deserves it, in defeat one needs it.”
That’s for the history part. Now let’s get down to business.
Always use a perfectly chilled bottle. The cold makes the glass easier to break, so it’s especially important that the neck is cooled as well – a bottle placed upright in an ice bucket won’t do.
Remove the foil wrapper and wire cage.
While it’s better to use a champagne sword when available, anything with a blunt edge works. We’ve even seen people do it with their iPhones (although we hardly recommend it).
Find the vertical seam running up the side of the bottle. That is the weakest part of the glass.
With the seam facing you, hold the bottle firmly at the bottom at a 30° – 45° angle.
Following the seam, slide your saber along the body of the bottle to hit the spot where it meets the lip and break the top of the neck away. No need to apply much force: the impact from the saber on the intersection of the seam and lip will create a crack that quickly travels through the glass, fueled by the momentum of the blade and the pressure inside the bottle. Once the crack has broken the top of the bottle, the pressure inside will send the cork and collar flying, leaving the bottle’s neck open and ready to pour.
Allow a little champagne to flow in order to wash away any loose bits of glass from the neck.
Always check the first glass poured for small shards of glass.
Avoid moving the bottle around too much before handling it.
When using a knife, don’t use the sharp side of the blade, you could damage it unnecessarily.
Never point the bottle towards the crowd! Seriously, someone could lose an eye.
If something goes wrong in the process, don’t try to save the bottle, you might injure yourself by grabbing it.
Now for some visual aid, here’s the great Alton Brown showing us how to do it back in 2014:
And since nobody could catch a break this year, here’s 2020 Alton Brown showing us how not to do it:
Yes, we know you came here for the fails, so here are a few more of our favorites:
Cheers and happy new year!