NewsHow To Saber A Champagne Bottle Like Napoléon

How To Saber A Champagne Bottle Like Napoléon

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Tring to find the right party trick to impress your fancy French friends or Connecticut-bred co-workers summering away in the Hamptons? A saber and a bottle of Champagne are probably all you need. The art of sabering Champagne (sabrage) is a time-horned tradition that is sure to turn heads at the next young, rich, and restless gala.

Dating back to the times of Napoleon Bonaparte, Madame Veuve Clicquot herself used to entertain Bonaparte’s officers at the champagne vineyard where each morning, when the soldiers rode away, they would saber the bottle of champagne she gave them, in an effort to impress the young rich widow.

While it sounds complicated (and dangerous), it’s actually a skill that can be learned quickly and mastered with minimal practice. Check out a step-by-step guide below (try at your own risk):

Choosing The Right Bottle

While there has been some debate about what is and isn’t Champagne recently–thanks Putin–the ‘real’ French stuff is usually better tasting and also comes in a typically thicker bottle.

It’s All About Preparation

One doesn’t just saber a Champagne bottle. First, the bottle needs to be prepared for sabering. That means it needs to be submerged in ice for at least 15 minutes before swords get involved. After it has been thoroughly chilled, don’t forget to remove the foil and the cage. Don’t forget to point the thing away from people.

You Need An Actual Saber, Or At Least A Sword With A Gentle Curve

This might be the hardest part. You can’t just pull out any ole kitchen knife or that foil from your youth fencing days, you need an actual saber, or at least a sword with a gentle curve. Choosing the wrong instrument can end up with you shattering the bottle.

You’re Not Allen Iverson

You need to practice your swing before attacking that bottle of bubbly. Get familiar with the seam of the bottle and think about knocking the bottle open rather than slicing it.

Positioning

Point the bottle away from everyone, including yourself, with your non-dominant hand on the base of the bottle and your dominant hand on the blade. “The thumb of your non-dominant hand should be inside the bottle’s bottom indent (called the punt), and this should keep your fingers out of the way of the blade,” Janice Carnival, owner of Bellwether Events in D.C., tells Brides. “Point the cork of the bottle away from you and any other people or breakable items, and make sure no one is close enough to be hit by the blade.” 

Find The Seam

Before taking that dramatic swing, you want to find the seam in the glass. “This is where you want to hit the lip of the bottle (called the annulus), this is where the bottle is weakest,” says Carnival. “Place the blade against the glass, angled down slightly towards the bottle’s lip.”

Timing

This one really is all about safety, and good sense, but it’s probably best to saber a Champagne bottle early, when you’re sober. 

Get Sabering

Slide your saber along the seam all the way to the top of the neck, and hit that lower lip part of the bottle. You don’t need to hit it too hard but make sure the strike is firm, what’s important is connecting at the point where the seam meets the lip. The pressure in the bottle should do most of the work for you. Once the decisive blow is delivered, the bottle should break where the seam meets the lip, leaving the bottle open and ready to serve. 

Start Pouring

Before you start serving the crowd, pour a bit of the sparkling wine into a cup to ensure there isn’t any glass in the foam, this can happen even if you saber the bottle correctly.

If you’re more of a visual learner, Alton Brown has a great video on the process. Check it out below:

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