New Year’s Eve is this weekend, and that means the Champagne will be flowing. Popping a cork is plenty exciting for some people, but we’ve got a next-level party trick that’s sure to impress. Sabrage is a technique for opening a champagne bottle with a saber popularized by Napoleon’s soldiers just after the French Revolution. The tradition stuck, and now is used in various formal or ceremonial settings as a showy way of presenting bubbly.
The folks at G.H. Mumm have provided a handy step-by-step guide to proper and safe sabering. Doing this correctly might take a bit of practice so don’t reach for that baller bottle on your first try. Remember: a Champagne bottle is a pressurized glass container; it’s essentially a bomb. Make sure you are taking proper precautions and not putting yourself or anyone else in danger. Always saber outside, and be sure to aim the bottle away from people or any nearby buildings.
STEP 1: Gather your chilled bottle of Champagne and sabering tool of choice. In order to make the glass more brittle, your Champagne should be refrigerated (38-40 degrees F). A traditional saber, if you have one, makes for a nice spectacle if you’re entertaining guests. Otherwise, a regular blunt knife, or even a butter knife, will do.
STEP 2: Carefully remove the foil and cage and wipe away any moisture. Keep your thumb on the top of the cork until you are ready to saber. The pressure, and temperature once you remove the cage, could allow the cork to pop on its own.
STEP 3: Grab the bottle by the base, find the seam and point it away from onlookers. Using your less-dominant hand, maintain a tight grip around the bottom of the bottle with your entire hand. Tilt it in a 30-degree angle. Face the seam—the weakest part of the bottle—upwards. The intersection of the seam and lip is where you will get a clean break.
STEP 4: Hold the knife flat across the bottle with the blunt edge towards the lip. Run the saber or knife back and forth along the seam. In one swift motion, strike the lip of the bottle with the dull side of your blade, maintaining a slight angle and following through.
STEP 5: Pop and cheers! If you’ve done it correctly, the cork, with a little ring of glass around it, will fly off the end of the bottle. The cork can reach impressive speeds, so be careful in case it ricochets. The cut edge will be sharp, but the Champagne is still safe to be served. Pour, toast and enjoy. Happy New Year!
If everything works out well, it should look something like this.
Jim Sabataso is a writer, cocktail enthusiast, and bar director for The Palms Restaurant in Rutland, Vermont. Follow him on “Twitter “http://twitter.com/jimsabataso and Instagram.