New Year's Eve Trick: Saber the Champagne Bottle

Categories: Food Holidays
champ-saber.jpg
You've seen it done in movies, on TV and maybe in person. But anyone with a longish knife and a cold bottle of bubbly can win major drama points by sabering a bottle of Champagne at the stroke of midnight at a New Year's party.

There's a colorful history associated with sabrage, this method of getting to the wine, allegedly going back to Napolean's days when it seemed expeditious for the Hussars to use their sabers to open Champagne lavished on them while still on horseback.

Now: I said anyone can do it. Doing it expertly and safely - there's a distinction.

Of course it's dangerous - using a sharp knife on slippery odd-shaped glass, you run the risk of slicing off a digit, putting someone's eye out, or letting go of the knife and beheading someone accidentally. OK - not really, but stupid happens. You may recall the story of Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn cutting her hand on a sabered victory bottle.

So before we give you the rules, fair warning, disclosure and all the CYA stuff I can think of: New Times nor I are responsible for any mayhem, bloodshed or death caused by glass or blade or drunken saber bearers. Nobody's telling you to saber a bottle of Champagne -- we're just putting out there how it's done. Follow the rules below, and no one should get hurt. Really - it's a cinch.

How to Saber a Bottle of Champagne
1. Start sober and don't be an idiot. Seriously. Sharp sabers and knives and flying bottle necks belong in the hands of only full-witted people. Getting a feel for whether your crowd is too lit to keep out of the way is part of this rule, too.

2. Chill the bottles very, very well. Cold bottles break cleanly.

3. Have a proper long, heavy knife for this. A real Champagne saber, if you can find one in time for tonight, will set you back $175 or better. You can use a 12-inch heavy wide knife from the kitchen drawer. (Please don't use a cleaver - it looks ridiculous.) You'll be using the back of the knife, not the sharp edge, so don't worry about ruining a Shun.

4. Move your audience behind you. There's a lot of pressure in a Champagne bottle and the corked sharp neck is going to fly somewhere.

5. Tear off all the foil around the bottle's neck and remove the cage around the cork carefully (always pointed away from you and others in case it pops prematurely).

6. Locate the vertical seam on the bottle. It's the weakest point and will be your guide for the knife. Hold the bottle at the bottom edge (put your thumb in the punt) and on the bottom side with fingers well out of the way. Point the bottle directly away from your body and slightly upward. If the bottle is wet, hold it securely in a cloth.

7. When you're sure the crowd is out of harm's way, with one fast, firm motion away from you and upward, sweep the back edge of the knife from the "hip" of the bottle to the rim of the neck along the seam. (Make a couple of practice moves first.) The knife should keep contact with the bottle and follow the contour the whole way. The cork and lip should come cleanly off (there's little spillage if you do this expertly), with the small amount of wine washing away any shards.

8. Have glasses ready to go to pour the Champagne and celebrate the sabrage!
Tip: If you're going to photo or video it, be prepared - it's done in 1 second.

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