Sabrage/səˈbrɑːʒ/ is a technique for opening a Champagne bottle with a saber, used for ceremonial occasions. The wielder slides the saber along the body of the bottle to break the top of the neck away, leaving neck of the bottle, open and ready to pour. The force of the blunt side of the blade hitting the lip breaks the glass to separate the collar from the neck of the bottle. Note that one does not use the sharp side of the blade. The cork and collar remain together after separating from the neck.
The Art of Sabrage is perhaps the greatest legend in the history of Champagne.
Legend has it Napoleon Bonaparte’s infamous cavalry, the Hussards, began the Art of Sabrage, a technique to behead a bottle of Champagne with a saber or sword. When Madame Clicquot lavishly entertained Napoleon’s officers in her vineyard, she offered them bottles and bottles of Champage. At sunrise the Hussards rode off on horseback and whipped out their sabers to behead the bottles to impress the young widow.
This may not be the most accurate of stories, but it is certainly the most spirited. Sabrage has since remained a tradition in the French Army and has come to signify celebration.
How to saber:
- Chill a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine. Or a case. This could take practice. Stand in the back yard or another place where no one will be hit by a sharp piece of flying glass.
- Remove all foil and the wire basket from the bottle. Locate the seam in the glass that leads up to the lip of the bottle. Where the seam meets the lip is the weakest part of the bottle. You will follow this line with your blade.
- Firmly grip the base of the bottle with your off hand and hold at a 30-degree angle, with the top of the bottle angled away from you. Rest the blade flat against the bottle seam, blunt edge toward the cork, to avoid damaging the knife.
- Quickly slide the blade along the seam, up the bottle, aiming for the ring near the top of the bottle (not the cork). Glass is so brittle that any nick weakens it greatly. Sliding the blade along the bottle causes just enough of a nick that when the blade hits the lip, the glass separates. This doesn’t take as much force as you may think. Too much force, in fact, can just cause the knife to bounce off.
- Done properly, the top of the bottle will fly off. Drink responsibly!
Please note: Sabrage can be very dangerous if not done correctly and under the proper conditions.
If you’ve nailed sabering with a sword, why not try a spoon, credit card, or even your phone!?