Sabering Champagne

Napoleon is known to have said “Champagne, in victory you deserve it, in defeat you need it.” And he should know. As his light calvary units stylishly charged around Europe in the early 19th century they drank a great deal of the stuff, or so legend states. Being typically in a rush and not wishing to fuss with more traditional modes of cork removal, these rakish lads got in the habit of simply lopping the tops of the bottles off with their sabers. The art of sabrage or “sabering” might seem a quaint anachronism were it not for the fact that deftly and nonchalantly displaying skill at this bit of lethal legerdemain tells everyone in your party that you have a saber, you aren’t afraid to use it, and there’s champagne. In this day and age I can think of few reasons more noble.

Since we live in an the age litigator — I’ll go ahead and tell you right now that under no condition do I advocate you attempting to undertake this desperately dangerous display of panache. Odds are you’re not cool enough anyway and will just come off looking like a dope with a fistful of glass standing in a bubbly puddle.

Start with a bottle of french champagne because they use thicker glass and that’ll make for a cleaner annulus or ring of glass. Take the bottle to be sabered and turn upside down in ice for at least 10 minutes. You want the neck as cold as possible. Meanwhile we’ll review some physics.

Due to a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, Carbon dioxide produced by live yeast builds up pressure typically in the range of 5 to 6 atmospheres, that’s 90 pounds of pressure per square inch which translates to 620 kiloPascals. In other words, a corked champagne bottle is a bomb waiting to go off. The point is focus and control the blast to get at the stuff inside. This can be done by applying a sharp blow here where one of the bottle seams meats the lip of the bottle or annulus … stop snickering! This is serious business. Said blow must be focused, resulting from a smooth, rapid movement of a metal object. I’ve seen it done with a lawn mower blade, but why use such a rare object when you’ve got a saber hanging around?

Now, remove the outer foil from the bottle and the cage, that wire thingy that keeps the cork from just blowing out whenever it feels like.Locate one of the two seams and use either your finger or a spoon to scrape away any foil or paper that remains leaving a clean trail to the annulus. Stop snickering!

Dry the bottle thoroughly and hold in your non dominant hand with your thumb in the punt. What are you laughing at!? This will place the bottle at oh, a 30 degree angle and it keeps your hand out of the way of your magnificently sharp saber. I should add that any sword with a gentle sweep or crescent blade will do the trick so feel free to use your scimitar, or even your katana but not a Hattori Hanzo the edge of which should be kept razor sharp at all times. I like to lay a clean towel, or serviette over my hand here just in case a cleanup is warranted. Lay the blade flat against the glass midway up the bottle. Doesn’t matter if you use the back or edge of the blade, both will work. Lift the back ever so slightly and then swing through … like a golf swing meaning don’t try to stop at the contact point.

Make sure you saber away from populated areas as the pressure in the bottle will turn the cork and annulus into a projectile…stop snickering.

Done properly the break will be completely clean but you should always inspect the glass for shards. And do be careful pouring as the broken bit of neck could be sharp.

Please dispose of this properly. Actually you won’t have to because you’re not going to do this. Right? Right.


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