It’s the holiday season, which means your calendar is packed with plenty of festive parties. Though some of you may have put some extra thought into your hostess gifts, we’re willing to bet that you’ll be stopping en route to many of the soirées to grab a bottle of something bubbly.
Here, with the help of St. Regis New York’s Director of Food & Beverage, Will Rentschler, we’ll show you how to bring a touch of panache to your next holiday blowout with the ultimate party trick: sabering a bottle of champagne.
Before performing this trick, let your fellow party guests know that the art of “sabrage” has an almost mythical past. Some say Napoleon Bonaparte was the first to do so atop his horse, after declaring victory in the French Revolution. Others credit Madame Clicquot (a.k.a. the Grand Dame of Champagne), who is said to have fed soldiers with champagne at her vineyard, though only those who impressed the young businesswoman with their sabering skills.
History aside, it’s now the coolest way to open your bottles of Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot and Krug. But when attempting to saber a bottle of champagne, it’s important to remember the following five steps.
1. Keep it cold: While champagne should always be cold, an important first step of sabrage is to ensure the vessel itself is chilled. This makes the glass tighter, and more likely to break evenly. If you’re in a time crunch, add some salt and a bit of water to the ice bucket to speed up the chilling process—and always wipe down the bottle to maintain a tight grip.
2. Unwrap with care: Before wielding any sharp objects, make sure you remove the foil and the protective cage surrounding the cork. If these stay on, the cork has two extra layers in its way, which will hinder your attempt to remove it with style.
3. Know your equipment: Not everyone has access to a proper champagne saber. That’s why some opt to use a steak knife to open the bottle, but when doing so, ensure you’re using the blunt end of the blade. If you use the sharp side, the blade will simply become stuck in the cork, rather than loosening it off. If you do happen to find yourself in possession of a proper saber, use the wider base of the blade, rather than the thin, pointed end, to maintain accuracy.
4. Line it up: Every bottle of champagne has two visible “seams” where the glass was fused during construction. This is the weakest point of the bottle, and serves as the guideline for where your chosen tool should meet the cork.
5. Easy does it: Once you find the seam, it’s important to maintain your grip on the bottle with your left hand, while your right-hand remains in control of the saber—or vice versa, if you’re left-handed. While some get distracted with putting force behind the saber, the grip is just as important. With a few tries using some light muscling, you should get a clean break on the neck of the bottle, leaving your party guests wowed with your sabrage skills.