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How to Saber A Bottle Of Champagne

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 2, 2009 5:58PM


Normally, we wouldn't recommend readers spend their New Year's Day engaging in knifeplay. That's why it's left to the pros, or amateurs in controlled situations. Yesterday we managed to cross "saber a bottle of champagne" off the list of things to do before we die. Done right, it's a very safe way to serve and drink champagne.

The tradition of sabrage is rooted in Napoleonic France. French military officers would return home after a victory and were received by the usual spoils, including champagne. Because the officers were still on horseback, it was nearly impossible to handle the reins and remove the wire cage from the cork on the bottles. The solution to the problem was worthy of Alexander or Solomon: slicing the top off the bottle at the weakest point of its seam.

Aside from the sharp glass at the point of incision, this is a relatively safe way to serve champagne. Bubbly is carbonated at around 100 PSI, so the cork flies away and no residual glass falls back into the bottle. To properly saber, make certain you have a nicely chilled bottle of champagne. Loosen the cage from the bottle, then reattach it to the bottle just above where it was originally attached. Find the seam of the bottle, then hold it in your hand, with thumb inside the punt (that little divot at the base of the bottle). Take the edge of your knife and line it up along the seam; either edge will do, but if you have a very nice chef's knife, use the top edge.

Your knife motion should be smooth along the bottle. Follow through is important. If done properly you'll lose little or none of the champagne inside.