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How to Pop a Champagne Cork…with a Sword!

Ok, ok, there are many reasons that you should never try to “saber” (as it’s called) a champagne bottle.  Just off the top of my head: it’s dangerous, it’s sort of silly, and since it isn’t easy, you’ll most likely to get a carpetful of glass shards and spilled bubbly.  Yes, logic would dictate that we always use the tentative twist method.  But this is just so much cooler!

Sabering became popular just after the French Revolution, when Napoleon and his fearsome army were fighting their way across Europe and earning victories at every step.  Their success gave them plenty of reason to celebrate, and they would hold parties that involved many bottles of champagne, which Napoleon’s cavalrymen would open with their sabers.  In fact, Napoleon, who almost certainly supported the practice, once said:

Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it.

If you want to impress your friends at your next (preferably outdoor) party by casually sabering a bottle of bubbly a la Napoleon, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the bottle of champagne is very chilled–it’s best if you let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.  Some sabering experts recommend using only real, French champagne, which they say opens more cleanly.
  2. You’ll need some kind of sword-like object.  You can use a special champagne saber made for the purpose, but in a pinch, a big kitchen knife works fine too.  Of course, if you have an old French cavalry sword laying around, using it would bump up your cool factor considerably.
  3. Remove the foil from the cork, and take off the wire cage that surrounds it.
  4. Locate your target point.  You’re looking for one of the two vertical seams that run the length of a champagne bottle.
  5. Hold the bottle correctly: with a firm grip at the base and at a 45-degree angle pointing away from your kids, windows, and priceless art.
  6. With the blunt side of the saber (or knife) facing towards the cork, practice running the saber down along the bottle, aiming for that target point.

    We hope this kid isn't going to drink the champagne after he sabers the bottle.

  7. When you’re ready, in one fluid motion, draw the saber down along the seam, and pop off the cork.  Be sure to follow through, fully swinging your arm.  Don’t be timid–you need some real force here.
  8. Success!  If you did it right, the cork and the small ring of glass around it should have come cleanly off, and you should have lost no more than an ounce of champagne.  For the ultimate finishing touch, pour a round for your guests like the feat you just performed was no big deal.

Remember, this is an art, not a science.  If you didn’t do it right the first time, try try again.  (Or go back to the trusty manual way.  You coward.)

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