Chow Bella

How to Saber a Champagne Bottle

​Allow me to introduce you to a new, awesome word: sabrage. It's the name given to the practice of opening a champagne bottle with a sword. If your New Year's resolution is to be a badass, you should learn it.

I can hear your incredulousness, but trust me -- sabrage has been practiced for centuries. The technique became popular in France just after the French Revolution, when Napoleon's army visited many of the aristocratic domains. Among the tiny general's light cavalry, the saber was the weapon of choice, and the army's spectacular victories across Europe gave them plenty of reason to celebrate. Accounts of the cavalry using their swords to blast open Champagne bottles during victory parties are numerous.

The physics are also sound. A Champagne bottle holds a considerable amount of pressure -- around 90 pounds per square inch which equates to about 35 pounds-force trying to push the cork out of the bottle. The stress on the bottle isn't uniform, and each has a spot at which stress concentrations combine and the strength of the glass is cut by more than fifty percent. The impact of the saber on this weak point will create a crack that, fueled by the momentum of the saber and the pressure in the bottle, will send the top flying -- usually about 20-30 feet away.

Today, sabrage is used mostly for ceremonial occasions, but what better way to kick off 2012? Here's how to do it:

  • Find yourself a saber. Long swords look cool, but a sturdy butcher knife will work just as well, and it doesn't have to be sharp, since the bottle is struck with the back of the blade. 
  • Peel off the label if it's in your way. 
  • Find the "seam" of the bottle -- this is the area we talked about earlier, where the glass is weakest. It's the protruding lip just below the cork. 
  • Hold the bottle in your less dominant hand at a 45-degree upward angle. 
  • In your strong hand, take your saber and drive it into the weak point. The head should come right off. Use some power and follow through, or the glass won't break completely and you'll be sprayed. 
  • Allow a bit of the bubbles to spill out. The carbonation flow should push out any shards, but you should still check the first glass you pour for any remnants. 
  • Enjoy all the attention and accompanying New Year's kisses that being a badass entails.
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Zach Fowle
Contact: Zach Fowle