Saber a Champagne Bottle on New Year's Eve
It's easy if you follow these simple rules
2023 is about to come to a close. Like most of you, I’ve had adventures, said goodbye to relationships, and checked a few things off my “bucket list” — including sabring a champagne bottle.
Sabring a champagne bottle started in France where it was said that Napoleon’s army would open champagne bottles with their sabers during Napoleon’s victory celebrations across Europe.
Today, champagne bottles are still sabered at celebrations. At formal gatherings, a champagne sword (sabre à champagne) is used. The sword is usually blunt (it’s mostly for ceremony — not to slice something open). But, almost anything can be used (more on that later). Champagne bottles, because of their thickness, are the only bottles that should be used in sabering.
If you want to see a champagne sabering ceremony — complete with a touch of pomp and circumstance - pop (pun intended) over to your nearest St. Regis Hotel, where nearly all of its properties participate in an evening Champagne Sabering Ritual. Every evening at 6:30 p.m., lights are dimmed, candles are lit, and a champagne bottle is sabered signifying the start of the evening with a toast.
If you want a more hands-on approach to sabering, many St. Regis properties offer a sabering class where you’ll be walked through the history of sabering and offered several champagne and canape tastings. Each class is hosted by a different champagne house: my class at the St. Regis Bal Harbour Hotel featured champagne by Barons De Rothschild along with some extremely innovative food pairings.
Then, it was my turn to saber a bottle of champagne. I must say, I had some trepidation. I’m not nervous getting up in front of a crowd, but there’s something about being given a giant sword and a glass bottle and being told to have a go with them in front of people that gives you a moment’s pause.
I finally said to myself, “Just go for it” and I did: One good long stroke with the sword against the bottle and pop! It might have been the most satisfying thing I’ve done in my life.
So, what are the secrets to sabering a champagne bottle? Here they are, according to the St. Regis:
A young vintage champagne with pressure still on the cork is optimal for sabering. Do not try to saber prosecco or sparkling wine, unless you want to possibly shatter a bottle and wind up in the emergency room. champagne bottles are thicker and you should only attempt to saber champagne.
Prepare the bottle by chilling it between 45-48°F or 7-8°C for 24 hours to lower its pressure and vibration.
Set the bottle upside down in an ice bucket approximately 20 minutes before opening.
When ready, reveal the cork by removing the foil in its entirety. Then, unwind and discard the wire basket.
Carefully point the bottle upwards at about a 30-degree angle. Find one of the two vertical seams running up the bottle, and quickly slide the blade of the saber along the body towards the neck. If you don’t have a saber, you can use almost anything: a kitchen knife, a wooden spatula, even a cell phone can work. It’s all in the motion.
Here’s my tip — do NOT hesitate. Take one long, quick swoop of the blade along the neck of the bottle. Be committed.
The force of the blade as it hits the lip of the bottle’s neck will break the glass.
The cork and collar will remain intact, and the champagne will be ready for a toast.
Try it this New Year’s Eve. I guarantee you’ll impress your friends. Cheers!