A special afternoon ritual at the St. Regis hotels, Napoleon’s way to celebrate a victory in the battlefield or simply the coolest way to open a bottle of champagne, that’s exactly what the art of sabrage is about. Sabrage refers to the act of opening a bottle of champagne by sliding a saber over its neck. Now, while many believe that the saber slices the neck of the bottle or pushes the cork out, what in reality happens is that the slight impact of the saber on the seam of the bottle creates a chain reaction that makes the bottle release its pressure by breaking its top cork included. If you want to experience the art of sabrage yourself, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, find a nice location worthy of this celebratory ritual, second, make sure that your bottle of champagne is as cold as it gets before its freezing point and lastly, get yourself a good saber, either a Sciabola del Sommelier by Fox Knives from Maniago, Italy or if you feel like splurging, just go ahead and drop several thousand dollars on a silver Christofle saber like the one that they use at the St. Regis hotels for their sabrage celebrations.
Now, in order to make sure that your sabrage ritual doesn’t end up turning into an epic fail, always make sure that before attempting it, you have placed the already chilled bottle of champagne neck down in an ice bucket for at least ten minutes before performing the ritual. Once you’ve made sure that the bottle of champagne is chilled properly, then its time to find the seams of the bottle with your fingers. After sliding your fingers over the seam —typically on the sides of the label, but sometimes in the center of the label— is time to get the saber ready. And before proceeding with the sabrage, always make sure no one is standing in front of the bottle or in the path of your saber.
For a successful ritual, remember that the trick here has nothing to do with force, strength or speed of motion, it’s all about following the seam with a steady motion of the saber and always making sure you start at least at the bottom third of the bottle as you make your way up to the neck of the bottle.
Before starting, always make sure to remove the foil around the neck so that the saber slides freely and smoothly. Also make sure that you remove the metal cage surrounding the cork. Before you do the final slide, do a couple of short practice attempts without following the seam all the way to the neck or the cork, that way you’ll get to feel what it’d be like and you’ll set a rhythm going.
Finally, once you feel confident enough to give the bottle its final blow, then it’s time to slide the saber all the way from the bottom of the bottle —always following the seam without stopping at the cork— to the very top without stopping. And always, always follow through and voila. If you’re concerned about glass falling in the bottle, rest assured that that won’t happen as the pressure inside the bottle won’t allow for any shattered glass to go inside it.
Once you’ve retrieved your corks after the successful ritual, you’ll see them surrounded by a beautiful glass ring that left them intact and still properly secured against it. Nothing more rewarding than keeping these as a memento of one of the most unique and coolest champagne celebrations ever.
Now, since this celebratory ritual is all about the champagne and the people you’re with, make sure you get enough bottles of your favorite brand and let your friends also give it a try. Nothing is more exciting than trying this for the very first time and succeeding.
Cheers to the #watchlife and to the most special champagne celebration of them all. Stay thirsty, my friends and enjoy life to the fullest because you only live once. If you do it right, once is more than enough.
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