Watch our video on facebook of Rhonda Rhyne teaching the Easthams about Sabering Champagne!
An old tradition which represents, today, a festive gesture of friendship, love and respect for champagne (and friends)!
I. What is Sabering?
Sabering is the French tradition of removing the cork from a bottle of champagne. This ritual dates back to Napoleon, when his soldiers used the reverse edge of their saber to break the neck of the bottle. Hence, the French expression “saber the bottle” came about illustrating the French belief that it is better to destroy the bottle than to do without champagne!
II. How to Saber
- Properly chilled champagne bottle (between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit);
- Remove all the foil that dresses the top of the bottle. Now, carefully, and with the cork pointed away from any person, animal, precious object, gently remove the muzzle cage. If properly chilled and not shaken, the cork should remain in the bottle.
- Hold the bottle with the thumb of the hand you don’t write with firmly set in the “butt” of the bottle. The rest of your fingers will cradle the base of the bottle.
- Find the Seam: Using the hand you write with, slide the nail of your thumb around the top of the bottle’s neck, just below the area where the muzzle was attached (this part is also called the annulus). You are looking for the bottle’s seam. There are always two to a bottle. Where that seam meets the annulus is the weakest spot of the bottle. It is so weak, in fact, that with experience, a skilled saberer can perform the task with a butter-knife or even the foot of a champagne glass. Now turn the bottle so that this weak spot is facing you on top. This is the spot you will make contact with the blade;
- Firmly hold the saber and place its blade on the top of the bottle’s shoulder on the seam. For best results, the bottle should be about two thirds of the blade away from the saber handle. Angle saber around 30-45 degrees to bottle and have elbow about 6 inches from your body;
- Angle of the bottle should be such that the fluid is just short of touching the base of the cork in the bottle. A lesser angle will cause spillage, and a greater angle will make the sliding of the blade less natural.
- Critical for successful sabering is momentum: It is not strength or force that is required, but rather momentum and follow-through that pops the cork and bottle head off simultaneously. As in golf or tennis, you need to maintain the motion beyond the point of impact. If you stop the motion at the annulus you risk chipping the rim. Do not hesitate, and do not use your wrist in the action – all the motion is from the elbow. Simply slide the blade alongside the bottle’s neck with the intention to impact beyond the cork.
III. Caution and Questions
Beware: Sabered bottles easily cut fingers, skin
The top of a sabered bottle, and the glass attached to the sabered cork may be sharp and must be handled with extreme care so as to not cut yourself or others.
Will glass end up in the fluid?
No, the pressure in the bottle, equivalent to that of a truck’s tire, but far less than a soda bottle’s, will prevent any potential glass chards from slipping into the bottle.
Will this spoil the quality of the beverage?
Not really, though some would argue that it causes undue stress to the nectar. You might want to avoid sabering an extraordinary champagne.
As with anything, common sense and responsibility will allow you to perform this act with confidence and safety for the pleasure of all. If you do not have a saber, use a large, heavy kitchen knife and use the back, or blunt, side of the blade to saber the bottle.