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Blades and Booze
December 30, 2006 12:11 PM   Subscribe

"It can seem daunting when you are initially handed a sabre and a chilled bottle of Champagne with the expectation that you will sever the top of the bottle with the sword’s blade. Do not be downhearted!" Sabrage is the ancient art of opening champagne bottles by slicing them with a sabre. Learn how to combine swords and booze this New Year's Eve.
posted by blahblahblah (42 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Too bad my new sword won't be here in time. ><
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:27 PM on December 30, 2006


Great link! I had never heard of this and I find it really neat. Are you a sabreur, blahblahblah?
posted by arcticwoman at 12:36 PM on December 30, 2006


hmmmm....

"Learn how to combine swords and booze this New Year's Eve."

ok... somehow this doesn't seem like a good idea...
posted by HuronBob at 12:55 PM on December 30, 2006


Great post, I'll definitely be trying this next time I find myself in possession of a long knife or sword and a bottle of bubbly.

Surely there can be found a similar and equally dangerous/entertaining way to open beer bottles?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 1:01 PM on December 30, 2006


Y'know, I find it funny when people correctly call it sabrage, and then spell the word saber. Argh.

Also, I've seen this done, and when it's done well it is incredibly impressive. (Done by a waiter who was approximately seven thousand years old, one of those ultra-capable and unflappable sorts. Fantastic.)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:06 PM on December 30, 2006


"Learn how to combine swords and booze this New Year's Eve."

Let me guess; sword first, then booze?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:10 PM on December 30, 2006


It becomes sharply funny when you cut the head of your gf off with an applause of the drunken bystanders ! HAPPY NEW YEAR !
posted by elpapacito at 1:12 PM on December 30, 2006


As a former Hussar, I regret that we never attempted this in our mess. But given our regular behaviour after hours, I can understand why the Senior Officers locked the trophy swords away from us delinquents.
posted by smcniven at 1:32 PM on December 30, 2006


Aha! Your link explains so much. I mistakenly thought that the sword was used to cleave the bottle neck below the cork, which seemed implausible.

Apparently sabreage is more about showmanship than skill with a sword. Another mystery solved by the internets.
posted by FissionChips at 1:36 PM on December 30, 2006


Yes, but can you do this while ghost riding your whip?
posted by Tube at 1:36 PM on December 30, 2006


I 've been doing this at parties since a 1987 visit to Corsica, wherein I witnessed the art performed by a waiter at a local restaurant. We spent the rest of the summer practicing on cider bottles (cheaper, by far, than champagne should you mishit). It really is quite easy. Even more fun when performed on a magnum of really expensive stuff, whilst donning a pirate costume. The ladies love it!

***spoiler****

The first prerequisite is to chill the bottle as much as you possibly can. A warm bottle is likely to explode. Besides, warm champagne is absurd. The second prerequisite is to score the glass with your saber blade just beneath the lip of the cork prior to delivering the blow. This act is performed in private, long before the bottle is displayed to the public. Ideally, depending on the quality of the glass, the resulting cut is near-perfect, no jagged edges or shards.

I've never missed in the 20 years I've been performing this trick, nor have I harmed myself or others.
posted by piedrasyluz at 1:56 PM on December 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


Beer bottle? Depends. Do you like boing boing or you tube?
posted by fixedgear at 1:59 PM on December 30, 2006


piedrasyluz writes "Besides, warm champagne is absurd."

I think what you meant was: "Besides, warm champagne is an abomination unto the Universe, and those who would inflict such a thing shall be cast into the uttermost pit of despair."
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:59 PM on December 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


Dirtynumb, you are correct.

Now that I've read all the links in the post, I had no idea this was such considere to be such a rarity in the US. Nor did I think one would need a diploma to be considered a master sabreur. The link in the wired article to the Connecticut sabreur's story is somewhat inaccurate and I think it was meant to try to lend a European air of exclusivity to what is, essentially, a fun hobby at best. It says he's done 400 saberings with 3 or 4 "failures" - does that mean the bottle exploded, or simply that most or all of the champagne was wasted because it surged out of the bottle? I can't imagine anything in the act that would cause a bottle to shatter, but champagne loss is due solely to agitation and improper temperature. I cannot stand it when someone opens a bottle of champagne and it sprays or bubbles all over the place. It is the apotheosis of the uncouth to engage in such wasteful behavior. When a waiter in a restaurant opens champagne in this way, and the patrons cheer, or express satisfaction at such displays of incompetence, it galls me to no end.

I've performed the trick on California sparkling wines as well as fine French champagnes. It may have been true at some point in the past that the bottles were of different quality, but I doubt that's true now. I've used everything from a full-sized theatrical broadsword to a large bread knife, and the results are always they same. The duller the blade, the better, as you are less likely to chip the lip.
posted by piedrasyluz at 2:18 PM on December 30, 2006


I don't think you can actually consider this "severing the head" of of a bottle. Wouldn't that involve actually cutting through the glass on the upper portion?
posted by gigbutt at 3:09 PM on December 30, 2006


Too cool. I can't wait to do this with the 13 inch knife our skunk trapper buddy gave me before he died. It's made out of the leaf spring from a Model A, and it's an extremely functional small machete. I can think of nothing more awesome than whacking open a bottle of California sparkling wine with this rustic tool and then chowing down on some homemade pain a l'ancienne made in my electric oven.
posted by eparchos at 3:23 PM on December 30, 2006


Y'know, I find it funny when people correctly call it sabrage, and then spell the word saber. Argh.
I suggest you get over this. "Saber" is a perfectly valid spelling of the word.
posted by Flunkie at 3:39 PM on December 30, 2006


** runs for his trusty katana ** I am so doing this for my culinary minded friends at the New Year Party Sunday night. THANKS.
posted by winks007 at 3:45 PM on December 30, 2006


The duller the blade, the better, as you are less likely to chip the lip.
In fact, one of the guys in the videos in the "Learn how to combine" link -- one who clearly knows what he's doing -- uses the non-business end of the sword.
posted by Flunkie at 3:48 PM on December 30, 2006


Flunkie writes "I suggest you get over this. 'Saber' is a perfectly valid spelling of the word."

It's also incorrect. But you probably spell colour without the 'u'.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:53 PM on December 30, 2006


But you probably spell colour without the 'u'.
Keep hanging on to that shred of national relevance.
posted by Flunkie at 4:04 PM on December 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


Do you call it the Metric system? Or the Meteric?

It's called Metric because it comes from 'metre'. Ditto sabrage, sabreur/sabreuse, etc; comes from 'sabre'.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:18 PM on December 30, 2006


Do you call it the Metric system? Or the Meteric?
My car gets forty rods to the hogshead, and that's the way I likes it.
It's called Metric because it comes from 'metre'. Ditto sabrage, sabreur/sabreuse, etc; comes from 'sabre'.
You don't have to lecture me on etymology, thank you.

Language changes. It always had. It always will. And in this case, it has. I'm sorry if you're upset by that, but it's not my fault.
posted by Flunkie at 4:25 PM on December 30, 2006


It's pretty easy. You don't cut the top of the bottle you just weaken the neck by hitting it from below repeatedly (you do this all arround the neck) and then in one swift move you hit the neck and it separates because of the weakened glass + pressure in the bottle.

It works with beer too. We used to do it on Sleeman bottles. But we used butter knifes since we don't generally have access to sabres.
posted by coust at 4:37 PM on December 30, 2006


Flunkie writes "Language changes. It always had. It always will. And in this case, it has. I'm sorry if you're upset by that, but it's not my fault."

That doesn't make it correct.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:43 PM on December 30, 2006


It does make you an asshole. Quit calling people out over petty language disputes.
posted by blasdelf at 4:57 PM on December 30, 2006


ZenMasterThis : Let me guess; sword first, then booze?

Maybe if you are a coward. In my household, we don't even touch the steel till we get a couple of drinks in us. Because only then are we invincible.
posted by quin at 5:12 PM on December 30, 2006


Oh, blasdelf. This is petty, I won't disagree.

But I presume you're referring to the discriminatory language I've had issues with recently? That is not petty. It is damaging, painful, and bigoted. Get over yourself.

/derail
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:30 PM on December 30, 2006


Your presumption is correct, but it is petty. At the end of the day, it is you who chose to be offended and victimized by language that was not intended to be so by it's author, and you who chose to be such a douchebag about it publicly. Nobody agreed with your callout, and consensus is damn rare in MetaTalk, even when in lynch-mob mode.

You really need to stop your self-victimizing Sisyphean push against language usage. You don't even have the toolkit to be knowledgeably critical. You are not a peer of languagehat in that regard. Let the rock roll down the hill and move on.
posted by blasdelf at 5:55 PM on December 30, 2006


blasdelf, I refuse to continue this here. Take it to MeTa, or drop it.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:03 PM on December 30, 2006


That doesn't make it correct.
It also doesn't make it incorrect.
posted by Flunkie at 6:07 PM on December 30, 2006


Touche. (Yes, there should be an accent; I forget the key combination.)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:12 PM on December 30, 2006


A bayonet is sturdy and portable, and has an edge near the handle, apparently called a ricasso, that works well for this. Some champagnes have an indented ring cut aound the neck just below where the basket attaches, with the bayonet these bottles pop open with barely more than a tap.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:20 PM on December 30, 2006


fixedgear and coust, thanks for the info.

I am now charging the batteries to my camera and perhaps tomorrow will venture into the garage with beer and sharp things. I'll post the video here if I do.

And people with spelling errors in their profiles shouldn't throw grammatical stones.

MetaFilter: MetaFiltre
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 6:29 PM on December 30, 2006


I've done this a dozen or so times. I've never scored the bottle, nor tapped it repeatedly; one swift stroke is all it's taken. The trick is, I think, to believe--move your knife, or saber, or katana, or what have you, decisively, as if you know it will work. Actually, I wouldn't recommend using a particularly good knife--banging on hard glass isn't the best thing for delicate carbon steel; the back-side of the blade works just fine.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:03 PM on December 30, 2006


MrMoonPie, does it matter how thick the back of the blade is? I plan on using a rather massive knife (think huge butchers knife, horror movie style) and the back of it is... well, it's thicker than the razor sharp front.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:08 PM on December 30, 2006


It'll be fine. Just believe.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:26 PM on December 30, 2006


Actually, all this has been discussed before. I use dsandl's method. Confidence is the key.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:31 PM on December 30, 2006


It also seems important to lay the blade flat against the bottle. In the videos where it didn't work, the guy tended to be hitting more with the side of the blade than the spine.
posted by quin at 7:37 PM on December 30, 2006


I was lucky enough to be introduced to the fine art of Sabrage at the young age of 21 during a visit to a local Officer's Mess just south of Montreal (CFB St. Hubert).

A number of Officers had continued celebrating in the downstairs bar after the huge Christmas Dinner and a few then started opening the champagne is this unusual manner. I was utterly entranced; my Captain friends decided that I absolutely *must* give it a try and bought a bottle of bubbly for me. I was terrified of embarassing myself and them, in front of the whole Officer's Mess -- particularly when the gentleman before me managed to make a spectacular mess of his, as he not only failed to chop it off, but then proceeded to drop the bottle on the floor, smashing it to bits and spilling champage everywhere....

After the mess was cleaned up, it was my turn "up at bat" and I was *so* nervous, and it didn't help that I was probably the only civilian amongst them, and a tiny 5 foot tall female who barely looked old enough to be drinking, never mind handling a ceremonial sabre over half her height in length.

Well, as someone else mentioned above, I just *believed* I could do it and visualized it, after a few tips from my friends. I was lucky enough to break it cleanly in my first stroke, sending the head flying a very respectable 15+ feet, and barely spilling a drop in the process. Everyone was suitably impressed, but none so much as myself that I managed it so well... It might have been blind luck -- that, or the Champagne Gods were smiling upon me that night!

I was then presented with my champagne cork, complete with the green glass lip still surrounding it, and a new quarter from that year was slipped into the soft cork to form a traditional souvenir; which I kept for years and years as a token of good luck. (Unfortunately, it got lost during one of my moves.)

I've never had the chance to do it again, but the one time I did, it proved to be a magical moment for me and I would highly recommend others to try it, as it can look particularly impressive (especially if others don't think you have a snowball's chance in hell of making it happen...)

Thanks for bringing back such wonderful memories!!

posted by Jade Dragon at 4:13 AM on December 31, 2006 [2 favorites]


Yes! The glass-surrounded corks are great mementoes--I have several (though I didn't know about the quarter part).
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:49 AM on December 31, 2006


I totally just saw MrMoonPie do this today, It was terrific. I am definitely doing it next time.
posted by blasdelf at 6:17 PM on January 1, 2007


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