There’s the safe way to open a Champagne bottle, and then there’s the fun way: by slicing it open with a sword. By no means should you ever attempt this at home. The practice was supposedly started by victorious Napoleonic troops who celebrated by opening bottles of wine with their swords while on horseback. Today, sabering, as it is called, is a party trick typically done while standing, rather than riding, but it is still quite dangerous. Again, do not attempt this at home.
The first thing to know about sabrage is that it’s not done with a sharp sword but a dull Champagne saber (or other handheld edge). The bottle isn’t so much sliced as it is knocked open, breaking along a pre-existing seam between the neck and the lip. One more time: You should not do this. With that warning out of the way, here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Opt for Actual French Champagne
While you could, technically, saber the top off any bottle of bubbly wine, a real Champagne bottle works best. Not only will it do Napoleon proud, but French bottles are made with thicker glass than some of their international kin and therefore are at less risk of shattering.
Step 2: Chill Out
Chill your bottle, either in the fridge or neck-side down in an ice bucket, until it’s 40°F or colder. Take this time to prepare yourself mentally.
Step 3: Locate the Seam
Find the seam that runs along the back of the neck of the bottle. Rotate the bottle so that it is seam-side up.
Step 4: Get Into Position
Hold the bottle by the base with your non-dominant hand, pointing it up and away from you (and anyone else) at a 45 degree angle. Place your sword across the top of the bottle, perpendicular to the neck, and angle the sword edge slightly down.
Step 5: Cleave
Swiftly slide your sword up along the neck and past the cork, following through like you’re Serena Williams or Arnold Palmer
Step 6: Secure Your Sparkling
Even if the cut looks clean, pour out a bit of Champagne out to be sure there aren’t any shards in the booze, or just double check the first pour. And be sure to recover the cork, wherever it flew—it’s attached to a dangerous ring of sharp glass.
Step 7: Celebrate
You’ve got Champagne
and a reason to celebrate. Get to it.