- Remove the foil capsule and tear away the paper around the neck of the bottle as well. You will remove the wire cage also, but only immediately before sabering.
- Chill the bottle very, very well. Make a thick slurry of ice and water in a large bucket and chill the wine, making certain it is submerged entirely in the cold, for at least an hour. It must be extremely cold, or it may all just crumble in a heartbreaking explosion in your mitts. In fact, I turn mine upside down to make sure the neck is utterly cold. Dustin Wilson, the wine director of Eleven Madison Park — where they saber the house-imported Cuvée Vigneron from grower-winemaker Roger Pouillon only for couples getting engaged in the restaurant — stresses to his sommeliers that the single most import aspect of the process is “getting that bottle arctic.”
- Once the bottle is brutally cold, remove the wire cage. Locate one of the seams and place your weapon flat along it, using the dull side. Hold it out from your body, at a 45 degree slant and pointed away from any onlookers. Run your blade flat along the seam, in a straight line up, striking the neck ring forcefully (and simultaneously shrieking “Sauve qui peut!”).
- With any luck, or the merest practice, the ring pops off like nothing, and you should lose very little wine. It’s quite surgical. If the first go doesn’t get it, don’t be discouraged. Make some self-deprecating witticism, line it up and try again. Once you’re victorious, and understandably elated, refrain from the urge to swig from the open bottle. That, too, is surgical, but in a different way.
- The outward force of the pressure releasing immediately blows any stray shards of glass out and away from the bottle. This means you needn’t worry about drinking glass shards, but you do need to pass the Swiffer around the dining room before traipsing about barefoot. Or better, saber your Champagne on a beach.
This does work with other sparkling wines, it goes without saying, but not with all others. Some bottles, like very cheap cavas and non-reinforced bottles of vin pétillant, don’t work. If the wine is a full-on sparkler and the bottle is thick and seems to have prominent seams running up it, you’re most likely fine. People even do it with beer bottles. Wouldthese guys approve of that? I’m certain not, which makes me all the more eager to saber beer now.
The knife is relatively unimportant, I’m almost sad to say. Online you can find videos of people offing the heads of Champagne bottles with spoons, butter knives, belt bucklesand rings — maybe flowers if you search hard enough. All you need is a blunt edge and a stern knock. The dull backside of a regular 8-inch chef’s knife is, if a bit less swashbuckling than many of us might hope for, perfectly serviceable and at least something you’re bound to have about. There are a number of esteemed cutlery purveyors who make actual Champagne sabers: dull-edged, carnival-esque knives meant solely for this purpose. Such over-thought luxury gear seems not just unnecessary but frankly slightly dorky; it’s like being the guy who shows up to a pick-up game with the full matching Lebron jersey and shorts. If, on the other hand, it happens that you’ve the odd bayonet or lancer’s épée idling in the pantry, by all means step up; that’s exactly the kind of bold display for which style points are reserved, and it’s nice to (peaceably) repurpose a weapon that hasn’t seen service since the Boer War.
If you need more guidance, the best tutorial I could imagine comes from Dave Arnold, the erstwhile director of technology at the French Culinary Institute and all-around Johnny-on-the-spot enabler for ill-advised and possibly perilous culinary undertakings. If you need yet more impetus, I give you this quote from Paul Claudel, the French dramatist and diplomat: “Gentlemen, in the little moment that remains to us between the crisis and the catastrophe, we may as well drink a glass of Champagne.” To which I can only add: and let’s chop its head off with a sword! – NYTimes.Com