What’s the most festive way to kick start a haute evening event? A champagne sabering! This entertaining technique requires an incredibly sharp saber and a very cold bottle of bubbles. The sword is used to slice off the cork and top of the bottle. The neck of the bottle remains intact and the champagne flows freely. Fabulous right? While Napoleon and his cavalry are credited with inventing saberage — they celebrated many victories by using their sabers to open bottles of champagne, it is John Jacob Aster and the St. Regis Hotel that is credited for popularizing the tradition in America. Before he died on the Titanic, Aster and his wife would host parties that always started with a champagne sabering. The custom stuck and was passed on through generations at the hotel. Now all of the St. Regis Hotels, all over the world, take part in an evening sabering ritual. Although the days, time, and champagne bottle vary at each location, the ceremony is almost always performed by an esteemed staff member. We spoke with the St. Regis San Francisco’s Director of Restaurants and Bar, Matt Van Alstyne, to learn the proper technique for champagne sabering. At the St. Regis San Francisco, the evening ritual takes place every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night at 6 pm in the lobby. Here’s how champagne sabering is done at the St. Regis.
- Choose your bottle. A champagne bottle that is heavy works best.
- Chill it. In order for the sabering to work properly, the champagne must be very cold. Place the bottle in an ice bucket with water for at least 20 minutes before you plan to saber it.
- Find the seam. In order for the knife to actually cut through the glass, you have to hit the seam of the bottle with the knife. Find the seam of the bottle and pay attention to where it is. It should be facing upward when you perform the sabering.
- Clean it up. Remove all of the decorative foil from the top and neck of the bottle. Discard. Loosen the wire cage and remove it. Be sure to hold the bottle away from you. Once the cage is removed, the cork could pop off at any moment.
- Be sharp. Slide the sharp side of the knife up the bottle at a 45-degree angle. Use a little force to pop off the top of the bottle with the knife. Don’t shoot the flying top at anyone!
- Drink it up. Have your guests standing by with champagne glasses to catch the liquid that bubbles out. Enjoy!