What is sabrage?

Sabrage is the art of opening a bottle of Champagne with a sabre. Done properly, it is quite straightforward, completely safe, and very impressive. Done poorly, it can be just as damaging to your clothing as to your reputation!

This page contains a guide to performing sabrage, as well as a brief history of the art. If you still aren’t convinced it is as easy as it sounds, try it for yourself by coming along to one of our events, or even booking us for your own party!

How do you do it?

You can perform sabrage in the comfort of your own home. All you will need is a properly chilled bottle of Champagne and a sabre.

Chill the bottle: Place the bottle in a bucket of ice or refrigerate it for several hours, ensuring it’s as cold as possible (ideally around 3º C). The neck should also be cold, so if you are using a bucket of ice, ensure you have submerged the whole bottle.
Remove the foil and cage: Carefully remove the foil and the wire cage (muselet) from around the cork, exposing the cork and the lip of the bottle. This is a good time to ensure you are not pointing the bottle towards anyone. At this point, you can also locate one of the two seams along the side of the bottle, as there is a structural weak point where the seam meets the lip—but this is not necessary when you are an experienced sabreur/sabreuse.
Tilt the bottle and position the blade: Hold the bottle firmly with one hand at the base and tilt it at about a thirty-degree angle. With your other hand, take the sabre and rest the flat side against the top of the bottle (on the seam if you are using it). Traditionally, the blade should face the cork, but either side will work.
Sabrage: In one swift motion, slide the sabre along the seam toward the cork, using a confident, fluid movement. Aim to strike the lip of the bottle, just below the cork. It’s a shaving motion, not a chopping motion, so keep the blade flat and on the bottle, and do not stop when you reach the lip. The force and precision of the strike should cause the cork and the glass lip (annulus) to break away cleanly.
Enjoy responsibly: Once the cork and lip are removed, it’s time to enjoy your Champagne. Don’t forget that there may be a sharp edge at the top of the bottle, so pour by holding the bottom, and dispose of (or display) the bottle as soon as it is empty.

This may look like a lot to think about, but it really is very easy, as can be seen in this tutorial given by a member of the UK & Ireland Council (and Maître-Sabreur), to one of our members when she performed her Novice Sabrage at a festive event:

Where does it come from?

Two hundred years ago, stylish young cavalry officers in the French Army would slice the corks off Champagne bottles with their sabres, rather than put themselves to the effort of easing the corks out by hand. Napoleon, who is known to have said of Champagne that “in victory, one deserves it; in defeat, one needs it”, may have encouraged this.

After its introduction by the Hussars, the art of sabrage gained popularity among the French aristocracy and quickly spread throughout Europe, where it became a symbol of celebration and extravagance.

There may no longer be dashing dragoons, happy Hussars, or lascivious lancers to sabrage the bottle, but the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or has continued the proud tradition.

Today, sabrage is not limited to the élite or the military: many restaurants, hotels, bars, and Champagne houses offer sabrage demonstrations to add a touch of sparkle to their events, and a number of venues—such as our Caveaux de Sabrage—provide tutorials, showing that, with the right instruction and preparation, anyone can become a Sabreur or Sabreuse. And once you’ve opened a bottle with a sabre, you will almost certainly never want to open one conventionally again!