Been There, Did That! Opening Champagne with a Sword

Swash! Buckle! Whoosh! Pop!

I just learned how to open a bottle of Champagne with a sword. I feel like a buccaneer! A musketeer! I’m invincible! I’m already the hit of holiday parties. My life is changed forever!

Yesterday evening I, along with about 20 other foolhardy San Franciscans, gathered in the Mission District clutching cheap-ish bottles of brut to learn at the feet of the master – Josh Adler of 18 Reasons (one of those reasons has to be, “Because it’s dangerous but really, really fun”). Josh has his own custom-made Champagne saber – a short, heavy blade that any pirate would covet…

We trouped out to the sidewalk with wine glasses in hand and Josh demonstrated the technique:

1. Remove the capsule and all surrounding foil or paper.
2. Remove the wire cage that secures the cork to the bottle. Handle the bottle with care and don’t point it at any passing pedestrians, dogs, cars or that plate-glass window over there.
3. Make sure you have at least 15-20 feet of clear space. The cork is going to go flying into the air as if fired from a mini-cannon, with a sharp ring of glass around it. Definitely don’t do this inside.
4. Find the seam in the bottle that runs from top to bottom and turn it to face up. Hold the bottle out in front of you at about a 30-degree angle, with your hand firmly gripping its widest part.
5. Position your sword (saber, heavy kitchen knife, machete, etc.) perpendicular to the bottle, with the DULL side against the glass and the blade tilted at a 45-degree angle to the bottle.
6. Slide the sword away from you and toward the end of the bottle, whacking the lip of the bottle and beheading it with a flourish.
7. Hold bottle over glasses as champagne flows forth.
8. Run out into the traffic on Guerrero Street to recover your cork/glass projectile.

(By me telling you this, I am in no way condoning the act or the specific technique detailed above or the use of weapons or cutlery in general to open champagne. You could put your eye out, kid!)

At first, members of the assembled crowd were timid about trying it on their own. Then the first newbie took saber in hand and gave it a go: whack, blam, spew! “It’s easier than it looks,” he reported. In fact, the pressure inside the bottle is your best friend, finishing the job once the sword-wielder creates a fault-line at the lip.

Before long, everybody was sabering away at Champagne bottles, with no injuries or rogue shards of glass that I could detect. Most times, the bottle lip and cork flew cleanly away, beheading the bottle, and leaving a clean cut that was easy to pour from.

But oh, the sense of power, panache and general savoir-faire whacking open a Champagne bottle can produce. Once I’d lopped my first top, I wanted to do it again and again. I am seriously considering becoming a Champagne mercenary, traveling with my swashbuckling sword to wherever bubbly needs opening and wrongs need righting.

~To read about my previous adventures with Champage (in Champagne), check out my Washington Post story…and see photos of the Pommery Champagne house in Reims here!~

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