Sabrage at the Stafford Hotel

Jul 09, 14 Sabrage at the Stafford Hotel

Last night I became a Chevalier sabreur. You might be wondering what that is? Basically I can now perform sabrage or decapitate a bottle of champagne with a sabre. I don’t usually carry a sabre around but you never know…

the winesleuth and her sabre

the winesleuth and her sabre

The bottle decapitations or “sabrage” as it’s formally known dates back to Napoleonic times (hence the use of a sabre). According to my sources

… it celebrates a tradition that dates back to the Chevalier of the order of the Golden Sabre, where the technique for opening a Champagne bottle with a sabre sword was used for ceremonial occasions. This technique became popular in France when the army of Napoleon visited many of the aristocratic domains.  Napoleon’s spectacular victories across all Europe gave them plenty of reason to celebrate. During these parties the cavalry would open the Champagne with their sabres by sliding along the body of the bottle to break the entire neck away from the bottle, leaving only the base of the bottle open and ready to pour…

IMG_3315 I was at the Stafford Hotel in Mayfair to celebrate the fact that the hotel is now a ‘Caveau of the Confrerie du Sabre D’Or’. That means that they can perform sabrage in their cellars. The cellars are over 380 years old and were used as air raid shelters during WW II. They are quite atmospheric and the hotel will be using the cellars for events such the sabrage as well as lunches and dinners. 

entrance to the Stafford's Cellar

entrance to the Stafford’s Cellar

I was given a quick tutorial on how to do sabrage correctly and then – whack! The top of the bottle and cork went flying off into space. A perfect cut. You do have to be careful once you’ve sliced off the head as the glass edges are very sharp.

the bottle top and cork

the bottle top and cork

It was great fun to have a go at sabrage and I managed to do it on the first try. Now I only need to do it two more times before I become a fully fledged member. Maybe I can take a whack at a few bottles the next time I’m in Champagne.

dead soldiers

dead soldiers and sabres

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