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mental_floss's Be More Interesting series will teach you new interesting skills. This week, Max Silvestri learns to open champagne using only his wits and a sword.

(And don't worry--the regular list show will continue on Wednesday!)

Music provided by Scorebuzz Music.
Max: Today we have master of wine Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan to teach us how to master sabrage: the fine art of opening champagne with a saber.


M: Hi Jennifer.

J: Hi.

M: So I understand you are a wine master.

J: I am a master of wine.

M: Is there... is that the highest... are there grand masters of wine?

J: Uh no, no, master of wine is the highest title.

M: Oh well, congratulations.

J: Thank You.

M: I want to learn how to open a bottle of champagne with a knife, that's what you are telling me?

J: With a saber.

M: Like, how big of a sword are we talking about?

J: It's only about that big. (Gestures size with hands)

M: Oh, so it's like a sword you could carry on you.

J: That's right, that's right.

M: Do you always have a saber on you?

J: No I don't.

M: Where does sabering come from?

J: Sabering comes from Napoleonic times, so Napoleon.

M: That's the time of Napoleon.

J: That's the time of Napoleon indeed.

M: He was a short man that did war.

J: So when he was going through the region of Champagne with a victory, um, the people of Champagne, otherwise known as the champagnois, wanted to celebrate by giving all the cavalry and everybody bottles of champagne. So they would throw up bottles to people on horseback, but if you're sitting on horseback, you know, it's kind of difficult to sit there and try and open up a bottle of champagne so what they did was they would take out their swords and they would hack of the end of it. And that's kind of how it came about.

M: Oh. Who was the first guy to figure that out? I imagine there was probably a lot of mistakes where they're like "shove the sword up the bottom of it." and they're like "No, that doesn't work. The horse hates it". Let the horse bite the top off. Um, yeah. I feel like trial and error to get to these guys.

J: Yes, yes, actually the swords that they used way back when, they were sharp. These are extremely dull.

M: Also, did they have really tiny swords back then?

J: Yeah, you could use a katana or something along those lines. 

M: Oh sure, if you have a katana. Or yeah yeah. That was Leonardo's weapon in the Ninja Turtles. 

J: You could use a kitchen knife. And we don't want anyone using anything at home. Um, but if you're going to use a kitchen knife, you use the back of it because this is very dull. If you use the sharp edge it's going to change some things about the mechanics of of sabering.

M: Is it cool if i just hold this in my hands?

J: Yeah, yeah. If it makes you feel cooler.

M: A little bit.

J: Um, so every bottle that is made, the glass itself is made of two halves that come together. Which means that there's a vertical seam that goes around the bottle. And you can see it or you can feel it, like right here you can see it.

M: Oh yeah. It's right there.

J: That's how the bottle came together and where it meets that glass lip is the weakest link. All you have to do really, is kind of tap it and it's going to break and the cork is going to go flying because there's three times the pressure of a car tire inside this bottle of champagne.

M: So you just pay a mechanic a ton of money to open champagne.

J: Right, exactly. Exactly. So it's six atmospheres of pressure.

M: Is that how Napoleon figured out how to do this? He found the weakest link? I feel like he was good in battles at finding weaknesses.

J: I wouldn't be surprised. He was a smart guy, so I wouldn't be surprised.

M: Okay. Okay.

J: And when you do this, you want to...

M: That's very cold, it looks like.

J: It is. You have to keep it cold because if it's too warm, it can explode unpredictably. And you want the most predictability in this as possible to make it work all the time.

M: I mean, you're already bringing a knife to a party. You're, like, a little unpredictable.

J: You want to hold it up about at a 45 degree angle.

M: Okay.

J: Why? Because you don't want to spill it. That's the only reason for that. 

M: Oh, yeah. Sure.

J: 0 degrees...

M: Right.

J: 30 degrees, and what you want to do is go up that lip and be perpendicular from the seam to the lip. So it's like a "T". And what you're going to do is, is kind of pretend like the lip isn't really there. Because some people kind of do, "boop", right. But they expect that it's going to go flying.

M: Right. You want to go right over the lip.

J: You want to pretend like it's not even there.

M: Okay.

J: Right.

M: So you're just... You're not, you're not going over it. You're just going through it.

J: Nope. Going through it.

M: Follow through.

J: Right.

M: And is this going to, like, explode when this happens?

J: It's going to go flying. Yeah.

M: It's going to go flying. Glass everywhere.

J: Yeah, yeah. I think the longest one was 174 feet. Take the wire cage off. And a little piece of trivia, it always takes six twists to get the wire cage off So, 1..2..3...4...

M: I had no idea. I always was like "too many".

J: 5...6. 

M: Alright, so, how do you do this? You're finding the seams.

J: Finding the seam.

M: Holding your left hand...

J: on the mark.

M: Okay.

J: Zero. Thirty.

(Cork pops)

M: Oh!

J: There we go.

M: Amazing.

J: So you see how it broke the glass.

M: Right. So if you're, like, If you're having a party in a limo and you want to drink from the bottle.

J: Right.

M: You shouldn't saber it?

J: You should not do that. You can pour like that...

M: If you're having a party in a limo, you probably shouldn't have a knife. 

J: That's probably how the cavalry did it. 

M: Yeah.

J: But that's how that works.

M: Alright, so.

J: So, we're going to take the wire cage off.

M: Okay, alright.

J: What you're going to do is go past it.

M: And there's no lip. I'm not even paying attention to the lip. It's as if there's no lip.

J: As if there's no lip. 1...2...3... go.

(Cork pops)

J: There you go!

M: Yeah!


J: See that. 

M: That's great!

M: So today we learned how to make a big splash at a special occasion by sabering open a bottle of champagne. But, for a refreshing drink that doesn't require you to have a sword, enjoy Dos Equis. Until next time, I'm Max Silvestri from Mental Floss and Dos Equis reminding you to be more interesting.