Everything To Know About The Hottest Drinks Accessory Of 2020
In 18th Century France, Napoleon Bonaparte and his armies were known for celebrating their victories with a signature move. According to popularised rumours, as soldiers rode on horseback through the towns, villagers would throw them bottles of champagne, and they’d run their brass-hilted sabres along the neck to open them with a flourish.
Those who say that nothing beats the sound of a champagne cork popping haven’t experienced sabrage. A sabrage artist draws a long ceremonial sword down the length of a chilled bottle and strikes the top of the bottle off in one long, graceful movement.
The art form lives on today, and is experiencing a 21st Century renaissance, according to Sydney sabrage artist Rebecca Aaby.
“Sabrage is all about bringing people together to celebrate life,” says Aaby says.
“People are increasingly interested in unique and luxurious experiences – champagne is already in this category, and sabrage adds a theatrical and exciting element to drinking champagne. The cork flies through the air and everybody cheers.”
Aaby and her friend Gabriella Kuiters formed a firm bond through their mutual love of champagne, and the obsession quickly grew to include sabrage.
After the duo – an environmental scientist and brand manager respectively – struggled to find someone to sabrage a bottle for an event, they taught themselves how to take sword to bottle.
With a few years of swordplay under their belts, Aaby and Kuiters are now expert-level sabrage artists and have turned their hobby into Bubble Sisters, full-service champagne sabrage and event start-up.
“Sabrage is perfect way to kick off a party with opulence, drama and finesse,” says Aaby. “We both love to entertain, and started performing sabrage at our own parties, and then our friends’ started to request it at their weddings and it just grew from there.”
They offer sabrage and champagne towers, and teach sabrage private lessons, with an impressive client roster including The Star, LVMH Australia, and some of Sydney’s most luxe venues.
“If you follow the proper procedure, anyone can do sabrage – people love learning new skills and feel empowered using a ceremonial sword,” Aaby says. “It’s such a great way to gather everyone around and add a little theatre to your event. People absolutely love it and then want to try it out for themselves.”
To start with, ensure that you are using French champagne, as it undergoes a secondary fermentation which increases the internal pressure. This requires a thicker glass bottle with a seam – where the seam meets the bottleneck is your sweet spot, requiring a firm hit from the blunt sword to dislodge cleanly.
“There are risks associated with sabrage, but it’s all about pressure and working with the weakest part of the bottle, it is not about using force or hitting the bottle,” Aaby says.
“The bottle, including the neck, must be well chilled to reduce the likelihood the bottle will shatter.”
A common problem witnessed by the Bubble Sisters is too many sabragers and not enough champagne – who can resist their own Napoleon moment of victory?
“Once one person has had the chance to sabre a bottle, everyone will want a turn. Make sure you have plenty of champagne or tell your friends to bring a bottle with them.”
While the art of sabrage dates back to the late 1700s, it’s been a little practiced art in Sydney and getting your hands on a proper sabre can be challenging.
“People have started to ask us where they can get their own sabrage, but within Australia, there are limited option and companies are often out of stock,” says Aaby says, who recently turned to importing her own swords. I was so happy when I found the perfect sabrage sword to share with our champagne community.”
The Bubble Sisters range includes the Sciabola del Sommelier (The Sommeliers Sword) by Due Cigni and Fox Knives, hand-crafted in Maniago, Italy.
The 1896 Sommelier Sabre ($260) features a traditional cavalry-style hilt with satin nickle finish, and curved wooden display stand. For beginners, The ‘Bollicine’ is a smaller version, with a blade length of 29cm – almost petite compared to the standard 40cm.
(All images: Keven Osborne / Fox Fotos)
Published 31 January, 2020