A New Year’s Eve party is usually a gathering of people wearing sequins and looking at each other, hoping the current company will somehow manifest into an unattainably good time. Noisemakers and streamers and sparkly hats that dandruff gold onto our festive garments falsely promise the sort of capital-F fun that inspires exclamation points and epic, high-engagement Instagram posts.
But what we are often left with is paltry lower case-f fun and a blindingly hungover January 1st. The excitement of a new year is undeniable—out with 12 months of frustration and romantic bankruptcy, in with a bright shiny new blank slate!—but can barely shoulder the weight of the expectations we put on our NYE celebrations. Reality doesn’t stand a chance.
As far as good times go, a house or apartment party (which the New York Times thinks we don’t throw anymore) might be your safest bet on New Year’s, the chillest option. Bars are crowded and overpriced; ticketed events are often a hassle and then you’re stuck with three friends in a corner snarking about said hassle; clubs are an abomination. But house parties! Here you can party hard or not, dance or not, climb on tables or hide in corners. And here, as a host, you have the opportunity to gift your guests with all the flair you can muster. Perhaps the best way to do that is through the art of sabrage.
Sabrage—or sabering, as we’ll call it—entails using something sharp (e.g. a saber) to propel the top of a bottle of Champagne away from its body. Not just the cork—the glass that surrounds it, too. Said top flies through the air, a froth of bubbles surges from the bottle’s neck, a thwacking POP silences the crowd, then incites it to erupt into claps and hoorays. It’s dramatic and fun and surprisingly easy, a surefire way to make your year-end celebration a little more theatrical. Here’s how to do it.
Procure a bottle of champagne!
It has to be Champagne. Actually, it has to be sparkling wine prepared in the methode champenoise, where the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle to make those sparkly bubbles. But just buy Champagne. It’s New Year’s Eve. You’re worth it.
Make. Sure. The. Bottle. Is. Cold.
Otherwise things might get ugly. You ever have a bottle of bubbly explode before you even popped the top off? It was probably too warm. Or you shook it, but that’s just silly. Then, remove any foil over the cork and loosen the cage—that wiry bit that holds the cork in place—by untwisting it, scooching it up so the bottom wire is now under the topmost lip of the bottle, then re-twisting it. This is a safety precaution!
Find a blade.
The best thing to use here is a good chef’s knife—the big, all-purpose kind—and use the back of it, not the sharp bit you use to slice your onions. Next, find the seam of the bottle. It will be subtle but noticeable, a line running from top to bottom like the seam on the back of pantyhose. Think of this as the “track” where you will run the back of your blade—it’s the bottle’s weakest point.
Make a loud announcement and make sure nobody is standing in your line of fire.
Yell and tell everyone to pay attention to you (it’s fun!). Hold the bottle in your non-dominant hand, so your hand is below it and the seam is facing up. Make sure you’re gripping the body, not the neck. Face the cork away from you. We want everyone to still have two eyes and all their teeth come January first.
Hold the bottle at 45 degrees.
Make a few practice swipes by placing the back of the blade on the bottom of the seam and running it up and down the bottle, gaining momentum and confidence but not hitting the cork yet. Then swiftly and confidently move the blade all the way up, like you’re trying to pass through the cork. It doesn’t require much force—it’s more a question of physics than anything. If you get it right, the top will pop right off, and you’ll get a stream of bubbles and an adoring crowd.
(If you’re feeling nervous about the whole situation, here’s a video from Food52—they get to the good stuff around 2:00.)
Sure, you can totally open a bottle of Champagne the regular way! But on a night with such high expectations, a little theatricality will get you a long way, and is well deserved. Do it enough times (like, three), and it will become your own personal party trick. Make it a New Year’s tradition. There’s no better way to ring in the New Year than smack dab in the center of attention, with a sharp and bubbly bottle of booze in hand.
Marian Bull is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter.