by Katrina Schollenberger

The Young Ladies About Town always endeavour to try new experiences and learn new things, and this week was no different. I headed to Smith & Wollensky's restaurant to learn the art of Sabrage hosted by operations director and Commandeur of the Confrerie du Sabre d'or Nathan Evans.

What is Sabrage, you may ask? Well, two hundred years ago, dashing young cavalry officers in the French army would slice the cork off the Champagne bottle with a sabre, rather than put themselves through the effort of removing the wire basket and easing the cork out. Thus, the art of Sabrage was born.

Arriving at Smith & Wollensky's (an American chophouse chain imported into the UK and famed for its prime steak) we were made to sign a disclaimer. Having never handled a sword in my life, this worried me slightly, but having seen the array of people about to undertake the same task, this put my mind at ease that it wasn't too dangerous.

Tables of cold Perrier-Jouet champagne and sabers filled the room, as Nathan commanded us round to fill us in lightly on the history of Sabrage and the society that was founded upon it in 1986. Dressed in a green gilded cape and hat, Nathan elegantly demonstrated Sabrage, making it look a lot easier than I had anticipated. We were informed that every bottle opened that evening was to be drunk, and as I scanned the room of 35 people or so, we all laughed.

We took turns being called upon, feasting on a buffet of cold seafood and delicious canapes that were brought around by staff (whilst sipping on champagne, of course). I watched people closely turn after turn, marveling at the science behind glass separating with ease. The cardinal rule of the evening was not to let the blade leave the glass: it must be done in one swift motion.

Finally, my turn arrived. I stepped up nervously as a nice Irish member of the Confrerie du Sabre d'or placed a saber in one hand and a champagne bottle in the other, both much heavier than I expected. I bombarded him with questions about technique as he calmed my nerves. "Have you ever played tennis?" he asked me, as I nodded. "It's just like a backhand!"

Attempt one, fail. Attempt two, no separation. Attempt three, I was told to lightly graze the saber back and forth on the glass before pulling it forward: success! My cork and bottle neck went flying in what was called a 'perfect' cut. Third times a charm! I was knighted as a member of the Confrerie as a French initiation passage was spoken, and I then got to take my spoils away (my cork in a plush red bag, as well as a certificate).


The rest of the evening consisted of champagne, champagne, and more champagne. We even got to sneak away to preview Smith and Wollensky's incredible wine selection, and learn the endeavours of sourcing it and importing into the UK. I met and mingled with a bunch of wonderful people, all brought together by the art of chopping champagne bottles. A greatly successful weekday evening, I'd say!

 The next sabrage event will be held at Smith & Wollensky's on Tuesday 13th June