For beverage so elegant, it is ironic optimum way to open champagne is pedestrian.
Drape towel over cork, grip towel and bottle neck together, work cork so it eases into towel. No danger of cork flying, no fizz spews out of bottle—at the price of good stuff, why squander a single bubble?
Or you can eschew safety and conservation for New Year’s high drama.
Shake bottle. Push on cork until cork launches across the room; fizz follows. Use your thumb to direct wine spray at revelers if you’re casual about cleanup.
If you want really over-the-top with less mess, “saber” the bottle.
Napoleon’s troops credited for technique. Key is cold bottle—so glass is brittle—and a heavy knife (or saber, if you’ve got one lying around). Swiftly slide blunt edge of knife/saber up bottle neck, following the seam (crease) of the bottle, and strike ridge just below the cork. You do not use the blade to cut through the glass. You use physics to crack cold, brittle glass at its weakest point: the nexus of bottle seam and ridge at top of neck.
When executed correctly, cork and top of bottle fly through the air and you grandstand by triumphantly pouring into offered flutes. Be careful—bottle neck is razor sharp.
Watching is best way to learn. There is a video demonstration at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ye28n_aJspA&feature=related. Or Google “saber champagne”—there are a surprising number of You Tube videos about “le saberage.”
Vive Bonaparte! Vive l’Armée! Vive l’over-the-top.
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