Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Celebrate (or mourn) the Election with Champagne! and a Knife!

I know a little bar trick. That’s really all it is, except rather than playing with quarters and cigarettes, it involves a big knife and expensive champagne. “Sabre a champagne!” A corked bottle of champagne is sliced neatly across the neck. Technically, it’s not the best way to open a bottle if you want to preserve the quality of the champagne. (It should be opened as quietly, with as little ‘pop’ as possible.) But it is really cool.

By calling it a bar trick, I don’t want to imply that I take it too lightly and run around wielding knives and chopping bottles without regard for safety. I’ve actually done hours of research and practice. Maybe I will write a post of all the details of how to do this and the alleged traditions of ‘the art’. But this post is about a particular story from my work and how maybe I don’t know as much about the practice as I thought I did.

I first became intrigued by this after watching Stephen, on Top Chef Season 1, do this on the show a few times. I learned how and practiced on cheap champagne and sparkling juice. The first time I did it in public was with a bottle of Cristal on A’s birthday. This was an EXPENSIVE bottle of champagne and I was pretty nervous, but at this time, I was not really happy working for him, and thought, “what the hell, if the bottle explodes, that’s the kind of thing I want to get fired (sued) for”. The glass popped clean, the crowd ooohed and aaahed and I have been doing this ever since. I’ve done it for the mayor; I’ve done it at a wedding; I’ve done three bottles right in a row at a PAWS fundraiser. Some bottles sliced more clean and straight than others, but overall, there were no major disasters, like I’ve seen on the YouTube. Until last weekend.

A’s friend (and competing strip club owner) was at the new bar with a date. A’s attorney joined them by the fireplace. Our other owner, J, had just gotten off the phone with A and had told him his friends were here. A wanted to buy them a bottle of Dom Perignon and wanted me to saber it for them. I put the bottle in ice, went to the kitchen and couldn’t really find a knife as heavy as I like to use. One of the guests needed to go to the restroom. Then another. So I am just standing there waiting for everyone to return (that’s what J told me to do.) So finally, all eyes on me, I take the knife to the bottle, slide it up the seam to the neck, and instead of a sexy little “pop”, there was an awful crack as the top two thirds of the bottle went flying across the room as a jagged, deadly projectile. Champagne was everywhere, all over me, the carpet, the guests. I am left holding the bottom third of a bottle of Dom in one hand and a shaking knife in the other. I asked if everyone was OK and walked away holding back tears, humiliated, as J got another bottle and opened it in the more traditional, less deadly, manner. A arrived, looked at the bisected bottle lying on the bar and moved the party downstairs.

I awaited my fate by emptying the remaining champagne into a pint glass and downing it. (I KNOW that the force of the champagne blows any glass shards outward so I wasn’t really worried, but in my mind, I was thinking maybe drinking glass would be preferable to A’s wrath. Maybe they would have to rush me to the hospital sputtering blood and then, when I got fired, the pain would be deadened by pain killers.) Eventually, the party, now increased by many members, returned and A acted as if nothing was wrong. I waited on them without crying or spilling anything or breaking anything else. At the end of the evening A called me a goddess and left me a very generous tip, as did his friends whom I had almost decapitated earlier in the evening.

So I feel confused. I have seen A fire people for standing with their hands crossed or for using the restroom mid-shift. I’m not sure why he reacted without ire. I am confused about why the bottle did react with ire. Maybe it had gotten too warm, maybe my knife wasn’t heavy enough, maybe I just made a mistake. I need to do some experimenting with different knife angles, different brands and bottle temperatures. I need to gather a group of people who want to consume a large amount of champagne and aren’t afraid of a little potential flying glass. Any volunteers?


Jennifer said...

The sabering is so cool! Maybe that should be our NYE plan? It could be part of the 1st annual NYE-little E's b-day extravaganza Talent Show!
I'm glad, I guess, that you didn't get fired. I mean, I wouldn't WANT you to get fired, but I do think you deserve a better boss and work atmosphere. (And MORE money!)

Jimi said...

I can't believe no one has taken you up on that offer of champagne! In your boss's shoes, if I saw you were holding back tears I'd sure know you were completely surprised and shocked. Good show for finishing it off!

Katie said...

I am totally up for hanging out while you practice and drinking oodles of campaign. You just name the date and time!