Sandi Toksvig wields sword to open champagne bottle in exclusive QI clip

It's happy hour over at the QI studio.

Sandi Toksvig (BBC)

Sandi Toksvig proves that she’s sharp in more ways than one in a exclusive QI clip, which sees the presenter successfully open a bottle of champagne with a sword on first attempt.


Dressed in chef’s whites for a culinary-themed episode about restaurants, Toksvig is guided by an expert as she attempts to pop a bottle open with a champagne sword (a “sabre à champagne”) during tonight’s episode.

The technique, which is called “sabrage”, is a French ceremonial tradition that dates back to the time of Napoleon. For “sabering” to work, the individual has to run the sword along the neck of the bottle – the cork isn’t cut away, but forced from the bottle.

Panellists Alan Davies, Phill Jupitus, Sara Pascoe and Mark Watson watch on, as Toksvig is advised to keep her “thumb up the punt,” to laughter from the audience.

“Ooh it’s quite heavy,” Toksvig declares, holding the champagne bottle in one hand and the sword in the other – before requesting help with holding the bottle up.

After opening the bottle on first try, the triumphant Toksvig is ceremonially “knighted” in French for mastering the technique.

“That is really actually exciting,” Toksvig says, appearing to be on the verge of tears as she is presented with the champagne cork in a velvet pouch. The expert agrees with her: “It is the most fun you’ll have with all your clothes on, it really is.”

The practise of “sabering” is mentioned in accounts from after the French Revolution, when the Hussars (members of Napoleon’s cavalry) used their sabers to open champagne bottles.

Another story is that the cavalrymen used to visit a champagne house owned by a 27-year-old widow, named Madame Clicquot, and that the men would open bottles of champagne while riding on horseback in order to impress the young woman.

You can watch the clip below. QI, hosted by Sandi Toksvig, is on tonight on BBC Two at 9pm. The episode is “Restaurants”.


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