There are saber fails and then there are French Laundry saber fails. On New Year’s Eve, Michael Minillo, longtime GM of the legendary Napa resto gathered staff and VIP’s in the kitchen to look on as he opened a Nebuchadnezzar (15L bottle) of Billecart—Salmon using a simple sword. Unfortunately, the spectacle went awry leaving the crowd covered in bubbly and broken glass.
Fortunately, no one was hurt and everyone had a laugh. (The $2000 retail price tag on the bottle of “BillyFish” would inspire many of us to cry before laughing, but we’re talking about French Laundry here; so, that 2k is like the check at a two-top.)
Even more fortunately, someone known only as “Tom” captured the affair on camera and Reddit user splashtokutcher posted it all online.
In the viral video, we hear see that Minillo’s first pass with a saber is actually on point; he successfully knocks the lip off the bottle. However, given the large size and thickness of the bottle, the cork remains lodged in place. Minillo tries a couple more unsuccessful swipes down the neck before he gives up and starts hacking away directly at the cork.
Hacking directly at the cork is a no-no. If you want to know why, check out the explosion at the end of the video.
The video went viral (as viral as niche champagne vids go) and users had lots of sideline advice. For those formulating their own opinion, two points to consider (1) Minillo is a legend in the industry who has been at French Laundry since the very early years; this ain’t his first rodeo and (2) Sabering a super large format bottle is basically an exercise in futility; the physics are quite different than that time you impressed your family by sabering a bottle of Gruet on Labor Day.