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The Brown Palace’s Champagne Cascade may look like a cavalier display of elegance, but slicing the tops off bottles of Moët & Chandon bubbly with replicas of Napoleonic sabers is a serious—and dangerous—endeavor. Just ask Mat Dinsmore, who’s been involved in the delicate task at the hotel (which celebrated its 125th anniversary in August) for the past 15 years: “If you miss, the bottle is so pressurized that it blows up, and those glass shards cut right through your shirt and neck and chest.”
The fourth-generation Loveland native gleaned such wisdom from his father, Dennis, a former Moët employee who built the Brown Palace’s multi-story pyramid of Baccarat crystal when the event first began 30 years ago. (This year’s sabering happens on November 20.) Back then, Moët’s resident swordsman, Robert Gourdin, traveled across the country sabering for Champagne cascades. But he relied on local reps—Dennis, in the case of the Brown Palace—to construct the fragile layers of glass, which can take five to eight hours to stack. In the early 2000s, Dennis took over sword duties at the Brown Palace as a favor to the hotel. Since then, he’s also done the slicing during a Guinness World Records attempt at Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace and at Super Bowl XLV. Yet Dennis’ favorite cascade remains the one he executes with his son, a custom that helps him see the glasses of sparkling wine as (at least) half full.
Champagne Fun Facts
- Champagne cascades originated in the mid-1700s, when Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV’s main mistress, constructed pyramids of glasses to hold her plentiful bubbly—a sign of the French aristocracy’s extravagance.
- The first cascade at the Brown Palace, in 1987, involved 10,000 glasses, but so many have broken that the 2016 iteration contained only about 6,000.
- Buses and trucks going by the hotel shake the tower enough that employees have to nudge the outer glasses on each level toward the center of the structure every 15 minutes to restabilize it.
- The champagne is chilled in the fridge overnight and then stored in an ice bucket until half an hour before the event to make the glass easier to cut through.
- Only two bottles of champagne are poured down the pyramid, barely filling up the first two layers. It would take about 70 cases of champagne to fill up all the glasses.