Do It With Cava

From the archives: JUAN ZOBER DE FRANCISCO reminds you how to correctly douse your friends as they finish their final exam.

In Oxford they throw confetti, in Cambridge we do it with cava.

It is encouraging to see people already gathering around exam sites, waiting to douse their friends in cava. Allow me to share some thoughts on the proper execution of this wonderfully Cantabrigian tradition.

Preparation matters. There should be no guesswork as to where your target will exit. You should arrive at the correct location armed with at least two bottles of sparkling wine per target.

The bottles must be chilled. The first must be from the cheapest range of cava as it will be emptied in the initial salvo—and it is a crime to waste good champagne. It is the second bottle which reflects how much you care for the person.

Timing is essential. Arrive at least fifteen minutes before the exam is due to finish and make sure you’re at the front of the firing squad. Amateurs wait for others to go first. If in a group, fan out sufficiently to ensure the target is properly soaked.

Ten minutes before you expect the dousing to take place, remove the wrapper from your bottle and gently release the cage. Consider the bottle ‘live’ once the base of the cage is opened—there is no excuse for uncontrolled premature popping.

Pop the cork before shaking. This is a contentious point, but in the proper execution of a Cambridge dousing, the true veteran follows this method. Why? Because only amateurs and Americans mimic racing car drivers with their loud, uncoordinated pops and the subsequently messy and inefficient spraying.

No, that is not the Cambridge way. Pop the bottle with dignity and control just a few minutes before the exam is over, keeping your thumb firmly over the now-open bottle. You’ll find that when the cava is needed for spraying, it will still be receptive to your persuasions.

(For those who don’t know how to quietly open a bottle of cava or champagne I suggest you learn quickly; the correct method is to hold the bottle at a 45o angle to the ground, grip the cork firmly in your weaker hand while using your stronger to gently twist and ever-so-slightly pull the bottle in a smooth downwards motion.)

Now comes the moment that matters most: picking your target from the outflow of students. Note that it may be tempting, upon sight of a friend you care for less than your target, to simply douse him or her instead. This temptation can increase if you notice that that person is not being met by anyone. Stay your ground and remember who you came for!

The rest is straightforward. Keeping your eyes on your target, hold your thumb over the opening as you shake the bottle furiously. Soon enough, the force of the cava will be too great to keep the thumb in place. When this happens, move your thumb just enough to create a small opening and you’ll find a fierce but targeted spray of celebration emerge.

Aim for the eyes.

Inspired by Matthew Merrick and Barnaby Bryan

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