How To Properly Saber a Champagne Bottle
Follow these simple steps to become a New Year’s Eve party ninja.
Normally, this would be what every good New Year’s Eve party needs: wildly swinging long knives and broken champagne bottles. But celebrating the coming of 2021 will be different, to say the least. We’re living in a world still gripped by a pandemic and anyone who doesn’t want to catch COVID-19 will likely be watching the ball drop in Times Square from home.
It’s not as scary as it sounds—and by now we know we can still party with others remotely, over Zoom, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts. In fact, that may be the ideal (as in safest) venue to show off with this flashy party trick: Opening your champagne bottles with a damn saber.
As you can see in a short video above, this is the kind of move—the fancy term for it is “sabrage”—that looks cool in real time and twice as awesome in slow-motion. It’s also deceptively simple-sounding when you read or hear instructions on how to do it. First, the step-by-step moves toward becoming the reigning, sword-slinging party king of the block.
- Choose a bottle and a blade: Wired says in one instructional that “French and Spanish champagne bottles break more cleanly than American ones,” so that’s the way to go. The instrument is another matter. If you have a fancy saber, go for it. However pretty much any kitchen knife can handle the job. One guy (see the video below) even learned how to saber with the base of a champagne glass. We’ll put a disclaimer here and say you probably shouldn’t try any of this at home without a lot of practice and professional guidance, and you really shouldn’t try the trick seen above.
- Chill the bottle—it can’t be warmer than 40°F: This is simple physics: cold glass is more brittle and will be that much easier to cut. Most advice indicates the ice bucket won’t do it; you need to refrigerate your bubbly. Then, prior to sabering, remove any foil or metallic caps or cages.
- Tilt the champagne bottle, no more than 45 degrees: Two things here—you don’t want to spill it everywhere (you’ll lose a little as it is) and the cut will be cleaner when done from an angle. Safety first.
- Find the seam on the bottle’s side, focus on where it touches the lip at the top: This is where you cut, it provides the ideal point of contact.
- Lay your cutting instrument flat against the bottle: The dull edge should be facing the top, or lip. Razor-sharp steel isn’t a factor here.
- Draw the saber (or another blade) slowly toward you: With a fast, firm stroke, run it back up to the lip, striking that seam-lip junction point at an angle. As you can see in most videos, you have to be sure to follow through as well.
In the video above, Alton Brown gives extra background on the tradition behind sabrage as well as some finer tips, such as a clear explanation as to why the blade has to be at an angle to cut through the cold glass.
Practice makes perfect. Buy some extra cheap hooch prior to the big New Year’s bash and use that for rehearsal, and then have fun.
Just make sure you’re more sober than not when the big moment comes.