How to Saber a Champagne Bottle

Man in a navy blue suit sabering a champagne bottle
Mark Oldman sabering a champagne bottleMark Oldman

In the pantheon of party tricks, sabering a bottle of champagne is arguably the biggest showstopper. And while it’s mainly used for big celebrations and ceremonial events, there’s no reason why you can’t use it to kick off a weeknight dinner—but you’ll need to know how to saber a champagne bottle safely first.

 

 

Sabering is something Mark Oldman, wine expert and founder of Bevinars, knows well, so we asked him for his tips for successful sabrage. Read on for his advice, and remember: This is a trick best done while sober.

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How to Saber a Champagne Bottle

1. Procure Your Accoutrements: You’ll need a bottle of champagne (American sparkling wine, cava or prosecco can work, but seem to do so less consistently). You’ll also need a large, heavy knife—or a sword.

“It need not be a saber or machete,” Oldman tells Men’s Journal. “A chef’s knife works just as well, even if it bestows less drama.”

2. Chill the Bottle: It’s important that your bottle be very cold.

“This step is vital, because the coldness will make the bottle more brittle and easier to saber,” Oldman says.

Before sabering, give your bottle at least a 20-minute ice bath. You can also pop it in the freezer for a bit, but don’t forget it’s in there. You don’t want it to freeze solid and explode.

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3. Remove the Foil and Cage: Be sure to always point the cork away from your eyes and away from other people—you never know when it might spontaneously erupt.

4. Find Your Runway: Glass champagne bottles are constructed from two halves, and there are two seams that run up the length of each bottle where the two halves meet. Find the seams and pick one. That’ll be where you’ll run your knife.

5. Saber Away: When you’re ready, hold the bottle up at a 45 degree angle, making sure to point it away from onlookers and valuable property. Place the blade of your knife (you can also use the back of the knife to avoid damaging the blade) on the seam at the bottom of the bottle’s neck. Then use a forceful but smooth stroke to run the blade along the seam until you hit the lip of the bottle. If you’re successful, the top of the bottle’s neck, with cork inside, will fly off. Remember to focus on smooth movement—it’s not about strength or forcing the bottle open.

“As the romantically included say: It’s not the size of the wave, but the motion of the ocean,” Oldman says.

Note that sabrage doesn’t always work, even for pros like Oldman.

“Much depends on getting the bottle cold enough and the smoothness of your motion and hitting the bottle’s lip just right,” he says.

But with a lot of practice, it is possible to master the technique—just ask Mirko Rainer, who once sabered 47 bottles in one minute (the current Guinness World Record). Pros can even move on from knives to sabering with other hard objects, like a spoon or the edge of a high-heeled shoe.

For the rest of us, however, it’s best to stick to the basics.

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