How to saber a bottle of champagne

Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest-blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.

Here's notorious Toronto lubricator Kathryn Borel Jr. teaching us how to festively slice open a bottle of bubbly without swallowing a single shard of glass!

Borel's memoir Corked just came out. It's really funny and makes wine seem interesting and meaningful (even to an oenophobe like me). Check it out! (link)


  1. As learnt and practiced in the vineyards of Franschhoek, South Africa, *substantially* less force and speed is required if you run the knife / sabre along the *seam* of the bottle. The risk of embarassment is thus also stupendously reduced.

  2. fun, frivolous plebeian attempts at emulating upper class foolishness(not the same as trying nice foods) this is neat but dumb -what are the statistics for amount of broken glass ingested after stories like these are published?

  3. I wonder if it works on any bottle, or only champagne (or other bubbling/sparkling wine with pressure in the bottle).

  4. Igzabier, with all that decompressing bubbly shootig out of the bottle, how is any broken glass getting IN, instead of being washed away?

  5. In France, this is considered a bit snobish way to open a bottle of Champain.

    Especially, when done inside the house, this is a great way to brake the grandmother’s cristal collection, stain the carpet and worse than anything waste champain.

    I love it !


  6. It’s sort of a cool party trick, but it looks like quite a bit of champagne is wasted. It’s possible it’s “just foam” but her hand is quite wet afterward — I’d be interested to know how much volume is lost.

  7. The other thing that is sort of silly about this: Champagne bottles don’t require a specialized opener; you can do it with your hands (and a towel, usually, just to be safe). It’s too bad that this doesn’t work with wine bottles, which require a corkscrew or other implement.

  8. #3 has it right – I’m also told that if you run the knife along the seam, the top of the bottle won’t snap clean off like has done in this video – you’ll normally just take a chip out of the rim and then the blunt edge of the knife will push the cork out.

  9. Just one of those frivolous totally unnecessary things that I still want to try at least once in my life. It’s just cool and nothing more, so relax.

  10. Well gee, of course it’s silly ya killjoys! What’s next, “what’s up with cartwheels, can’t people just walk a few steps?”

  11. So you send glass shards flying and waste some booze. Then you serve the champagne out of a broken bottle. No thanks.

  12. #10 Guillaume – You’re not implying you’re from France, right? I have a hard time believing a Frenchman would misspell Champagne as “Champain.”

    I asked my (French) wife about this, and while she agrees with you that you wouldn’t do it at home, it’s considered a very classy thing to do in a restaurant. So, maybe that = snobbish for you, but I don’t want people to think that the French are opposed to sabering.

  13. Also @20 Lucifer per the other comments here, if you do it the “right” way it just chips the top and takes the cork off (no shards necessary).

  14. I learned to do this at my son’s wedding in France this summer (I’m American). I was also told to run the knife up the seam side so maybe there is something to that theory. My daughter-in-law’s father, a Frenchman, insisted that I do it saying that it was my privilege as a guest of honor so I assume that he didn’t consider it too snobbish.

    BTW, we also scratched the surface of the glass right at the impact point with a small file. I was told that would facilitate a clean break. All in all it was pretty cool. I almost dropped a full magnum of grand cru because the sucker got pretty slippery from the leakage but I saved it at the last second and a good time was had by all.

  15. #23: sounds like it was a fun experience for you. I’m glad to hear that, when it fumbled, you didn’t grasp the freshly cut bottle-neck. I bet it’s sharp.

    #24: yeah!! a real saber: :) :)

  16. Or you could just grab the end of the cork and pull on it. I’d rather have my wine dry, red, and without bubbles, anyway.

  17. I was always told you want to keep as much CO2 *in* the bottle, keeping the champagne fizzier longer.

    The really good way to do that is to ease the cork out as slowly as possible while holding it with a towel. You should get a soft firm POP and that’s all.

    All I think when seeing someone sabre a bottle is “yeah, that’s gonna be flat in about 10 minutes”.

  18. @Anonymous: attempt only on a carbonated beverage, not regular wine. the ensuing eruption is what keeps glass shards from entering the bottle.

    tip: chill the bottle first, makes for a cleaner break

  19. I have been lucky enough to have seen Julia Child perform this trick with a meat cleaver at a party in Cambridge, but Miss Borel improves on that performance by bringing the sexy….

  20. and if i’m not mistaken that’s a bottle of the (Ontario made) Jackson Triggs Proprietor’s Reserve Methode Cuve Classique.


    No sense wasting a good wine.

  21. slide along the seam quickly with the blade angled at about 45 degrees. Don’t chop and DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BOTTLE. Squeezing adds pressure that can cause the side to cave in.

    allow it to rest in your hand lightly (and holding it in a towel is a good idea as well.

    Also French style bottles have thinner, finer necks than American.

    a cold bottle, sabered well will lose less than an oz.

  22. How about opening it the modern way? Shake it up and hold it between your legs as a metaphor for ejaculation.

  23. I was at a birthday party in France a few years ago and many bottles had been opened in simpler ways and emptied by the time the bottle-whackers got started. They used shovels, files, almost any kind of tool they could find. Nothing like the knife used here.

    I’m not sure if anyone drank from the whacked bottles. I didn’t!

    That was the first and last time I’d seen this trick until now — and the first time I’d seen a pig roasted on a spit!

  24. 1. boatloads of thanks for the seam tip, you people. i leaned the trick from a drunken woman one night a few years ago. this was after she told me her terrible breakup story — she’d been jilted by her boyfriend of 10 years, who was a funeral director. he’d run off with the embalmer. (she knew something was up because he’d come home smelling of embalming fluid. no joke. eventually she showed me the movement of how to saber, theoretically, using a beer bottle and a straw. she left out the seam tip.

    2. #30 — you’re absolutely right. and i felt wretched, wasting that stuff. really. it’s wine of such good value for its price.

    3. i wish i had a saber. god i wish i had a real done. so sorry to disappoint.

  25. ‘Bombastic’ as in pompous? Maybe ‘dramatic’, or even ‘elitist’ as a stretch, but…

    1. Seam tip – yes

    2. Once you remove the cage (the metal cap and wires), NEVER leave the top uncovered by either your hand or a cloth. Once the cage is gone, corks can pop on their own, unexpectedly, and cause some serious damage.

    3. Cheaper sparkling wine or Champagne usually means cheaper glass. Sabering becomes more iffy, had a few bottles (out of several hundred) crack. Have seen one explode. Always do this outside.

    4. The glass fractures along its crystal structure. Like making arrowheads, the edges are scalpel sharp. You won’t know you are cut until the seam in your skin starts to bleed. Be careful with the edges; put empties in the recycle bin ASAP.

    5. ALWAYS recover the cork/glass neck and dispose of properly. We do ours in the back yard and I do not want our dog, our friend’s kids, or the lawnmower finding one! We recruit a spotter whose job it is to follow the cork.

    6. Have a glass ready to catch any overflow. Waving the bottle around beforehand or not having it ice-cold will, like any carbonated beverage, make it more likely to foam.

    7. Ditto the comment about not chopping or even using a lot of force. You want a firm tap or knock on the glass rim at the end of the bottle’s neck. I have won bets ‘sabering’ a bottle with a 50-cent piece. Slide your saber of choice along the seam, and like any good sports swing, slide all the way through. Enjoy!

  26. They do it at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. If I’m not mistaken it’s their policy to leave the basket intact when sabering.

  27. I have never seen a woman with a name suffix (Jr., Sr. etc.) My brain is confused now. Fascinating. Awesome.

  28. Next, the trick with the feather, the ice bucket, and the hot tongs.

    What, no Brust fans? It should work, you know.

  29. All I think when seeing someone sabre a bottle is “yeah, that’s gonna be flat in about 10 minutes”.

    After I test out this out on a few el cheapo bottles this weekend. I doubt I would ever sabre a bottle unless the occasion called for it. These sorts of events are always going to have a few people and I imagine the bottle would rarely last 10 minutes anyway.

  30. I tried this a few years ago. The bottle exploded cut 7 chunks of skin off my hand and gave me a couple of lacerations. I still have the scars.

  31. I love that her name is ‘Borel’ – in Dutch culture, a ‘borrel’ is a friendly afternoon drink, as with friends, possibly after work. How appropriate. :)

  32. Super dangerous!! Always find the seam of the bottle and make sure you are cutting along that line. Be careful b/c the bottle can shatter in your hand. They do let you do this at private dinners at Pommery Champagne house in Reims :)

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