We spoke with Sarah Thomas, a sommelier to learn how to saber safely and effectively.
“Is sabering necessary?” Sarah Thomas—former Sommelier at Le Bernardin and co-founder of Kalamata’s Kitchen, laughs. “Probably not. But I can’t think of a more fun, celebratory way to open a bottle of champagne, a better gift, or just a more special experience to share with family and friends.”
Thomas used to run a series of dinners in a wine cellar with Chef Jamilka Borges. The whole thing was a bonding experience—guests who didn’t know one another when they sat down were best friends by the end of the meal. And to top things off at the end of the meal, one lucky guest would get to saber a bottle of champagne.
“People just loved it,” Thomas said, “we’d have people sign up and specifically ask to be the guest who got to saber.”
Because Thomas is an expert, we spoke with her to create a step by step guide so you can saber during special occasions safely and effectively with your new Made In Saber.
The wine you choose has to be sparkling, but Thomas notes, “There are all different kinds of sparkling wines.” It’s important to make sure it’s either made in the traditional method, like Champagne, Cremant, or Cava. “When the bottle is made in the traditional method, the bottle has thicker glass that is less likely to shatter in your hand, and will produce a clean break.” Importantly, Thomas adds that “I don’t recommend sabering with prosecco, ever. The glass is thinner, and there is less pressure in the bottle than traditional method sparkling wines, which makes them more likely to shatter.”
It’s important to only saber with cold bottles, and not just ones straight from your fridge. Thomas recommends fully submerging the bottle in an ice bath and taking extra care to make sure the neck and cork are submerged as well. “Really cold glass will break more cleanly than a warm bottle,” she says, “and it’s not going to freeze, so you should get it really as cold as you can.” Once removed, don’t delay sabering for too long.
Once you take the bottle out of the ice bath, “it’s important to wipe it down really well,” Thomas says, “otherwise, it might slip out of your hand.” Remember, it’s still a bottle of champagne, so do this gently, as any shaking will create more carbonation.
After removing the wrapping from about the shoulder of the bottle to the neck, locate the seam in the glass and where it meets the neck of the bottle. “This is the weakest point of the bottle,” Thomas says, “and where your saber is going to run.” She says that “Your goal is to hit where the lip meets the seam, near the top of the bottle” Remember: you’re not cutting through the glass, but instead adding a little exterior pressure to the lip of the bottle and letting the carbonation inside do the rest.
“You want to hold the bottle at a 30 to 45-degree angle, in your non-dominant hand,” Thomas says. Adding that you should “point the corked side away from any people, breakable objects, or walls nearby.” You don’t want the cork to ricochet.
At this point, the wire cage should still be on the bottle. “Once you take the cage off, it’s live ammo,” Thomas says. But now is the time to remove it. “Do so slowly, keeping the bottle still facing away from you, and pray the cork doesn’t pop off,” she says.
Take your saber in your dominant hand and lay it flat against the bottle. Hold the knife flat and using the blunt edge, slowly run the saber along the seam of the bottle from the shoulder to the lip. “You can take a few practice strokes, running it back and forth to make yourself feel better.”
In one semi-forceful tap, follow the seam up to where it meets the neck of the bottle. Follow through with your hand and voila. The cork and a little bit of glass will fly off, but if the break is clean, the champagne will be ready to serve.