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We go to great lengths to replicate the hotel experience at home. Linen aficionados can buy their favorite luxury bed sheets directly from five-star hotels. Design enthusiasts can model their living rooms to recreate that chic hotel lobby style. And aspiring mixologists can try their hand at their favorite hotel libations—be it the famed DUKES London martinis or a tropical frozen beverage from a far-flung resort—at home. In that spirit, we tapped the team at St. Regis Hotels to teach us on how to safely saber Champagne at home.
St. Regis, as a brand, is known for their ceremonious Champagne sabering displays. Not only does every St. Regis property saber Champagne at sunset for their guests to kick off the evening, but at many of their hotels—like the St. Regis Bora Bora, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property—butlers can saber Champagne at any time per guests’ request. At this particular hotel, every butler is trained in the art of Champagne sabering. Head Butler Ritchie Chung weighed in to teach us on how to properly saber Champagne.
How to Prepare the Champagne Bottle
Chung says to “prepare the bottle by chilling it between 45°F to 48°F (or 7°C to 8°C) for 24 hours to lower its pressure and vibration.”
He says the most common mistake he sees from rookie saberers is not chilling the bottle thoroughly. “The cold temperature will make the glass more brittle and easier to saber,” assures Chung.
Once your bottle has chilled for 24 hours, bring it out of the fridge 20 minutes prior to the main sabering event. Then, chill the bottle upside down in an ice bucket for 20 minutes immediately before opening—that’s Chung’s secret to success.
The Tradition of Sabering
“This ritual at St. Regis takes its origin from back to the battles of Napoleon Bonaparte, who famously opened Champagne with his saber in both victory and defeat,” says Chung.
The art of sabrage took hold as the signature ceremony of the St. Regis Evening Ritual because Caroline Astor, who was the matriarch of the hotel’s founding family and doyenne of New York society. “She often enjoyed Champagne with family and friends at the hotel to mark the transition of day to night,” explains Chung.
Opening a bottle of bubbly with a Champagne saber is associated with grandiose celebrations especially in the hospitality community—when christening a new cruise ship, for example, or marking a milestone at an upscale hotel. But, as Chung has learned as head butler, sabering Champagne shouldn’t only be reserved for long-awaited events. It can simply be a beautiful way to start an evening among friends and family.
The Tools You’ll Need to Saber Champagne
Chung uses an ornamental Champagne saber—as they do at all St. Regis Hotels—from Christofle Haute Orfevrerie. However, he says, “A solid butcher's knife or butter knife will do just fine.”
He even says that, for the experts, the bottle can be sabered with a Champagne flute—but we wouldn’t suggest trying that at home for beginners. In addition to a butcher’s knife, you’ll need to keep a towel nearby, and of course, you’ll need a Champagne ice bucket to keep the bottle cold, and flutes to pour the Champagne into.
If you’re new to the art of sabering Champagne, here are the beginner tools you’ll need to get started:
Champagne Saber, Williams Sonoma, $109.99
Performance Champagne Glass, RIEDEL, $59 for two
Pryce Champagne/Ice Bucket, Crate and Barrel, $39.50
Drying Towel, Williams Sonoma, $19.95 for two
How to Saber Champagne
The moment you’ve been waiting for. Or, more accurately, the moment where you need to be absolutely sure that your bottle is pointed away from onlookers and anything breakable.
Follow Chung’s method by taking out the Champagne (which has been chilling upside down in the ice bucket) and reveal the cork by removing the foil in its entirety. Then, unwind and discard the wire basket.
Make sure you have a tight grip on the base of your bottle, and hold it at a 35° to 40° angle.
Next, slide the blade of the saber along the body toward the neck. The force of the blade as it hits the lip of the bottle’s neck will break the glass.
If done correctly, the cork and collar will remain intact, and you can pour the now-open Champagne into your flutes for a toast.