The first step to enjoying any bottle of wine is getting it open! And while today many wine producers are opting for twist off bottle caps, or even packaging wine in pre-filled cups or boxes, we don’t see corks going out of style anytime soon. That’s why we wanted to dedicate a post to the various styles and methods there are to opening a bottle of wine – even if you don’t have a corkscrew handy.
There are actually many different types of corkscrews. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or behind a bar, you are probably familiar with the “waiter’s friend” style corkscrew: these usually are double hinged, with a foldable knife, and are particularly portable to fit in a waiter’s apron. In fine dining, it is imperative that a waiter be able to open a bottle of wine with as little apparent effort as possible, and without making any sound. The waiter’s friend’s double hinge allows for a cork to be removed in three swift steps. First, cut the foil packaging in one single cut. Screw in the metal screw, and in just two short tugs the cork is removed effortlessly. While it may take some practice (remember, you’re not supposed to rest the bottle on the table or your knee!), this is by far a favorite of most wine enthusiasts.
Another option is to remove the cork using a “butterfly” corkscrew. These are larger, and bulkier, but can be used with relatively little skill or finesse. Unfortunately, they are usually made somewhat on the cheap, and tend to destroy even the highest quality corks, so be careful. With the butterfly corkscrew, just screw the worm down into the cork and then pull down the wings to wedge it out. We’ve been told that before bringing the wings down, this cork screw can resemble a little man who is happy a bottle of wine is about to be opened!
Other kinds of corkscrews include the “bunny ear” variety which is great for beginners, as well as the old-school twist and pull corkscrew. This is probably the trickiest, as it relies solely on the bottle-opener’s strength to remove the cork. They are frequently sold in cutlery sets or picnic baskets, but we’ve never figured out why the waiter’s friend doesn’t replace it! There are also myriad more fancy kinds of bottle openers: electronic, table top, etc. Do a little research and find out what works best for you. And spend some time practicing with the waiter’s friend! It’s great to keep in your purse – you never know when an impromptu picnic could begin!
And of course, what to do if you don’t have a corkscrew?! Well, there are some tricks for that, too! If you have access to a tool kit, one tried and true method is the hammer+screw+screwdriver combination. Use a screwdriver to screw a longer, serrated screw into the cork, and then use the back tongs of a hammer to pull it out! Another handy trick to use when in the kitchen is the wooden spoon method. Just take a long, thin wooden spoon handle and push the cork carefully into the bottle. Be sure to watch out for splashing! There are lots of creative ways to get at your wine when the corkscrew isn’t handy. We know from experience that people get quite creative, and everyday items like car keys, books, lighters, or knives can become invaluable tools in a pinch.
Of course, if you’re drinking champagne or prosecco and want to get really fancy, you can practice the samurai method and slice the cork out! Be sure to practice this one a lot before trying to wow any guests. This trick, known as sabrage or sabering, is usually done with a sword, sabre or machete. The wielder slices the saber along the body of the bottle to literally slice the neck (and the cork) away from the bottle, leaving the neck open and ready for pouring. Again, be sure to practice, and watch out for glass splinters if not done correctly.
By now you should have a pretty good idea of how to open that bottle of wine that has been waiting for you, with or without the correct equipment!