It has happened to so many of us: The guests have arrived, the food is ready, the party is just beginning, and the only corkscrew in the house ends up being either missing or broken. No need to run to the local drugstore to buy a new one, though. There are many ways to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. Learning a few of them is a great way to be the one who saves the party and saves the day.
Wine bottles and corks are perfectly designed to be kept for a long time and protect the contents from the outside elements. While this age-old method of sealing bottles serves its purpose well, opening a bottle without a corkscrew seems impossible. Luckily, physics and a little bit of creativity provide a solution.
How to Open a Wine Bottle Without a Corkscrew?
There are many ways to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew that only require simple household items and some physical effort. These 8 methods work best:
Why You Should Not Cut the Cork out of a Wine Bottle
When facing the task of getting a cork out without a corkscrew, your first thought might be to cut it out. The material is soft, and it seems like it an easy task. However, changes are high that cutting it up will result in pieces of cork floating in the wine. At that point, the only solution is to run the entire bottle through a filter into a new container.
Using a knife can also be incredibly dangerous. Especially if you have already consumed a glass or two, you might end up cutting your fingers instead of the cork. And the only thing that kills a party vibe faster than a missing corkscrew is a trip to the emergency room.
The Hammer and Screw Method
What You Need: Hammer, Screwdriver, Screw
This method is the one that replicates the action of a corkscrew the most. To begin, take a screw of medium length and drive it into the top of the cork. To not damage the cork too much, use a manual screwdriver, not an electric one. Make sure the screw is far enough down to bite into the cork. Don’t go too deep to avoid splitting it, though. Then, take a claw hammer and pry up the screw with the claw side. The cork should start to come up along with it now. It may take some adjusting to get the screw head at the correct height for the claw to catch it. A second screw can help keep the hammer in the right position.
This method is one of the easiest to do. Because of the hammer’s lever, it needs almost no physical exertion to get the cork out. That makes it a no-brainer for opening a large number of wines bottles without a corkscrew.
The problem with this method is that it requires quite a bit of equipment. If you’re trying to open a bottle of wine on a picnic, it’s unlikely that you have access to a hammer, a screw, and a screwdriver. So when you plan to drink wine outside of your house, better doublecheck to have a corkscrew with you.
Screws in a Cork
More Details on Corkscrews: 12 TYPES OF CORKSCREW FOR OPENING WINE BOTTLES
The Shoe Method
What You Need: Shoe with Hard Sole
The shoe method is a classic way to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. It’s one of the more outlandish methods that might qualify as a party trick too. For this method, take the bottle and place it bottom down in a shoe. Make sure that the shoe doesn’t have too much padding. A work boot or a harder type of dress shoe is best. Then, holding the bottle and the shoe, bang it against a wall, stair, or another solid surface. After a couple of whacks, the cork will come out.
This method works because liquids like wine act as solids in a perfectly sealed container. So ramming it against a surface will force the wine to push the cork out of the bottleneck. The downside of this approach is that it can be physically exhausting. If you have to open a lot of bottles, you are likely to wear out your forearms before you get more than a few bottles open.
This method also has a small element of danger. If the shoe you are using is too hard, there is a risk that the glass could shatter. So always make sure to protect your hand with a glove and keep some distance to bystanders. Also, stop banging the bottle against the surface before the cork comes all the way out. Ruining the host’s carpet with a geyser of wine will definitely put a damper on your cool party trick.
The Heating Method
What You Need: Lighter or Blow Torch
Science plays at least a small part in all of these methods. But none of them comes as close to a scientific experiment as the heating method. For this technique, take a blow torch or lighter and run the flame along the bottleneck underneath the cork. By heating the bottleneck, the air under the cork expands, and it will eventually work its way out.
This method is another one that has the air of a party trick to it. It’s somewhat magical when the cork starts to work its way out of the bottle. However, it takes quite a bit of time to get the air inside to the right temperature. So for a big number of bottles, it isn’t an efficient method.
There are some security tips that you should remember: It’s only safe for wine bottles that have room temperature. If you try to use it with chilled bottles, the rapid increase in temperature might expand the glass rather than the air inside. And this can cause the bottle to crack and break. So make sure to bring a chilled bottle to room temperature before opening it with the heating method.
Besides, make sure not to touch the heated bottleneck immediately after opening it. A burnt hand can’t hold a glass of wine.
The Wire Method
What You Need: Winger Hanger or another Long Piece of Wire
Everyone has a wire hanger or two in their closet. They’re one of those ever-present household items that people just don’t know what to do with. Luckily, if you find yourself trying to get happy hour started without a wine opener, they can finally serve a purpose. For the wire hanger method, take the hanger and unwind it until you have a straight rod. Then, bend a hook of about half an inch on one end and crook it up parallel with the rod. Shove the hook end down into the bottleneck in between the glass and the cork. Then, twist it, so the hook grabs the cork and pulls it up and out of the bottle.
This method requires quite a bit of finger strength. Getting the hook into the bottle is no easy task. Keeping a little bit of physics in mind will make this method easier: Try to keep the hanger close to the center of the bottle as possible when pulling. That reduces the amount of friction from the sides of the neck. As you need neither a lot of strength nor time for this method, you can open quite a few bottles like this if necessary.
Wire hangers are still around, but they’re not as common as they used to be. The good news is this method will work with any other metal wire too. Being able to get the hook on the bottom to bite into the cork is key. If you can manage that with something different from a wire hanger, you’ll be pouring wine into a glass in no time.
The Pushing Method
What You Need: Wooden Spoon or another Long Stable Item
The most obvious choice when facing an improvised opening of a wine bottle is to push instead of pull. If there is no tool around to pull the cork, pushing it into the bottle is the next best thing. Use a wooden spoon or any thin blunt object to push down on its top until it slides down the bottleneck.
This is one of the easiest and most common ways to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. If the object you are using is long enough, you can put quite a bit of energy behind it and get the cork out without exerting yourself too much. That’s why the handle of a wooden spoon is the best tool for the job. Also, it’s the most likely to be at hand should the situation come up.
Be aware that once the cork is inside the bottle, there is no way to get it back out. So you’ll have to live with the idea of having the cork floating in the wine. If the wine is very old, this might be a problem. The cork might start to disintegrate once it’s floating. Also, pieces of it can break off in the process of pushing it. Therefore, you should be prepared to move the wine to another container, such as a decanter. Alternatively, pour it all into glasses immediately after opening it.
More Details on Decanters: WHAT IS A WINE DECANTER AND WHY DO YOU NEED ONE?
The Key Method
What You Need: Key
The key method is fairly simple and doesn’t require too much physical strength. Hold your largest key in one hand and press it into the cork at a 45-degree angle. Then, twist the top of the key in a circular motion around the rim of the bottle. Eventually, if you get enough of the key into the cork, it will start to twist with it and work its way out.
This method works well with big keys. Car ignition keys are the best pick because they are long and heavy. You can get enough of them into the cork, and they provide the leverage for getting it out easily. With small keys, this method requires more strength to achieve the same result.
The danger of this method is that you might twist and break the cork in half. Especially for small keys, this risk is rather high. If this happens, you will have no other choice than pushing the rest of the cork into the wine.
The Knot Method
What You Need: Twine, Thin Metal Object
A simple piece of twine could be a lifesaver in the sad event of a lost or broken corkscrew. For the knot method, tie a figure-eight knot on one end of a piece of twine. Then, use a long, thin metal object to shove the string down into the bottle between the cork and the glass. As you pull it back up, the knot will catch and wedge itself underneath the cork. Now, you can simply pull it up and out.
This method teeters on the edge of an effective way to get a cork out and a cool party trick. But with the right supplies, it can work very well. The key to success it the proper string. It must be thin enough to squeeze into the bottle and thick enough not to cut your hand as you pull on it. So go for a medium-sized piece.
Make sure not to break off small parts of the cork when you slide the string in with the metal object. Otherwise, you might have to filter the wine, to get these pieces out. Besides, this method is relatively safe for you and your wine.
The Pump Method
What You Need: Bicycle Pump
Perhaps the most complicated but effective way to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew is to use a bicycle pump. Any pump needle used to pump up basketballs, volleyball, or soccer balls works for this purpose. Carefully shove it down between the glass and the cork. As soon as it’s in deep enough, start to pump. Much like the heating method, this introduces more air into the bottle than it can hold. And it escapes by pushing out the cork. It has the bonus of a satisfying “pop” when it works.
That’s by far the physically easiest method of all. It only takes three or four pumps to generate enough air to push out the cork. So it’s a great option even for opening multiple wine bottles.
The downside of the pump method is a very real danger: If you pump too much air into the bottle too quickly, it can explode. So it’s also one of the more dangerous methods. If you are going to try it, make sure that you pump very slowly and methodically. Also, keep your loved ones away from the bottle, so they don’t get hurt.
A missing corkscrew is annoying, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the party. As you’ve read in this article, there are plenty of ways to open a bottle of wine without it. And most of them work with everyday items that you can find in any household. Just make sure to follow the safety rules, and you will enjoy a glass of wine soon.