Have you ever had that moment where you’ve had a long day, you’ve been excited to open that bottle of wine when you get home, and the time finally comes only to find that there’s no corkscrew in sight? Yeah, we’ve all been there, a perfect evening interrupted by a minor hiccup! No worries though, when innovation meets desperation, you’d be surprised at the many ways you can outsmart that stubborn cork. Based on real-life tales from bartenders, sommeliers, and casual wine lovers, we’re bringing you the scoop on unconventional methods to open that bottle.
1. The Shoe Trick
“The shoe trick… the most unconventional method I’ve tried, besides sabering, of course,” chuckles Vince Stilletti, manager of The Red Hook Winery in Brooklyn, New York. Sometimes you must get creative even in a locale where wine keys should be given. Here’s the gist: after removing the top foil, nestle the bottle bottom where your heel rests in a shoe. Vince recommends a trainer, but any shoe with a bit of cushion should work. Position the shoe and bottle next to a sturdy wall or beam, then gently tap. Over time, the cork will edge out, allowing for easy removal by hand.
Not only does it get the job done, but the reactions it garners are memorable. Carmen Lopez Torres, an agave spirits specialist from Mexico, can’t help but laugh. “People’s faces when you use a shoe? Priceless.”
In a pinch, Paula Lukas, a bartender from New York City, improvised with a towel and a tree. “We didn’t have an opener at camp. Wrapped the bottle in a towel and tapped it against a tree. Worked like a charm,” she said, with a hint of pride.
A word of caution: always use a sturdy surface and be gentle. The last thing we need is a wine catastrophe!
2. Ballpoint Pen Magic
For Seattle bartender and spirits aficionado Lauren Darnell, a ballpoint pen once saved the day. Recounting the incident, she said, “I chipped away at the cork with a pen and strained the wine through a T-shirt.” An impromptu filter, if you will. Similarly, a beverage writer, Taylor Tobin suggests using a Sharpie to push the cork in. In a similar vein, pros Caroline Hatchett and Isabella Newman employ a sturdy mascara tube.
3. Hang It Out with a Coat Hanger
Ah, the good old wire coat hanger. Not just for hanging your coats, it’s also a nifty tool to uncork your wine.
- Straighten out the hook end of your wire coat hanger. Using pliers, bend the last half an inch of the hanger to form a small hook.
- Gently slide this wire between the cork and the bottle, aiming to get the little hook just under the cork.
- Rotate that hanger so the hook faces the center of the bottle, then tug up gently while giving it a little jiggle. And guess what? Out comes the cork!
4. DIY Corkscrew: Hammer and Screw
If you’re feeling a tad more DIY, Kirti Dwivedi, a drinks and marketing whiz, has you covered. Her method? Drive a long screw into the cork, then use the claw end of a hammer to pull it out. The eureka moment when you hear that pop is incredibly satisfying!
5. Tweezer Tales
On a train ride from Paris to Reims, Drew Record, a spirits connoisseur from California, faced the absence of a corkscrew but found salvation in a pair of tweezers. “No one had a spare wine key. A colleague offered his Tweezerman Ultra Precision tweezers, and I went to work. It was a nerve-wracking few minutes, but the wine, in the end, was heavenly.” Sadly, the tweezers weren’t so lucky.
6. The Bicycle Pump Technique
Christopher Huang, a barman from Houston, Texas, vouches for the bike pump strategy. His instructions are pretty straightforward. “Push the inflator needle through the cork and pump.” And before you know it, the cork rises, allowing you to relish your well-earned sip.
7. The Paperclip Trick
Who knew these tiny office supplies could come to the rescue in a wine emergency?
- Get two paper clips and straighten them halfway, keeping a U-shape intact.
- Slide one end of the paperclip between the cork and bottle. Rotate it so the U is just above the cork. Do the same with the second paperclip on the opposite side.
- Twist the straight ends of the paper clips together to lock them. Slide a pen or spoon handle beneath the twisted ends, grip the pen with both hands and pull up gently. With some luck and finesse, your cork will start ascending from its bottled prison.
8. Tongs and Snow
In the absence of a corkscrew but with the presence of a wood-burning stove, Nick Venditti, another NYC bartender, turned to fireplace tongs and snow. “Heated the tongs, wrapped them around the bottle’s neck, took it outside, and put snow on the bottle’s mouth. The neck broke cleanly. After straining, no glass shards were found,” he said, with a hint of triumph in his voice.
9. The Mighty Marker Method
This method is as straightforward as it sounds.
- First, find a marker, highlighter, or even a chapstick container. As long as it has rounded edges and is a bit narrower than the cork, you’re in business.
- Place the bottle on a solid ground or table. You might want to pad the wall with junk mail if you’re feeling fancy and want to protect your wall.
- Place the tip of the marker against the cork, and press the cork down into the bottle with a confident yet careful push. A bit of wine might splash out, so lean away or have a napkin ready for any rogue drops.
- And voila! Your wine is now ready for pouring. A tiny side note: watch out for cork bits in your glass. If need be, strain it through a coffee filter.
10. Using Scissors is Shear Brilliance
This is where your arts and crafts skills might come in handy.
- Grab those kid-sized or craft scissors, and please, avoid those massive kitchen shears.
- Open the scissors entirely and insert one blade into the center of the cork, pressing down until it’s about halfway through. A word to the wise: be cautious to avoid pushing the cork in.
- Gently twist the scissor handles while pulling up. If all goes as planned, you’ll either have the cork on the blade or close enough to the top to pull it out with your fingers.
There you have it, wine enthusiasts! Creativity and a dash of determination come to the rescue when a corkscrew is nowhere in sight. Whether you’re wielding scissors, paperclips, or a trusty old marker, these quirky methods ensure your wine won’t stay trapped for long.
When enjoying a bottle of wine with friends or relishing a quiet evening alone, remember that sometimes the most memorable stories come from the unexpected twists of life — or, in this case, uncorking.