For my first house-warming party, I invited a bunch of guests over in the evening. They brought gifts and drinks, many of which were wine bottles.
Have you ever been in this situation: an intense thirst for wine, a bottle in your possession, but without a corkscrew to open it and get a taste of its delicious nectar? You can get pretty desperate.
I couldn’t find my corkscrew anywhere. Lacking better resources, I had to disturb my neighbor late in the evening to borrow his corkscrew. If only I had written this article sooner!
From the best and most practical tricks to the ones that risk creating a mess, here’s how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew:
The Handyman Method (aka. How to Open a Wine Bottle With a Hammer)
The Handyman is a pretty simple technique. It requires only some basic tools that any homeowner should have laying around:
- A screwdriver or a drill
- A long screw
- A hammer (or even an old fork you don’t care too much about)
First, use the screwdriver (or your drill) to screw the long screw in the middle of the cork. Screw it almost all the way in. But make sure to leave a small gap between the cork and the head of the screw. You’ll need some leeway for the next step.
Then, you’ll want to use the hammer to pull on the screw, just like you would remove a nail from a plank of wood. Insert the head of the screw between the claw of the hammer and pry it up.
If you don’t have a hammer readily available, you can use a fork instead. You risk bending the teeth of the fork or even its handle, though. So you may want to spare your best silverware from this harsh treatment.
The screw should come up, bringing the cork up with it. Once you can get a better grip on it with your hands, you should be able to simply pull on it all the way out.
Here’s a video that shows this in action:
But this method won’t help you if you’re stuck in a crappy hotel room without a corkscrew. The next one might!
The Pyromaniac Technique (aka. How to Open a Wine Bottle With a Lighter)
If you don’t have a screwdriver and nail available, my next go-to tactic would be The Pyromaniac. It involves playing with fire, which is exciting!
All you need is a source of heat that you can focus somewhere, like the flame of a lighter or a blowtorch. You’ll use it on the neck of the bottle.
Use the flame to gently heat up the neck of the wine bottle. Rotate the bottle around the flame to make sure it gets heated up evenly. After a minute or so, the cork should pop out by itself!
This works because you’re heating up the air present between the wine and the cork. As the air expands from the heat, it creates pressure inside the bottle, and this phenomenon pushes the cork out as if by magic. It’s one of my favorite tricks to entertain guests when opening a bottle besides sabrage (but that only works with sparkling wine).
Note that as you’re heating up the bottle, you risk altering the taste of the wine a bit. I wouldn’t use this technique with my best bottles. You should reserve those premium bottles for a proper corkscrew, they deserve it!
During my research, I also noticed that some people preferred to heat up the whole bottle of wine in boiling water instead. While this can get you the same result, I prefer not to do this as it heats up the wine way too much!
The Driver’s Secret (aka. How to Open a Wine Bottle With a Key)
Don’t drink and drive, people! But if you do happen to have your car keys with you, you can probably use The Driver’s Secret to open your wine bottle.
This method is quite simple: you’re going to use your car key to twist the cork within the bottleneck while pulling on it. The cork should come out effortlessly. Here’s precisely how to do this:
- Take a car key and push it deeply within the cork at a 45 degrees angle.
- When the key is securely in place, hold it firmly with your hand while rotating the bottle. This action should make the cork twist within the neck of the bottle.
- Gently lift the cork with your key as you’re rotating the bottle. The cork should come out smoothly from the movement.
Be careful with your car key when trying this. Don’t put excessive force on it to prevent it from bending or breaking.
If you try this technique and you fail to remove the cork, you might damage it to the point that it’s tough to open your bottle of wine. If all else fails, you can always skip to the end of this article to learn a surefire way to recover your wine.
The car key technique can work with something other than a key. Some people actually do this with a serrated knife (a steak knife). I find it way too dangerous to attempt! Just watching those videos gives me cold sweats. Please don’t try this technique with a sharp object.
Here’s how to do this technique properly:
The Cyclist’s Strategy (aka. How to Open a Wine Bottle With a Bike Pump)
If you’re a serious cyclist, chances are that you have a bike pump laying around. You can probably use The Cyclist’s Strategy to open your coveted wine bottle!
(But let’s admit it – if you have a bike pump handy but don’t have a corkscrew, you’re in a weird situation).
This technique is more for show than practicality. But if you still want to try it, here’s how:
- Place the needle of the pump between the cork and the neck of the bottle.
- Push the needle through the neck as far as you can. The needle doesn’t have to reach all the way into the bottle, but the farther it can go, the more chance the technique will work.
- Pump once or twice, slowly and carefully. If you cause too much pressure inside the bottle or go too fast, it could explode!
- The cork should either come out totally with a loud and satisfying “pop”, or enough for you to pull on it with your hands.
Here’s a quick video showing you how it’s done:
The Shoemaker’s Go-To (aka. How to Open a Wine Bottle With a Shoe)
Everybody’s got shoes, and most people have walls. The Shoemaker’s Go-To could be your salvation!
Disclaimer: this is not my favorite technique. In fact, many things can go wrong if you attempt this. If done incorrectly, you can seriously damage your wall. The bottle of wine can crack or explode, possibly leading to injury. Don’t try this at home. You’ve been warned!
Also, this approach might not work if your wine bottle has a synthetic cork.
But enough with the boring stuff. Here’s how to open a bottle of wine with a shoe: we’re going to hit a wine bottle repeatedly against a wall, using the shoe sole to help absorb the shock and prevent it from breaking.
- Find a sturdy wall. The best walls to use would be made of rocks, bricks, or any material that is sturdy enough to get hit repeatedly by a bottle of wine. Avoid walls made of drywall (also known as sheetrock, gypsum, etc.) because they’re easily damaged.
- Take off a shoe. You’re going to do this half-barefoot. This is important (just kidding).
- Place the bottom of the wine bottle in the shoe. Just like you would do with your foot.
- Hit the shoe against the wall repeatedly (with the wine bottle in it). The bottle needs to hit the wall horizontally. Also, make sure it is protected by the shoe when hitting the wall!
Every time you hit the bottle against the wall, the shock ends up creating a little pressure inside the bottle. This positive pressure eventually pushes the cork bit by bit out of the bottleneck.
Once the cork gives you enough grip, twist it with your hand while pulling to remove it altogether. Don’t wait until it pops out by itself, it would cause a mess!
Here’s a video that explains exactly what is happening. Stick until the end to learn why you shouldn’t try this at home!
The Real Wine Emergency (aka. How to Open a Wine Bottle Without a Corkscrew When All Else Fails)
In a hurry or when all else fails, only one option remains: push the cork inside the bottle.
This is by far the safest option as it doesn’t involve risking breaking the bottle, or playing with fire.
The only downside is that you’ll have a cork floating inside the bottle. This can make the wine pour weirdly. It is also a bit unsightly, and you definitely don’t want to do this to your best bottles – but we’re talking about a wine emergency here. Anything goes!
You can quickly push the cork inside the bottle by taking a blunt object and using it to apply force on the cork. Here are a couple of ideas of items you can use:
- The handle of a wooden spoon
- The handle of a spoon, fork or butter knife
- A screwdriver
Here’s how to do this, and how to pour the wine afterward:
With these tricks, I hope that you’ll never have to suffer from a parched throat ever again!
So the next time you find yourself in a situation with a wine bottle without a corkscrew… Remember that twist cap bottles are also a thing. It will save you a lot of headaches!