You’re having a picnic at the park or you just moved into a new place and just as you’re about to open a bottle of wine: Uh oh, where’s the corkscrew? Did you forget to grab it from your bar? Is it packed in a random moving box? Are you simply having a senior moment? Don’t give up on that glass of red just yet! There are plenty of solutions to your problem — plus a few that the internet has talked up that we don’t recommend attempting. Read on to learn how to remove a cork without a corkscrew.
How to remove a cork without a corkscrew
The easiest way to open your wine, of course? “Choose ones that come with a screwcap or a muselet for any out-of-home events. That way you have one less thing to remember,” explains Cassandra Rosen, sommelier and wine consultant with FK Interactive. But for the times when that isn’t a forethought, these easy methods can help:
1. To remove a cork without a corkscrew: Push the cork in
This is a versatile method where you can take advantage of almost anything you have on hand, whether that be a butter knife, screwdriver or pen. When the bottle is flat on the table, they can all act as push points to get the cork to fall into the wine. A warning from Cassandra Rosen, sommelier and wine consultant with FK Interactive: “Be cautious not to push it too hard, though, as you don’t want cork bits in your wine.” (And be prepared for a little splash!)
But wait, how do you get a cork out of a bottle once it’s in? Whether you want to save the cork as a memento or the cork is making it difficult to pour wine, this is an easy problem to solve with a shoestring and chopsticks (or other similar items). First, knot the string at the end and drop it into the bottle, aiming for the knot to go underneath the cork. After that, you can use the chopsticks to start pulling the cork up before tugging on the other end of the string to finish the job.
Watch this video to see the trick in action!
2. Insert a screw
First, take a long screw and slowly insert it into the cork, using either your hands or a screwdriver. Chris Zazo, co-founder of Hailstone Vineyards, recommends leaving an inch or less exposed. When you’re sure the screw is in the cork, you can gently pull it out by using the back of a hammer or a pair of pliers.
3. To remove a cork without a corkscrew: Use a key or a knife
Place the tip of the key or knife in the center of the cork at a 45-degree angle, says Francesco Bonsi, co-founder and director of culinary experiences at Cucina Migrante and The Wine Shop by Cucina Migrante, and apply pressure as you turn it into the cork. “Then, grab the bottle by the neck and push down, leveraging the cork out,” he finishes. Be cautious though so you don’t break the cork — or, if you’re using a knife, cut yourself. (At a cookout? Click here to learn How to Light Charcoal Without Lighter Fluid)
(You can also use a key or knife to open a can without a can opener!)
4. To remove a cork without a corkscrew: Hook it with a hanger
“Use a wire hanger and wiggle the hook into the neck of the bottle alongside the cork, then slowly push down until the hook is past the cork,” Zazo explains. “Twist the wire to hook its end to the bottom of the cork and pull upwards and out of the bottle.”
5. Pump it up with a bike pump
Bikers, here’s a creative new use for your pump! Take the needle you usually put into your tires and insert it into the cork instead, until it comes through the other side. Then, simply start pumping — slowly and gently. This will coax the cork out by filling the bottle with air. When you can get a good grip on the cork, just pull it out.
How *not* to remove a cork without a corkscrew:
- Submerging the cork: “Some ‘hacks’ will tell you to submerge the bottle upside down in warm water to loosen the cork,” Rosen shares. If it actually works, and it’s a natural cork, water can seep through the cork into the wine. The result? Corky notes that aren’t exactly appetizing.
- Tapping on the bottle: There are a few different ways to do this, but the most popular is the shoe method. This is when, according to Zazo, you “wrap the bottom of a wine bottle in a towel and put it between your legs upside down, slapping the bottom of the bottle with a shoe until the cork becomes exposed and gas starts to work its way out.” After that you grab the cork yourself and pull it out. But with this party trick you run the risk of breaking the bottle if it gets hit the wrong way. No wine, a messy cleanup and potential cuts? No thanks.
- Applying heat to the neck: Ready for this science lesson? Heat (you could apply it via fire or hot water) creates pressure in the air, and since liquid doesn’t expand, it has to come out through the bottle’s neck. In order to do this, though, it has to push the cork out. While this is quick and efficient when it works, the bottle might break if It heats up too much or too quickly—especially if it’s chilled, because the change in temperature will be too drastic. Plus, warm wine? Yikes.
What do I do if I break the cork?
So you were a little too hard on the cork trying to get it out, and now it’s damaged with little pieces floating in the wine. Have no fear, solutions are here!
- Filter the wine: You weren’t planning to decant the wine? Now you are! As you’re pouring it out, let it pass through a cheesecloth or coffee filter. This will trap the cork.
- Just pour and pick: A little cork never hurt anybody! The most low-maintenance option, you can easily pick the pieces out with your hands after pouring the wine into your glass.
- Go fishing with a straw: No, you’re not going to sip the pieces up and spit them out. It’s easier: Stick your straw about an inch into your wine, letting it follow the cork bits floating on top. As they get close, you can “hook” them with the straw and pull them out.
See how it works here:
Want to read about more ways to enjoy your wine? Then click through the links below!