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Maybe you rented a vacation house that isn’t fully stocked. Perhaps you’re camping, or in the middle of moving and can’t find a single cardboard box labeled “kitchen.” No matter the reason, learning how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew is guaranteed to come in handy at some point.
Many corkscrews function similarly: You insert a spiraled prong called the helix into the cork, and then use an exterior lever to extract it from the neck of the bottle.
Some of the best ways to open wine bottles without a corkscrew mimic this motion, while others go in a completely different direction.
In every instance, start by peeling the foil cap off the neck of the bottle so the entire cork is visible and accessible. The next steps will be determined by your surroundings, dexterity, and risk aversion.
Here are five tried-and-true tactics to ensure nothing comes between you and your next pour.
1. Open the Bottle With a Key
Clean your sharpest car key and place the tip in the center of a cork at a 45-degree angle. Apply pressure as you turn your wrist to drive the key into the cork.
The trick here is to use the key as both helix and lever. So once you have enough of the key in the cork for leverage, you want to rotate it as you pull the cork up and out.
This requires some finesse, so take your time. Good wine comes to those who wait.
2. Shove the Cork Into the Bottle (No, Really)
A Sharpie, highlighter, lipstick or tube of mascara can all work as a battering ram. Simply place your bottle of wine on the floor or counter, grab the marker or other item in both hands and use it to push the cork straight into the bottle. Be prepared for a splash back.
You’ll have to strain out the cork before you drink the wine, but a coffee filter or fine-grained sieve makes quick work of this task.
3. Use a Hanger
Put your closet to work. Thoroughly wash and dry a thin wire hanger, and then fold its hook to create a narrower angle. Gently wiggle the hook into the neck of the bottle alongside the cork, and then slowly push down until the hook is past the cork and into the wine. Twist the wire to affix its pointy end to the bottom of the cork and pull upwards, easing the cork out of the bottle.
If the cork falls into the bottle while you’re jimmying the wire hanger into the neck, mission accomplished! Simply filter or fish it out as described in the marker technique above.
4. Grab a Screwdriver
This method requires access to common tools and, ideally, an extra set of hands.
Take a long screw and insert it into the cork with a screwdriver, leaving less than an inch exposed. Ask a friend to hold the wine bottle steady on a table or other flat surface while you take the back of a hammer to pry the screw out of the bottle. This puts a fair amount of strain on the cork, so it’s better suited to firmer or even synthetic ones.
If your cork does break in the neck, however, all is not lost. Simply start over with the remaining stump.
5. Squeeze It With Tweezers.
An Ah-So wine opener uses pincers to surround and extract a cork from the neck of a bottle. It’s usually reserved for wines with crumbly corks.
You can imitate this motion with a sturdy pair of tweezers. Put one prong on either side of the cork and push down the neck. Once you have them a little more than halfway in, pull upward as you squeeze the cork out of the bottle.
This will likely be the last time you use those tweezers, so be sure to raise a glass in their honor.