Your favorite stemware is ready. You bring out that bottle of wine that you’ve been thinking of for days, then you realize that you can’t find the corkscrew. Before you start wasting that vino out of frustration, take comfort in knowing that you can use household items to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew, such as a wire hanger, a key, scissors, or a wooden spoon. Find out how you can safely perform these tried and tested life hacks.
Best Corkscrew Alternatives
Below are the different items and tools that you’ll need to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. Remember that you only need one item to use at a time or whatever you can get your hands on at the moment.
- Screw (regular or with hook)
- Hammer or a pair of pliers
- Wire hanger
- Paper clip
- Serrated steak knife
- A key
- Bike pump
- Crucible tongs
- Lighter or a blowtorch
- Clean shoe or leather loafer
- A string or shoelace
- Pair of scissors
- Champagne saber sword
- Wooden spoon
How To Open A Wine Bottle Without A Corkscrew
Screws are fairly easy to find at home, and if you’re lucky, you’ll find a screw with a hook just like what you use to hang picture frames. It’s the easiest and most successful trick there is because you’re just mimicking how a corkscrew works.
a.) Just screw the picture hook into the cork and wiggle the cork out, nice and easy.
b.) If you have a regular hookless screw, you can use the backside of a hammer to lock the screw under it and pull the cork out. You can also use a pair of pliers.
2. Using A Wire Hanger
Got a wire hanger to spare? This hack will require you to sever a portion of it.
a.) Make a mini hook using pliers by bending the last half inch back until it makes an angle of about 30 degrees, close to the angle of a fishhook.
b.) Position the new hook on the edge of the cork with the U-shape facing up.
c.) Wiggle the hook back and forth until it’s about 2 inches deep.
d.) Rotate the hook so it inserts the pointy part into the bottom of the cork.
e.) Once the hook is lodged nice and tight into the cork, start pulling up.
3. No Hanger To Spare? Use Paper Clips
If destroying a perfectly good hanger is out of the question, you can use paper clips instead. It’s the same concept as with the hanger, but this one requires more precision.
a.) Partially straighten two paper clips, but just the middle part. Don’t straighten the U shapes on both ends.
b.) Slide one down between the cork and side of the bottle, then do the same on the opposite side of the cork. Push down until the U-shape is below the cork.
c.) Rotate the clip to position the U-shapes beneath the cork.
d.) Join the two other U-shapes outside the bottle. You can insert a pencil under the hooks or tie them together in a tight knot.
e.) Slowly pull the clips up, making sure the cork is going as well. Give it a few twists while pulling up.
4. Bring Out Your Serrated Knife
Needless to say, this method requires the utmost caution.
a.) Find a knife that will fit easily into the neck of the wine bottle. Any small or pocket knife would do the trick, but a serrated knife gives you the best chance because the blade will grip onto the cork better.
b.) Carefully push the blade through the cork. Next, rock the knife back and forth without applying too much downward force. Do that until the knife goes all the way through the cork.
c.) Now twist the knife with a slight pull, and slowly rock it out. Make sure not to break off pieces of the cork into your wine.
Here’s a 37-second video of how to open a wine bottle with a knife:
5. That’s The Key!
Just like with the serrated knife, you can use your key to pop the cork out of the wine bottle. We recommend using a key that you have extra copies of, in case you use too much force and ruin it.
a.) Plunge the key into the cork at a 45-degree angle.
b.) Move the top of the key in a circle, twisting the cork out slowly.
c.) The cork should come out after a couple of rotations. If not, make sure to insert the key into the cork properly because if you don’t, the cork could just crumble inside and make it hard for you to force it out.
d.) The “key” here is to turn the key in circles as well as pull up in the same movement.
6. Bike Pump
This one uses sweet science but it’s really simple to do. All you need is a bike pump or any kind of air pump that has a needle attached.
a.) Plunge the needle through the cork all the way through until the needle reaches the air between the cork and the wine.
b.) Then gently pump air into the bottle. As you pump, the cork should slowly move out of the bottle from the air pressure.
c.) Be careful as the cork may pop out quickly and forcefully due to the pressure from the pump.
7. Heated Bottle Tongs
This method originated in Portugal as an alternative to opening very old bottles of wine with corks that tended to crumble from age. Be warned: this involves high temperatures and broken glass. You will need a pair of metallic, preferably rounded, bottle or beaker tongs.
a.) Heat tongs until burning.
b.) Position them around the neck of the bottle just below the cork.
c.) Leave the tongs there for about 10 seconds.
d.) Rub some chilly water onto the neck using a brush or kitchen towel. Be careful not to burn your skin.
e.) Break off the top using a thick towel or pair of gloves.
f.) Pour the wine through a sieve or other strainer to avoid the potential of eating glass.
How far are you willing to go just to get a sip of that wine? Well, if you happen to have a blowtorch stashed somewhere, it might just do the trick. Don’t forget to wear protective eyewear and a suit! Also — and this is super important — make sure that the wine bottle is NOT COLD. Rapid temperature changes might cause the bottle to explode.
a.) Set the bottle on a table (do not hold it).
b.) Turn the blow torch on, and move the flame around the neck of several inches away while rotating the bottle.
c.) Keep the heat on that area for about a minute.
d.) The cork might pop right out with force, so make sure to steer clear.
e.) If that’s too “Wild Science” for you, you can use a lighter instead, although it may take longer to achieve the desired effect.
Here’s a quick video on how to do that:
9. The Shoe Approach
This is quite a popular method, but for those who haven’t heard of it yet, it could come off as a silly way to solve the cork problem. This works best with a shoe that has a higher profile that reaches your ankle, or a shoe with a raised sole. A great example would be a leather loafer. Note: this method requires patience and a bit of muscular strength.
a.) Remove the wine bottle's protective cover and make sure no plastic or foil is covering the cork.
b.) Place the bottle of wine in the opening of the shoe, bottom first. Hold the bottle with one hand and the shoe with your other hand.
c.) While holding the wine bottle, gently hit the sole of your shoe against a wall. Do it several times. The bottle should be horizontal and you only need to make contact on the wall with the portion of your shoe directly under your bottle. Your shoe will protect the bottle from breaking but don't hit it too hard. A firm hit several times should begin to move the cork out due to the pressure in the bottle.
d.) Once the cork has moved out of the bottle by about an inch, you can simply pull out the cork with your fingers.
Want to see it in action? Here’s a quick video:
10. The String Theory
No, not the theory that explains the universe. This method of how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew makes use of a string or a shoelace.
a.) Tie a figure-eight knot and slip it past the cork by wedging it down with a screwdriver or scissors.
b.) Dip the string into the bottle so that it is under the cork.
c.) Once the knot is below the cork, tilt the bottle and then pull the string.
11. The Scissor Technique
This is quite similar to the key method but requires more finesse and control. As usual, be careful with the blades!
a.) Get a pair of small craft scissors or scissors for children (but not those safety scissors with plastic).
b.) Hold the handles and open the scissors all the way. Again, avoid the sharp side of the blades.
c.) Carefully apply a slight amount of pressure and push the scissor blade halfway into the cork. Be careful not to push the cork too much to break it into pieces.
d.) Hold the bottle tightly with one hand while twisting the handles of the scissors at the same time.
e.) After a few twists, reverse it. Hold the handles of the scissors still and twist the bottle instead.
f.) The cork will pop out on the scissor blade if you have the blade lodged deep enough. Otherwise, the cork will come out far enough that you can pull it out by hand.
12. Using A Sword Or A Big Knife
Sabrage requires skill and is completely different from merely hacking. It is often seen during occasions like weddings (mostly on champagne bottles) and other celebratory events. While a sword is not a common household item, it is officially being used to open a wine bottle. Should you find yourself in a corkscrew-less situation and there’s a sword lying around, here’s how to use it:
a.) Chill the bottle. The colder the neck of the bottle, the better your chances of removing the top.
b.) Find an open space. Better yet, do it outside your house.
c.) Wipe away any moisture on the bottle and remove the foil and wire basket.
d.) Locate one of the seams on the bottle. It’s where the two halves of the bottle join together. This is also the weakest part of the bottle that you will be targeting.
e.) Hold the bottle at a 30-degree angle with the seam facing upward and the cork higher than the bottom of the bottle.
f.) Rest the blade of the sword flat against the neck of the bottle. The dull edge of the blade should be facing in the direction of the cork.
g.) Practice sliding the sword from the base of the bottle to the annulus (the ring around the top).
h.) With a single firm and confident stroke, slide the sword down the seam and hit the annulus. The bottle should break cleanly and the cork should go flying.
i.) Inspect the neck of the glass for shards and wipe it off carefully with a cloth if necessary.
13. Push The Cork Down With A Wooden Spoon
Finally, If you can’t get the cork out, why not push it in instead? If you’re not opposed to drinking wine with a floating cork in it, then this is the easiest way. This method is best for rubber corks or newer corks because a vintage bottle of wine most likely will have a crumbling cork.
a.) Using the back of a wooden spoon, press with consistent pressure down on the middle of the cork.
b.) Keep a steady and tight grip on the base of the opening. Also, make sure you’re holding the neck of the bottle.
c.) The cork should push down into the body of the bottle.
d.) Use a mesh strainer as you pour to help get rid of those floating bits.
Not keen on trying these clever hacks? Check out our Electric Wine Bottle Opener Reviews & Buying Guide.
Whether it’s a real emergency or you just grew tired of using corkscrews, these clever hacks can help you get through that last hurdle of enjoying your favorite wine. While you’re at it, learn how to properly hold your wine glass and know the best wines to get for your mini-bar to make your wine experience even better!
Do you know other ingenious ways of how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew? Share your trick in the comments.