The Humble Corkscrew: How to Open Wine Without a Corkscrew

various types of corkscrews

The corkscrew is a simple yet game-changing tool that helps people at home or in the industrial setting access wine and other bottles of liquid that are sealed with a cork without much hassle.

While many people already know what a corkscrew is, especially those who enjoy a glass of red or white wine now and again, most probably have no idea how many different types there are. And there are a lot.

But what if you don’t have access to a corkscrew at all? Believe it or not, you can open a bottle of wine, even without a corkscrew. Keep reading to find out how.

What Is a Corkscrew?


A corkscrew is a type of wine opener used to open any bottle that’s sealed with a cork. Typically, these bottles contain wine, brandy, or other alcohol. It is because these little plugs are smooth, small, and hard to hold onto that this gadget makes opening these products – like a wine bottle – a much simpler task.

Why Are Corks Used to Seal Wine Bottles?

A wine cork is composed of buoyant, dead cells from the outer layer of a cork oak tree. This product has an abundance of hollow, empty spaces throughout its layers, creating a flexible yet durable material.

A cork is used to tightly seal red wine, mulled wine, or any other liquid into glass bottles because it squeezes into the bottle neck with enough compression to slide in and then expands once in place, creating an air-tight seal. This seal will keep wine fresh much longer than most other options.

The problem with cork is that it will crumble and fall apart easily when trying to pull it from its secure position in the neck of a bottle. This situation is where corkscrews – acting as a bottle opener – come into play.

Who Invented the Corkscrew?

Many historical indications lead us to believe that corkscrews have been around for centuries, even though the first patent was handed out in 1795. Previously, it was thought that gunmen used these tools to remove unspent musket charges.

The first corkscrew patent was granted to Samuel Henshall, a reverend who lived in England in 1795. This invention came to fruition when Henshall was looking for a way to get the “worm” of the tool into the cork without going all the way through it in order to keep the tiny pieces from falling into the bottle.

How Do Corkscrews Work?


While there are various types of corkscrews on the market today, they all work similarly. These tools are designed to be inserted into a cork that is sealed inside a wine bottle and removed quickly without debris in the liquid.

What are the Different Types of Corkscrews?

As mentioned, there are various corkscrews available today. Over the years, people have re-invented this simple tool to make it easier and more efficient to use, depending on the situation at hand.

Simple corkscrews are perfect for opening wine at home or while on a camping trip or vacation, while more enhanced versions work well in commercial settings such as bars and restaurants.

Here is a list of all the different types of corkscrews you can find online or in stores today:

  • Lever – This corkscrew uses a press lift action to pull the cork from a bottle. Also known as the rabbit, this tool uses handles to wrap around the bottleneck, holding it in place while you push down on a lever that removes the cork.
  • Waiter’s Friend – A sommelier’s corkscrew, also known as a waiter’s friend, is a simple yet essential tool for servers. This product offers an easy-to-access worm to pop the cork from a bottle as well as a blade to cut the foil. It all folds into a simple and small gadget that fits nicely in a waiter’s pocket or smock.
  • Wing – The most common corkscrew is the wing or butterfly. The worm is screwed into the cork with simple twisting action at the top, then two side handles are pushed down to expel the cork.
  • Two-prong- A two-prong corkscrew uses prongs to puncture the cork rather than drilling into it. This is also known as the butler’s friend.
  • Automatic – Pretty self-explanatory, an automatic corkscrew removes corks automatically. Most of these tools use a screwing action to push a worm into the cork and then slowly pull it up and out.
  • Electric – An electric corkscrew and automatic corkscrew go hand in hand. Some are plug-in, while others can be charged.
  • Screwpull – A screwpull corkscrew is simply a spiral metal worm attached to a study, durable handle with an easy grip. You screw in the worm and pull up on the handle.
  • Travel – Travel corkscrews can come in many different designs, the most popular being a simple spiral worm attached to a handle (screw pull).
  • Left-handed – Any of the above options but made for those who are dominant with their left hand.
  • Stainless steel – This is a corkscrew that comes from a stainless-steel material. Typically, the more “basic” tools are made from stainless steel, such as the screwpull or butterfly corkscrew.
  • Standing – A standing corkscrew is a wine lover’s favorite. You place the wine bottle into the dedicated opening, which grips the neck. Then the top of the tool comes down (manually or electrically), screwing the worm into the cork, then pulling upward.

Is a Wine Key the Same as a Corkscrew?

A wine key is another name for the waiter’s friend corkscrew. This tool is mainly used in restaurants and bars by servers since it efficiently opens a wine bottle at the customers’ request. This process is the easiest way to open a bottle of wine, and this tool is one of the cheapest corkscrews available.

How Do You Use a Corkscrew?

Opening a bottle of wine with a corkscrew is the best way to get to the drink without having to sift out tiny pieces of cork from your glass. There are many different tools to use to remove the plug, but most of them work in the same manner.

How to Open a Bottle of Wine With a Corkscrew

If you are wondering how to get a cork out of a bottle of wine with a corkscrew, you will be happy to know it is very straightforward, and you won’t have to worry too much about wasting time or energy.

Whether you invest in an expensive corkscrew product or simply opt for the more basic tool, the results will typically be the same.

Take your bottle of wine or any other liquid that is sealed with a cork and tightly grip the neck.

Use the tool to insert the worm inside the plug, twisting it in a spiral motion. If you push the winding metal rod into the cork forcefully without turning it, it will break the material and create small debris that will get into the wine and can make removing the cork even more complicated.

Once the worm is about three-quarters of the way into the cork, use the handles, grip, or lever to yank in an upward direction, removing it slowly and carefully.

How to Open a Bottle of Wine Without a Corkscrew


Having a corkscrew certainly makes opening a bottle of wine a lot easier. However, you don’t necessarily need this tool to get to the delicious beverage inside the bottle.

There are quite a few different ways people have come up with over the years to open a bottle of wine plugged with a cork that doesn’t involve the use of a corkscrew. While it may not be as convenient as having a tool intended for the task, it gets the job done in a pinch.

Use a Screw and Hammer

Many people have basic tools lying around the house, so there is a good chance you have an extra screw and a hammer readily available when you can’t find your corkscrew anywhere.

To use these tools, simply insert the screw into the cork. Once it is at least halfway into the cork, carefully use the claw end of the hammer to pry the cork from the bottle.

Be very careful not to hit the hammer against the glass; this can shatter the bottle.

Grab Your Car Keys

Another quick and clever way to extract a cork from a wine bottle is by taking a house or car key from the key ring and pushing it into the plug as far as possible at a 45-degree angle.

As you are twisting the key, pull up on the cork at the same time.

Be aware that some weaker keys can snap off if you are not careful.

Use a Clothes Hanger

A metal clothes hanger might be hard to find these days, but if you have one hanging in your closet, it can be an excellent tool for opening a bottle of wine.

To use this item, straighten the curved end of the clothes hanger, then create a much smaller hook shape at the end. Squeeze this metal hook down into the bottle, pushing it between the cork and the glass. Next, turn the hanger so the hook is facing the center of the cork, then pull upward with a bit of force.

Push the Cork in

If you can’t find a simple way to get the cork out of a wine bottle, the next best thing is to push the cork all the way into the bottle. While this might not be the ideal solution, it will allow you to get the wine out without cutting up and destroying the cork.

This should only be done when you plan on finishing the entire bottle in a single serving. Leaving the cork inside the container can affect the flavor.

Other things to try include:

  • Scissors
  • A knife
  • A screw hook
  • A string with a knot at the end
  • Cutting the cork on the sides and pulling upward

There is no arguing that a corkscrew is the best way to remove a cork from a bottle of wine. It makes the task at hand quick and simple, and it also keeps you from having to worry about ruining the wine’s flavor with tiny pieces of cork floating about.

However, when you want a glass of wine, you want a glass of wine, and not having a corkscrew on hand should never get in the way. So, using one of these creative options will help you get to your tasty spirit when there is no better way.

Summing Things Up

Obviously, there isn’t a lack of great inventions out there that can be used to easily remove a cork from your favorite bottle of wine. Whether you are a wine connoisseur who enjoys a glass or two every night, or the occasional social drinker, having a good corkscrew on hand will always be the best way to access that beverage you crave.

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