Do those TikTok and Reddit hacks work? Three beverage experts weigh in on how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew.
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wine bottle with corks
Credit: Helios4Eos

We all know at this point that you can't believe everything you see on the internet. But with the lines between "life hacks" and ill-advised tips from straight-up hacks blurring more every day, it's never been more true. And one of those online searches that have created a barrage of bad shortcuts? How to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew.

With so many outlandish answers floating around, we consulted with a panel of three beverage experts to set the record straight: Doug Brickel, beverage director and partner at Cork & Kerry and owner of private event and consulting company Cabezas y Colas Cocktails; Hannah Selinger, certified sommelier and freelance lifestyle writer; and Alex Ortiz, a current strategy and operations consultant and former full-time bartender.

Here are their takes on which tricks for opening wine without a corkscrew are worth keeping in your back pocket and which ones will only horrify your friends and family—and maybe even ruin your day in a major way.

The Safest Way to Open a Wine Bottle

First things first: Across the board, every one of our professionals—and this writer, who was a fine dining server once upon a time—swears by the inexpensive, pocket-sized waiter's corkscrew to open a bottle of wine.

"I like the two-step ones best because there are two spaces to rest the hinge on the lip of the bottle, and depending on the bottle size and how deep you screw in the worm, it makes for a gentler and more consistent pull," elaborates Brickel. This gradual pull reduces the likelihood of the cork breaking should it get caught midway, and also the chances of the dreaded "pop" that should never accompany a discreet opening.

Two-step corkscrews come with built-in foil-cutting knives that fold into the base, but if such a small tool feels intimidating, bunny-ear lever-types and electronic ones are fine, too. However, nothing beats investing that same amount of money into a few affordable wine keys from your local liquor store for under $6 apiece or even a 4-pack from Amazon for $13. Keep one on hand in your car, purse, or desk in case of parties-and to save you from some of the following bad ideas.

The Best Ways to Open Wine Without a Bottle Opener

With that PSA out of the way: Is there a safe and reliable way to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew? Our panel reluctantly concedes there are two. They're far from ideal and our pros don't encourage experimentation with these measures, but when desperate times call, these might be the answer.

Push the Wine Cork In, Rather Than Taking It Out

Pushing the cork in with a blunt, narrow object like the handle of a wooden spoon is the best of all the MacGyver-inspired options. "You can do this in a pinch," says Selinger. "It leaves debris behind, but it's not the worst option." And Ortiz confessed to this being his go-to method during his college years.

However, Brickel cautions one caveat: "I would avoid this method with old or poorly-stored wine, as a dried-out cork will ruin the whole experience." And when pouring, Ortiz says to "make sure the cork is bobbing sideways so it doesn't block the flow of wine."

Open Wine With a Bike Pump or Ball Pump

Another solution they consider acceptable (with reservations) is the bike or ball pump method. This involves stabbing the needle of the pump into the cork and slowly, carefully pushing air into the bottle until the cork eventually rises. "This is actually incredibly clever!" says Brickel. "There are some very expensive wine openers out there that basically do this same thing; air pressure can be your friend."

The only caveat here is the obvious question: "Why would I have a bike pump and not a wine key?!" Selinger jokes.

Lesser Advised Options for Opening Wine Without a Corkscrew

The push and pump methods earned green lights. But these following methods earned solid yellow, with warnings from our pros to use your best judgment and proceed with caution.

Open Wine With a Screw and Hammer

The idea here: Twist a long screw into the cork, then pull it out using the claw part of a hammer.

"This seems like the general idea of how a waiter's corkscrew works," says Brickel. "Using torque and leverage to remove it." But both he and Ortiz fear that applying force to a hammer pressed against the mouth of the bottle can shatter the glass. "No one wants wine with a hint of glass shard in it!" Ortiz emphasizes. Although both are willing to give the method the benefit of the doubt, Selinger states bluntly: "This is a good way to get cork into your wine or lose a part of your hand."

Open Wine With a Lighter or Kitchen Torch

The theory here is that using heat expands the air below the cork, building pressure to push it up. Although Brickel has a more open mind about this, Ortiz, who holds a degree in biochemistry, isn't as on board: "This is scientifically sound, but there are several reasons this is a bad idea," says Ortiz. "Wine bottles do not like heat. At best, it will affect the flavor. Then there's the strong chance of burning yourself. And high heat glass = breaking. Again, drinking glass is not a good idea."

Absolute Worst Ways to Attempt to Open Wine

If the kitchen torch concept sounded wildly dangerous, know that it's still considered safer than the following methods. Our experts adamantly reject this set of "hacks" for opening wine without a corkscrew.

Never Open Wine With a Wire Hanger

The mildest unanimous "no" was for the wire hanger corkscrew, where you fashion one out of a clothes hanger. This lands in the "worst" category not for safety reasons, but for ineffectiveness. The problem here is leverage—"It'd be hard to get enough to open it cleanly," says Brickel. Contributing to that is its lack of strength. As Ortiz points out, it's not a strong enough material to hold its shape, nor sharp enough to cut into a cork, even though insertion may not be that hard.

Never Open Wine With a Knife

Then there's screwing into the cork with a key or serrated knife. "There's no way I would feel comfortable recommending this," says Brickel. "I value my fingers and yours too much to consider stabbing at a wine cork with a knife. Avoid, please and thank you!"

Safety aside, it also just isn't efficient. "This typically doesn't work and it disintegrates the cork," says Selinger. Ortiz echoes that point, saying: "Even if you can get the knife or key in successfully without damaging your hand, it wouldn't have the right grip to get the cork out nicely; it'd shred it and no one likes cork bits floating in their wine."

Never Open Wine With a Shoe or by Hitting It Against the Wall

Finally, there are the bottle-smacking methods. All of them were equally upsetting to our panel. The most common one is to wrap the bottle in a towel and gently hit it against the wall. "Do not do this. It's stupid," Selinger says flatly. And although Ortiz generously concedes, "Have people done it successfully? Yes," he follows up by quickly saying, "Does that make it a good idea or safe? No."

He has the same feeling about wrapping it in a towel, holding it upside down, then smacking it with the bottom of a shoe. "Smacking bottles is generally a good way to send vibrations through the glass that can cause shattering. Imagine holding a bottle upside-down while hitting it with enough force to pop a cork—it's likely to fly out of your hand and smash on the floor. And if the cork comes out while the bottle is upside-down, you will lose all your wine to gravity."

At that point, "Just drink a beer," Selinger advises drily.

The Bottom Line

If you need to open a bottle of wine and do not have a corkscrew, our beverage experts urge drinkers to consider the push-in method if they're truly desperate. But the resounding recommendation is to just buy the waiter's corkscrew. Purchasing even a few is much cheaper than a visit to the ER or having to get your rugs professionally cleaned.

We'll drink to that.