The holidays are here, so bring on the bubbly! Popping the cork on a champagne bottle and watching it bubble over the top may seem quite festive, but who wants to waste good booze (or deal with the sticky cleanup)? Fortunately, it’s actually quite easy to open the bottle without spilling a single drop, and you don’t even have to be very strong if you’ve got the right technique.
Some basic safety tips before we begin: Always be sure to point the bottle away from any bystanders or anything breakable; you don’t want to put an eye out or break a window if the cork gets away from you. Don’t shake the bottle or it’ll build up excess pressure and be much more likely to explode on you. And always keep your thumb firmly over the top of the cork unless otherwise instructed; it’ll lessen the chances of a mishap and you’ll be quickly alerted if the cork starts to slide out on its own.
First, make sure the champagne or sparkling wine is chilled before you open it, ideally to between 42-48°F (7-9°C) if you’re fancy. It tastes better cold and will retain more bubbles, making it less likely to fizz over and make a mess. If the bottle has been in an ice bucket you should dry it off so you can get a better grip, and if it’s too cold to comfortably handle you can wrap it in a dish towel.
Remove the foil wrapping the cork by carefully pulling the tab or cutting below the botton edge of the wire cage, grip the bottle by the neck with your non-dominant hand, and firmly place your thumb on top of the cage.
Next, you need to remove the wire cage. With your thumb holding the cage in place, untwist the wire at the base of the cage and open it fully. Pull off as quickly as possible with your non-dominant hand and switch to your dominant hand holding the bottle with your thumb on top of the cork.
Do not pull on the cork! Double-check that no one is in the path if anything goes awry, grip the cork in the palm of your dominant hand with your other hand holding the bottle, then slowly start to twist the cork and bottle in opposite directions (it’s usually easier to twist the cork towards your body). If the cork doesn’t want to move, brace the bottle on your thigh or against your body and just concentrate on trying to twist the cork. Unless it’s a very old bottle the cork will usually come out quite easily, within a rotation or two.
As soon as the cork comes out press it against the mouth of the bottle, leaving just a tiny space at one edge. This allows the gas to escape slowly so it doesn’t fizz over and waste any of the good stuff. You may be able to see a thin stream of vapor escaping the bottle; it should dissipate after a few seconds and then you’re ready to pour!
If you’re using flutes, be sure to tip them at a slight angle and pour slowly down the inside of the glass to minimize fizzing. If you’re swigging directly from the bottle, bless your heart. I’ll be right over to share!