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Popping the Bubbly: How to Remove a Champagne Cork Without Spilling a Single Drop

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.

Closeup of foil removal
Note thumb placement

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.

 

 

 

Closeup of hand holding champagne bottle with wire cage
Again with the thumb

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.

 

 

Closeup of hands twisting off cork
Let's twist again

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.

Closeup pressing cork to bottle opening
See the tiny gap?

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!

 

 

Closeup of pouring glass of champagne
This glass is tipsy!

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!

 

 

 

By [E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

10 replies on “Popping the Bubbly: How to Remove a Champagne Cork Without Spilling a Single Drop”

I have known how to open champagne since about the time I was 12 years old. We like toasts in my family, what can I say?

Last time I was at a gathering where there was champagne, when it came time to open it, neither of the two men who usually handle drinks at our get-togethers was around. A bunch of people were like “But zomg how will we open the champagne?”

I admit, it was kind of weird for me, because I was like “Doesn’t everyone learn this when they’re 12? Hand the bottle over, plzkthx.”

/cool story, chica

This is fantastic.

I’ve never opened champagne, but the only time we ever had a bottle in the house, the Mister almost took out the kitchen light. (My boss and coworkers chipped in for a nice bottle for us the day we got married. He went to open it that night and came within an inch of hitting the light over the sink with the cork.)

A tip from an avowed champs lover: Once you get the cage unlocked, toss a dish towel over the top when you work the cork loose, just in case.  I put the towel over the top, cinch it around the neck with my left hand, and wriggle the cork out through the towel with my right.  That way, even if it does spill (and I do the cork trick you do!), the towel catches it.

/brought to you by the carnage of cava bottles that lay strewn in my wake through the past 10 years.

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