Choosing a Corkscrew

Corkscrews are used for removing the cork from most wines bottles - apart from sparkling wines. When choosing a corkscrew, look for one with:

  • a comfortable handle,
  • an open spiral (solid core corkscrews tend to destroy delicate corks or get stuck in tough ones),
  • a good lever system (a simple T-shaped corkscrew can make pulling the cork out hard work).


The Screwpull brand is a very simple design, and is considered to be the most efficient and practical corkscrew. It relies on the high quality open spiral for its effectiveness.

This corkscrew is remarkably easy to use - all you need to do is put the Screwpull in position on the bottle and start turning the handle. As you turn the handle, the screw bores into the cork, then, when it is deep enough, it will automatically start to pull the cork out of the bottle.

This corkscrew makes light work of even the stiffest corks.

Waiter's FriendWaiter's Friend

The standard restaurant corkscrew is called a waiter's friend. It has a lever at the top to help ease out the cork, and often also has a small knife to cut the wrapper off the top of the bottle before removing the cork. It is one the simplest, most compact opener, although using one can take a little bit of practice.

To use this corkscrew, twist the screw into the cork until it almost reaches the length of the cork. Use one hand to hold the neck of the bottle and the other to hold the corkscrew. Put the lever down against the top of the bottle, then whilst still holding the neck of the bottle, use the other hand to slowly twist out the cork.

Butterfly CorkscrewButterfly Corkscrew

This is a metal corkscrew with lever arms and a bottle-cap opener at the end of the handle. This design is not to be particularly recommended - not only does it have a thick, solid-cored screw that destroys corks, but it never seems to remove the cork in one sweep of the lever arms. However, some people are comfortable with this type of corkscrew, and enjoy a high success rate with it.

When using this type of corkscrew, ensure the screw is in line with the cork, and then start twisting the handle whilst keeping the corkscrew as vertical as possible. The hand you use to steady the bottle should be positioned so as not to impede the arms that lift as the screw bores into the cork. When the arms get to the five to one position, stop turning the handle, and then slowly bring the arms down toward the bottle. This should bring the cork up and out of the bottle. If the cork doesn't come all the way out of the bottle, you will have to continue to hold the neck of the bottle with one hand and use the other to slowly wiggle out the cork.

Butler's FriendButler's Friend

Also known as the 'Ah-So' corkscrew, this style is the only one that doesn't use a screw to bore through the cork. It is not an easy device to use, but can be mastered with a little bit of practice.

To use it, slide the two prongs down the sides of the cork (inserting the longer prong first), using a rocking motion to push the prongs down as far as they will go. Hold the bottle with one hand and use the other to gently twist the corkscrew device upward. This motion may need to be repeated several times until the cork is extracted.

Port TongsPort Tongs

The most dramatic device for opening bottles is a set of port tongs. They are designed for opening very old port bottles whose corks have disintegrated.

The tongs are heated in a fireplace until they are red-hot, and then closed around the neck of the bottle for a minute or two. This heats the glass in a narrow band just below the cork so that, when a small towel that has been dipped in cold water is applied, the glass neck neatly cracks. The top of the bottle and the cork are then removed and the port is decanted.