Corkscrews: Barware Basics

A corkscrew is a fundamental piece of barware that every home bar should have. Whether you’re mixing a classic cocktail or simply opening a bottle of wine, corkscrews are basic pieces of equipment. So if you’re in the process of outfitting your bar, here are the basics of corkscrews and wine openers.

What is a Corkscrew?

Traditionally corkscrews are known as tools for drawing corks from bottles, but they can be much more. Clearly an essential bar tool for those that enjoy wine, corkscrews can include integrated blades, bottle openers and other features that make serving cocktails easier. Moreover whether you’re a wine drinker or not, every good bartender should have a corkscrew or wine opener on hand to serve their guests.

Types of Corkscrews

Beyond their basic functionality, corkscrews are often considered a study in style. Frankly, there are many different types of wine openers from the most basic to the very complex and we’ll look at each briefly to help you find the best option for your home bar.

Basic Corkscrew

Just about everyone should be familiar with the basic corkscrew, which features a simple handle attached to a metal screw. The traditional basic corkscrew is assembled using a wooden handle, however there are a number of alternative designs that use plastic and other materials. One of the biggest benefits of this type of wine opener is its simplicity and price, while the biggest downside is the amount of force you need to use in trying to remove a cork. And since they’re cheap, it’s been my experience that they can fall apart pretty easily. Cost: $3 – $20+

To be honest, I look at one of these a cringe. Either I’m going to injure myself or look silly in a wild attempt at opening the wine. However, at a cost of less than $20 it’s always a solid backup.

Basic Corkscrew

Wing Corkscrew

The wing corkscrew is another popular wine opener with which everyone is familiar. Also known as a butterfly corkscrew, this model has handles which resemble “wings” and remove the cork using leverage (as opposed to brute force method required by the basic corkscrew). Essentially the corkscrew is screwed down into the cork until the round collar rests on the mouth of the bottle. Then even pressure is applied to the handles and the cork is removed. Cost: $10 +

I understand how popular this wine corkscrew may be, but it’s not a personal favorite. Its primary strength is that it makes removing a cork much easier and it’s a cost effective option. Weaknesses include: durability – I’ve rarely seen one last any significant amount of time; cool factor – I know that it sounds stupid, but it’s awkward to use.

Wing or Butterfly Corkscrew

Sommelier Knife

The sommelier knife is a multi-purpose corkscrew that offers a wide range of functionality. As a wine opener it has an integrated corkscrew and lever that allows you to use leverage to easily remove a cork. Also known as a waiters knife or pulltap corkscrew, it has an integrated knife blade that makes it an elegant option; easy removal of any foil covering the cork and a speedy cork removal makes almost anyone look like an expert. Finally, Sommelier wine openers typically have an integrated bottle opener, so you can keep your beer drinking friends happy too. Cost: $20 +
Sommelier or Waiter's Knife

Here’s a quick summary on how to use a Sommelier Knife:

The sommelier knife is definitely my favorite corkscrew option for several different reasons. It works well and makes decanting wine easy. It’s compact and doesn’t take up any unnecessary space. Its appearance can range from supremely functional to super stylish. However with all those positives, the waiter’s knife does require the use of some technique so it may not be the best choice for a rookie out of the gate.

Ah So Corkscrew

The twin pronged Ah So corkscrew is an interesting looking device that actually works! I’ve never used one but it’s my understanding that they work well, especially for wines sealed with natural cork. Cost: $15+
Ahh So Cork Puller

This video offers the skinny on how to use one (although I cannot condone the jewelry choice):

To me the strengths are the Ah So’s simplicity and appearance, however it’s clear that you’ll need to have your technique down or risk putting the cork deeper into the bottle.

Rabbit Corkscrew

Perhaps the easiest to use for beginners, the Rabbit Corkscrew assembles some of the best features of other wine openers to make opening a bottle easy. The Rabbit Wine Opener allows the user to get a firm grip using two handles that wrap around the bottles neck; afterward a levered corkscrew is inserted into the cork and then withdrawn. Frankly, it’s pretty hard to screw it up. Cost: $25+

The primary benefits for the Rabbit Wine Opener are that it’s easy to use, however some drawbacks include cost (a good one is like $50) and that it takes up storage space.

Rabbit Corkscrew

If you’d like a few more details on how to use the Rabbit Corkscrew this Japanese lady will show you how:

Mounted Corkscrew

For those really committed to drinking a lot of wine, the mounted corkscrew might be for you. Granted if you’re drinking that much wine And you’re interested in cocktails you may have bigger problems than picking a corkscrew… but to be comprehensive I thought we’d touch on this model. The Mounted Corkscrew can be affixed to a back bar, wall or countertop and extracts corks using leverage (similar to wine openers previously mentioned). Cost: $50+
Table Mounted Corkscrew

From my perspective this option really only makes sense for those that open a lot of bottles of wine, like a restaurant. Strengths include speed and ease of use, while cost and use of space are a downside.

Electric Corkscrew

You might ask “Who in the hell would use an Electric Corkscrew?” and I would agree with you, but for those with limited dexterity this option is a good one. With the ability to not only remove the cork but also the foil, the Electric Corkscrew seems like an automatic choice for those with conditions like arthritis. Strengths include ease of use, while weaknesses include the necessary storage space and the damage to your dignity by using one of these. Cost: $20+
Electric Corkscrew


As you can see there are quite a few options when selecting a corkscrew. Often times it’s a function of your level of knowledge, available storage place and budget. From my perspective, the best all-around option is the Sommelier Knife. It combines several different functionalities in a compact, cost-effective design. However, don’t worry about my recommendation; find something that meets your needs and jump right in!