Mighty Life List
Aug 27 2010

Learn to Open Champagne

Laura just did a great post about our Mighty Events cocktail party, and it reminded me of something you should add to your Life List.

This is my new Internet crush, Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo. I’d never met her before the party, but we got to talking, and Joanna mentioned that she had never opened a bottle of champagne. She said it scared her a little. People, this is a woman who just delivered a child.

Still, I have a lot of friends who feel the same way. And, thinking back, I used to pass the bottle off myself. We had an entire bathtub full of Mumm at the party, so I said, “This is one for the Life List. You have to do it.”

And so she did!

Hooray, Joanna! You are officially celebratory.

How about you? Have you ever opened your own champagne?

46 Responses to “Learn to Open Champagne”

  • Amy Says:

    Thousands of bottles – and I don’t even like champagne! I used to be a bartender/waitress at a ballroom that did weddings.

    The safest way is to put the towel or a cloth napkin over the entire top and neck (think condom) and then work the cork out with the towel in place, so if the bottle has a lot of energy, or you slip a little when it gives, the cork won’t go flying.

    Even WITH the towel, I’ve seen bottles that were so well shaken prior to being opened that both cork and towel went flying, but that was pretty rare.

    Never point the bottle at anyone, particularly anyone’s face, including your own! Also, never point it at the most expensive chandelier in the place, or the china cabinet, or the host’s collection of Precious Moments figurines. :)

  • jlc12118 Says:

    @Amy – ha! I’ve done it a couple of times – and that’s how I do it too, with the towel. I learned from a waiter I worked with, so that explains it. But – it still scares me!

  • Mary-Lynn Says:

    I could teach a class.

    I had a birthday party a few years back – just cupcakes and champagne (what else do you need, really? Maybe cheese but that wasn’t on that particular menu) and in the course opened >40 bottles. Super pro. What’s the phrase… it should sound like the sigh of a well-satisfied woman? Yeah, my ladies are satisfied.

  • Krysta Says:

    I too used to be nervousd about opening a bottle of champagne or being near to people who were opening a bottle of champagne via the point and shoot method. But then one day when I was living alone, feeling indulgent, and in the mood for a champagne cocktail (by myself) I watched a helpful youtube video and have been successfully opening bottle of champagne ever since.

  • Kat Says:

    When I got the job I have now, I don’t think I had ever opened champagne before. Now I open at least one or two bottles every time I go to work. I’m a waitress on a Hornblower yacht, and we have lots of champagne there.

    Also, I recently instituted Champagne and Pizza Monday (as inspired by your Chocolate and Champagne Wednesday) and it is pretty awesome!

  • Tamara Says:

    I’ve dented more than one ceiling w a flying cork, but no real harm done. Next to a giggling baby, is there a silly-happier sound than that pop?

  • Lisa Villiarimo Says:

    Opening champagne was one of our tasks in my Beverage Management class at the University of San Francisco. Happy to say I got an A in that course. :o)

  • Nora Says:

    Champagne, Lambrusco, I’ve popped ‘em all.

  • Ryan Elizabeth Says:

    I used to be really nervous about that, too, and would always find myself passing the bottle off to some other nervous person, telling them exactly how they should do it, and then ducking and squinching my eyes. Finally one day, someone wised up, and said if I knew how to do it, I should just…do it myself. So I took the bottle into another room, took a deep breath, and have been happily opening bottles of bubbly ever since.
    I’m with you, that’s one for the life list of anyone who doesn’t know how.

  • meg Says:

    I’m an old pro now, but I distinctly remember the first time I tried to open a bottle (in college, of course). Not wanting the cork to go flying and hit any bystanders, I took the bottle into our small bathroom…where the cork went flying, bounced off the wall, and beaned me in the head. Note to self: Use the towel method. Also, don’t open champagne bottles in confined spaces.

  • Stephanie Says:

    I learned to open champagne when I was working at a high end consignment shop in between a political campaign and grad school…yeah. But that does not mean I am any good at it.

    However, my champagne faux pas did introduce me to someone who is now one of my best friends. I had heard great things about this woman and wanted to be friends but was a little intimidated by her awesomeness. We ended up at the same party where I was the one the bottle was “passed to” while she was standing next to me in a tiny, packed galley kitchen. I decided the safest thing to do would be to open in in the direction of the space above the refrigerator and below the cupboards. That way if the cork went flying the mos it could do would be lost behind the fridge.

    The cork indeed did go flying and proceeded to ricochet out of the space tween the fridge and cupboards and straight to the noggin’ of the woman I wanted to meet.

    She let out an “OW!” and I responded with “Hi, I’m Stephanie.” We’ve been best buddies ever since.

  • Auntie Yolanda Says:

    I am proud to say, I was a pro! Last opened a bottle of the bubbly in 1986, it was my 36th birthday.

  • Amanda Mae Says:

    Since all I drink is champagne, I learned rather quickly.

    What I do since I always wear skirts is simply pick up the edge of my skirt, and grab the cork with it, slowly turning the cork ’til it pops out, safe into your hand. Works great, and there’s no chance that you’ll get it in the eye.

    Had a friend named Marco who was able to shoot the corks up into the air like a shot. It was something to see, for sure.

  • megan Says:

    love this post! I’ve been holding back from opening my first bottle of champagne, but now I’m energized to give it a try.
    Revelry.

  • Franca Bollo Says:

    Love to open champagne/sparkling wine/prosecco/cava … all those fizzy wines. It’s the sound of that soft ‘pop’ followed by the effervescence drifting out. The secret is you twist the bottle, not the cork. But opening one with a sword is on my life list. I may have to settle for a knife.

  • Rebecca Says:

    I’ve always been a bit scared too, but I did open my first bottle at my sister’s bachelorette party about a month ago. It was easy!

  • Laura Says:

    I am the only one of the girls that my guy friends will willing pass the champagne bottle to for opening. I think opening a champagne bottle should be a require life skill, like changing a tire. (Note, I’ve never ACTUALLY changed my own tire. I got halfway once, but a nice gentleman with 4 daughters wouldn’t let me continue. In theory however I know how…)

  • Leah Says:

    mmm, love champagne. I don’t drink it enough. I do enjoy opening the bottle, as I find the pop satisfying. and if it goes a little wrong? At least it’s comical :-)

  • April G. Says:

    I love this series of pictures!

    I also love opening champagne bottles. I do the grip and twist method. (That sounds kinda dirty.)

  • liz stanley Says:

    I have a wine bottle that a screw driver hole drilled in it…do i need to elaborate on that?

  • Erin Says:

    My husband works in the wine industry. His family is a BIG name in the wine industry. So, when I was managing a day spa, and they needed someone to open the bottle of Perrier Jouet for the bridal party in there getting all relaxified, they handed the bottle to me. And I think I soiled myself. And got the shakes, and otherwise freaked out. My secret: I knew NOTHING about wine (at the time). I had barely opened a cork-bottle before that day. My husband loves me, and so had overlooked and covered for my deficiency in this matter. but I’d seen him do it a million times, and I didn’t want to cop to my weakness, and long story short that (super expensive) bottle of champers was opened (by me) with no explosions or spilling. *Whew*. I’ve practiced on Barefoot Bubbly since, but I still get “performance anxiety”. :P

  • Ms.RantyPants Herself Says:

    Yes, once. Why once? I hit my mother in the head with the cork. I leave stuff like this to my husband. He supports my alcohol addiction.

  • Laura Jane Says:

    I’m another recovering waitress. The twist method is by far the best and safest! Where I worked, we were taught by the somm to put a folded napkin over the cork and gently, slowly twist the bottle. We were supposed to do it such that the cork released withOUT making the “pop!” which never seemed very fun. Or fair. Isn’t the “pop!” half the celebration?!

    Cheers!

  • MFB Says:

    Laura Jane has it exactly right – you should grab the cork firmly and twist the bottle. I’m the gal to whom everyone I know gives the champagne/sparkling wine bottles to open. I worked a high end liquor store for a while during college and the wine manager there taught me. You can use a towel if you wish, but with this method, it’s not needed. I am 40 years old, and have been opening bottles of bubbly since I was 18 – NEVER had an accident/problem/explosion with this method. Good luck to all!

  • Kate Says:

    I waitressed in a very New England waterfront seafood restaurant during college, and though I could do a fairly serviceable job of spotting the popular cocktails of the 1960s by age 19 (we had the most fabulously sassy elderly ladies who would come in weekly and knock back multiple Manhattans, gimlets, or old fashioneds over lunch; loved them, despite the 12% tips), the restaurant was not a champagne kind of place. However, one insanely busy night, I received my first champagne order, and the bartenders were too busy to explain what to do, so I improvised. People in movies seemed to nudge the cork upward with their thumbs, so that’s what I did. It sounded like a gunshot, and the cork, of course, ricocheted right out of the dining room. Totally mortifying, but I learned the towel method that night and have put it to very good use ever since. Next up: sabrage!

  • Leslie Says:

    My favorite part of this is you Maggie! You look so instructional in the first picture, supportive, but backing off in the second and then thrilled in the last one. Great series.

  • joanna goddard Says:

    haha, aw, maggie, you are so cute!!! thanks for this sweet post and showing me how to pop Champagne. :) (and guess what? i popped a bottle of Prosecco last night! i kept your instructions in mind.) can’t wait to see you in San Francisco sometime in the future, hopefully sooner than later. xoxoxo joanna

  • Andrea Says:

    Almost forgot what blog I was at. *shakes head, widens eyes* (re: Cup of Jo).

  • Ashley, the Accidental Olympian Says:

    I am the sort of person who passes off the bottle, but now I’m inspired to give it a shot!

  • Anne Says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one to have hit my own mother in the head with a cork! To boot, it was the night before my oldest sister got married, and the cork hit my mom square on the forehead. And I’d opened many a bottle of champagne before (and since) then!

    So, anyway, yeah, I’ve opened champagne, but this business of having a party that includes a bath tub full of chilled bottles of bubbly? Might have to add THAT to my list!

  • Elizabeth Says:

    Maggie, I love love love your blue ruffle top.

  • misstraceynolan Says:

    I totally agree with @Leslie about the photos!

    When I would go to parties in high school and drink underage (and all the other kids were drinking beer) the only thing I liked was champagne (well, sparkling wine officially) and I taught myself to deal with the corks then. Thinking back, what a weird affectation for a teenager. Oi. Now, many years later, I’m still the official “corker” at every party I go to and proud to be. It’s a wonderful feeling to pop that cork!

  • Sally Says:

    I’m Australian, of course I have. Oh, not that we’re all alcoholics or anything, but we’re all pretty up on how to open all kinds of beverages. And, as a woman, cracking your own beer gives you cred Down Under. Just a little tip from me to you, if you happen to ever make it over here.

  • Kristen Says:

    Oh yes! I’d rather open a bottle of champagne over a bottle of wine, actually. Wine corks give me a hard time unless I get to use one of those fancy frog openers. Yay for being celebratory!

  • KarinNH Says:

    My son just taught me how to use a saber to open one. It worked perfectly, and now I am figuring I will never have that luck again!

  • Cynthia Says:

    Now that you’ve inspired so many, I highly second Kate’s suggestion of sabrage. It’s actually very easy, and there are lots of good how-to videos on the interwebs. You don’t need an actual saber, even the back of a butter knife will do. But definitely move people out of the way and direct towards a soft landing, since the cork with surrounding glass will come flying off in one big piece. Very fun and exciting!

  • Elly Says:

    I haven’t, actually, but I have hand feed stingrays (http://bit.ly/bGMg1X), which, lets be honest, is almost as scary. :)

  • Megan Says:

    Yep. Your goal is no foam and no flying corks taking out eyeballs or making babies cry.

    A life list goal for me is to learn how to open the bottle with a sword. Totally unnecessary – and bad for a good bottle of bubbly – but still a fun trick for New Years.

  • Claire Says:

    No! I never have… now I am determined to give it a go. I’m off to look it up on youtube. xx

  • NicoleT Says:

    Pre-baby, my husband and I would get champagne just because it was Friday, and we like to drink it. So needless to say, I got really good at opening anything bubbly with a cork.

    The “twist and grip” method (wherein you twist the bottle, not the cork) combined with a towel works very well. I have yet to lose a cork that way.

  • Diana Says:

    There’s something I just love about opening a bottle of the bubbly… My friends always hand me champagne bottles to be opened. The pop is almost as satisfying as having a glass… almost.

  • Gina Says:

    I am afraid to open those exploding biscuits!

  • Tessa Says:

    I opened my first bottle of champagne on my wedding night.
    It’s in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daVc9H1YyVE

    (pop @ the end!)

  • Ariel Says:

    I put on my life list to open a bottle of champagne with a sword.
    Why not?

  • jessica hulse Says:

    i learned hoe to open champagne with a sword last new years, it was awesome!

  • Beth Maycumber Says:

    Hooray for you that you taught her how to open a bottle of champagne! I was a waitress for years, and have opened many a bottle (I usually hold a cloth on top of the cork as I do so), and am almost always the person to do so at family or friends’ gatherings. It is a very satisfying skill to know!
    ps I love your life list- fantastic. Thanks!