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Bar Tools, Glassware, Corkscrews

Claire Bretecher, a profound French cartoonist, once drew this pathetic, wordless sequence: She is lying on her mattress on the floor, bawling her eyes out, while his scowling memory hovers in a thought balloon overhead. She gathers her strength, pulls herself together, rises, and boots the scoundrel out of her mind. Resolved, she marches determinedly into the kitchen, takes a bottle of wine from the small rack under the counter, and, newly confident, threads a simple, T-shaped corkscrew into the bottle. For the next five frames she struggles vainly with the cork, wedging the bottle between her knees and yanking, holding it on the floor between her feet and pulling. Dismayed, she carries the bottle back to her mattress, corkscrew lodged tight in the unbudging cork, and again begins bawling while his scowling image reappears overhead.

You know the feeling. It has happened to you, man or woman. It has happened when the boss came to dinner, in a hotel room, or on a picnic. It need never happen again.

Where Bretecher’s woman screwed up was not by choosing the wrong man, but by choosing the wrong corkscrew. That simple, T-shaped device is frustration incarnate. Samuel Henshall, who patented it in 1795, should be immortalized in the wax museum beside the Marquis de Sade.

A replacement is necessary, because in this age of microchips and rocketships, most fine wines are sealed with a plug of resilient, spongy wood cut from the bark of the Quercus suber, more commonly known as the cork oak tree.

Cork hugs the glass neck of the bottle with tenacity. When kept moist by the wine in a reclining bottle, corks can last 25 years or more before they have to be replaced.

So if you have acquired the civilized habit of a refreshing glass of wine with your meal, here are a few tips on selecting and using cork pullers.

Tips on technique

Once you have a good corkscrew, there are a few pointers you should know for smooth operation.

  1. The first step is to prepare yourself mentally. Breathe deeply, and repeat three times, “I am smarter than the cork.”
  2. Then peel away all the foil or plastic capsule and wipe the top. Mold and other gunk hang out on cork tops and can give the wine an odd taste.
  3. Keep your tip sharp. Sharp tips on corkscrews prevent cork bits in the wine.
  4. Make sure the tip of your corkscrew is aligned with the rest of the helix so that it is not boring its way down while the rest of the helix is tearing a wide hole. Always insert the helix in the center of the cork and be certain it is going straight in.
  5. If something goes wrong, stop and think. Remember that you are smarter than the cork. Do not force the issue. If only half the cork is coming out, screw the helix in deeper. If it is pulling out the center only, remove the corkscrew and drill another hole where you can start over again, or screw the helix down the side and try to pull it from there.

Choose your weapon

The T-shaped Henshall screw is a worthless piece of junk. Right now, get up and go into your kitchen and throw yours out. The good news is there are several designs for corkscrews that work flawlessly. A few are even idiot-proof. You would not cut your lawn with a pair of scissors, and neither should you try to pull a cork with a device originally designed to remove perfume stoppers. Go out and buy a real cork remover. There are three features to look for when selecting a cork remover.

  1. Worms not augers. The part which is inserted into the cork should be a helix formed from a heavy wire that looks like a coiled worm. These wire worms do not tear the cork as they wind through it. Augers, whose thread is more like a screw, tear corks and should be avoided.
  2. Mechanical advantage. The device should give you a mechanical advantage with levers, gears, or screws. Its design should translate a gentle motion on your part to forceful action on the cork.
  3. Wide and long. Make sure the worm is wide enough and long enough to get a good grip on the whole cork. Narrow worms tend to pull out only the center of the cork, while worms shorter than 1.75″ only screw through part of a long cork, and often tear it in half.

I have personally used all of these devices many many times.

Other Bar Necessities

Here’s a list of what you need to make sure you can make professional quality drinks and serve them in style. For some drink ideas, visit my drink recipes pages.

DIY Cocktails

By:

Meathead

A quality cocktail recipe book is a must for any home bar and one of our favorites is "DIY Cocktails: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Drinks" by Marcia Simmons and Jonas Halpren. DIY Cocktails is based on categories and ratios so we can understand the concepts of what the elements of a balanced mix.

Bar Tools, Glassware, Corkscrews

By:

Meathead

Recommended tools and glassware for maintaining a bar at home.

Bar Necessities: The Right Muddler For Mojitos And More

By:

Meathead

Many classic drinks such as mint juleps and mojitos use fresh mint leaves. More modern drink recipes use herbs such as basil. To extract their flavors they are placed in the shaker or glass and crushed with a mini-baseball bat called a muddler, a must if you enjoy mojitos and other muddled cocktails.

Bar Necessities: Discovering Schrafft’s Luncheonette Glass

By:

Meathead

Schrafft's Luncheonette-Style Glass with Holder Gift Box Set of 2) are a wonderful addition to your home glassware collection. These nearly-forgotten glasses, supported by gleaming stainless-steel holders and accompanied by elegant, long-handled spoons, are perfect for milkshakes, ice cream sodas, or hot rum drinks.

Corkscrews: The Winged Screw Reviewed

By:

Meathead

When it comes to selecting the right corkscrew, there are countless design options available in the market. One type that I recommend is the winged corkscrew. It has two wing-like levers that pull the cork up through its frame when they are depressed, and they are very inexpensive, usually under $10.

Corkscrews: The Ah-so, Don’t Let The Funny Name Fool You

The ah-so device is one of the most unique tools for removing a cork and was once the rage in California. The device has two prongs that are wiggled between the cork and the bottle neck, and with a quick twisting motion, easily yanks the cork out of the bottle without puncturing the cork. Most of the time.

Corkscrews: Don’t Do The Double Screws

By:

Meathead

The double screw style corkscrew is one to avoid. The double screw is so-called because it removes the cork by screwing the helix into the cork and then a latch is thrown so a thread around the top helix pulls it out.

Corkscrews: Electric Corkscrews Are An Interesting Option

The Oster battery operated wine opener is a really clever device. With the touch of a button it can open 30 bottles between charges.

Corkscrews: Pump Style Corkscrews Reviewed

The compressed air hypodermic cork remover looks like a giant needle to be inserted through the cork. The "syringe" part is like a bicycle pump, and pumps air into the bottle until the internal pressure pushes the cork out. While they usually work fine, they can break off in the cork in the bottle or worse.

Corkscrews: The Classic Waiter’s Lever

By:

Meathead

The waiter's lever is still popular with bartenders and restaurant staffs. It is compact and folds up like a pocket knife. Its handle is hinged and one end has a fulcrum which rests on the bottle lip. Newer models like this one uses a 2-step lifter that improves leverage.

Bar Necessities: Selecting The Right Champagne Flutes

By:

Meathead

If you enjoy champagne and/or sparkling wine, quality champagne flutes are an important addition to your home bar. These tall slender glasses not only look elegant, they retain the fizz longer.

Bar Necessities: The Best Cocktail Shaker Kit

By:

Meathead

Cocktail shakers often come as a kit with all the tools you'll need. Our favorite among the countless cocktail shaker kits is one from Libbey, featuring a 20 ounce glass mixing glass, stainless steel shaker, and stainless steel Hawthorn-style cocktail strainer. It's dishwasher safe, although hand washing is best.

DIY Cocktails

By:

Meathead

A quality cocktail recipe book is a must for any home bar and one of our favorites is "DIY Cocktails: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Drinks" by Marcia Simmons and Jonas Halpren. DIY Cocktails is based on categories and ratios so we can understand the concepts of what the elements of a balanced mix.

Bar Necessities: Choosing The Right Beer Glasses, Mugs, Tankards, And Steins

By:

Meathead

No bar would be complete without quality glassware including beer glasses, mugs, tankards, and steins. Here is as assortment of some of our favorite choices for your bar glassware collection including where to purchase them.

Bar Necessities: Discovering Schrafft’s Luncheonette Glass

By:

Meathead

Schrafft's Luncheonette-Style Glass with Holder Gift Box Set of 2) are a wonderful addition to your home glassware collection. These nearly-forgotten glasses, supported by gleaming stainless-steel holders and accompanied by elegant, long-handled spoons, are perfect for milkshakes, ice cream sodas, or hot rum drinks.

Bar Necessities: The Right Wine Glasses For The Job

By:

Meathead

When it comes to selecting the right wine glasses, simple all-purposes glasses are just fine. All you truly need is an opening wide enough so your nose fits in when you sip and dishwasher safe with a stem that fits. I know the wine snobs will cringe, but I never bought into the need for a broad array of glasses.

Bar Necessities: Our Favorite Martini Glasses

By:

Meathead

Elegant martini glasses add a touch of class to any cocktail party. Unlike most bar glassware, martini glasses have become an art form. Some are quite elegant, whimsical, even spectacular. I have about 20, no two alike, so people can sit them down and remember which is theirs. Here is my favorite among them all.

Bar Necessities: Exceptional Collins and Rocks Glasses

By:

Meathead

You've stocked your bar with all of the right liquors and bar tools but now you need the right glassware including two of the most important pieces of a collection -- Collins glasses and rocks glasses. Here is our favorite 16 piece collection. They're heavy and clunky, but hard to break, and I love the cool retro look.

Bar Necessities: Selecting A Properly Designed Wine Decanter

By:

Meathead

If you are a wine enthusiast then owning a well designed wine decanter is a must, but that doesn't have to mean the most expensive one. You want a wine decanter with a wide mouth, large capacity, steady base, and a good pouring lip. They can be used to aerate young wines or for pouring off sediment that forms with age.

Bar Necessities: The Right Muddler For Mojitos And More

By:

Meathead

Many classic drinks such as mint juleps and mojitos use fresh mint leaves. More modern drink recipes use herbs such as basil. To extract their flavors they are placed in the shaker or glass and crushed with a mini-baseball bat called a muddler, a must if you enjoy mojitos and other muddled cocktails.

Bar Necessities: Adding A Citrus Juicer To Your Home Bar

By:

Meathead

There are few things better than fresh citrus in your cocktail. This stainless steel juicer is an elegant and effective way of juicing citrus, thereby making it a valuable addition to your bar or kitchen.

Bar Necessities: Selecting The Right Bar Spoon

By:

Meathead

Long and slender with a spoon at one end and tines on the other, the bar spoon is a very handy multi-function tool for any home bar. Here is one of favorites which, as a bonus, comes with a muddler for muddling mint, fruit and so much more.

Bar Necessities: Reviewed Oxo Cocktail Strainer

By:

Meathead

A cocktail strainer is a valuable addition to any bar and the Hawthorn-style cocktail strainer from OXO is a great choice. It fits over the top of a cocktail shaker, keeping ice and seeds out of your drink. It has a short handle for storing, and a slightly raised lip to make pouring easier with less spillage.

Bar Necessities: Choosing The Right Measuring Shot Glass

By:

Meathead

The best cocktails are accurately measured and mixed and that means owning a quality measuring shot glass. Sadly, the numbers wash off many of the glass measures so the tried and true metal two sided jigger from reliable Oxo with measurement etched into the stainless steel and a non-slip grip is the best choice.

Corkscrews: The Foil Cutter (a.k.a. Foil Mohel)

Perfectly remove the foil from wine bottles with a foil cutter. Screwpull makes one of these handy tool to cut the foil off the bottle so you can clean the top nice and neat.

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Published On: 5/14/2019 Last Modified: 4/24/2021


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