Don’t be the idiot in the picture: the guy who wrecks an entire bottle of bubbles — and his hostess’s new couch — because he believes that corks should fly across the room with a pop like cannon fire. I know, I know: it looks kind of baller when a cork comes soaring out of the bottle and the champagne foams everywhere, but the truth is that plenty of things that look cool in music videos are actually wildly incorrect or impractical in real life: holding a gun sideways, powder fights, jumping into fountains in formal dress, riding on the hood of a car, and carrying gigantic bags of loose cash. Opening a bottle so that the cork soars and the foam sprays everywhere is the champagne equivalent of revving the engine and popping the clutch at a stoplight (which is hell on your transmission, by the way). This behavior doesn’t impress the ladies, but it does wreck the carbonation and aromas of the bottle you just purchased. Plus, you can put somebody’s eye out with that thing, as your mom would say — or at least break some expensive glassware.
Just as importantly, don’t be the girl who is scared to open the bottle and always asks a guy to do it: popping a bottle of sparkling is a fun, scene-stealing moment at a New Year’s party, and you can relish it just as much as any dude.
Follow these simple steps and you too can learn how to not open a bottle like a jackass:
1. Chill the bottle. The pop-and-spray phenomenon happens when you either shake a bottle up or open a too-warm bottle. Champagne should be served at 45 degrees, which takes about three hours in the refrigerator or 30 minutes in an ice bucket (protip: throw some kosher salt and water into the ice bucket to create a slushy ice mixture that will encourage your bottle to chill faster). Unless you’re drinking really low-end sparkling wine, avoid putting the bottle in the freezer to speed up the process — this can break down the aroma.
2. Remove the foil with a knife. Next, twist off the cage by spinning the little handle counter-clockwise. You can leave the cage on the counter rather than pitching it immediately — champagne detritus looks kind of glamorous left out at a party. Now for the hard part: some people think it’s best to employ towels in this endeavor, and if your bottle just came out of an ice bucket instead of a refrigerator, it makes sense to use two regular-sized tea towels, one in each hand. Otherwise, you can wrangle a bottle bare-handed:
3. Grip the shoulder of the bottle (the top slope where the neck slides into the body) with one hand while covering the cork completely with the palm of your dominant hand. Rotate the bottle counterclockwise while you press the cork down — like you’re trying to push it back into the bottle — and slowly twist your dominant hand clockwise. Once you feel the pressure building, slow down even further, and ensure that you have a good grip: when it’s ready, the cork will pop out gently into the palm of your hand, emitting a satisfying but elegant crack and a little plume of white fog. Less showy, but more refined than a huge jet of sparkling.
4. If you have flutes, break them out — pour the wine along the inside of the glass, rather than straight into the bottom to help preserve the bubbles. While champagne bowls are great for champagne cocktails, they let the fizz out more quickly, so reserve those for when you’re mixing a cheaper sparkling with other flavors.
5. Toast the new year!