Your New Year's Eve Handbook
Essential advice for December 31, from the right way to pop a cork to the best strategy for handling tipsy guests.
How to Open a Bottle of Champagne
An airborne cork usually comes with a gush of Champagne, which is the quickest way to waste half a bottle and soak anyone in the vicinity. Tom Tiburzi, the head sparkling wine maker for Domaine Chandon
, explains how to avoid this scenario: To get a room-temperature bottle cold, chill it in a bucket of ice and water. By submerging the bottle up to its neck and keeping it out of the fridge, you can keep the cork from getting too cold—which is key to easy opening, since the stopper is treated with paraffin, and chilly temps make it stiff and difficult to remove. When you're ready to open, remove the foil and wrap one corner of a dry kitchen towel around the top of the bottle. With your hand on top of the towel, feel for the muselet (that's the wire hood covering the cork). Fold down the screw tab and make six half-turns to loosen it. Grip the cork and the muselet (with your hand still on top of the towel) and tilt the bottle 45 degrees—this gives the wine more surface area and the gas more space to move around so that when it does shoot out, it will do so with less force. Give the cork a little twist. If it's not budging, grab hold of the bottom of the bottle and turn that (it's bigger, giving you a mechanical advantage). You'll start to feel the pressure pushing the cork out. Very slowly, ease it out. You won't hear a "pop"—it'll be more like what Tiburzi calls "a sigh."