A bottle opening hack we did not attempt. Flickr/florriebassingbourn

5 ways to rescue the in-office happy hour when the wine key goes missing.  

If your office is anything like CityLab's, there's always a bottle of wine stashed in someone's desk. Office booze has a long tradition in journalism: Toasts to award-winning or retiring colleagues, schmoozy happy hours, any given Friday around 5 p.m.

But what if the worst happens? What if there is no corkscrew to be found? Who will save the day with MacGyver-esque improvisation? Thanks to the exhaustive research of CityLab Labs, it could be you.

We assembled five items commonly found around the office (or its bicycle garage) and put them to the test. Peruse our scientific guide and consider your options the next time you and your officemates are caught sober, thirsty, and unprepared.

* * *



Humankind has been drinking variations of wine for about 9,000 years. The drink dates all the way back to the Neolithic age. So why not go the way of cavemen and force a bottle open with a crude tool: A Sharpie marker.

Sit down and place the bottle on your lap. Then jam that Sharpie down into the cork until it shoots into the bottle. (Hazard note: You may splash your pants.)

After only seven seconds, our $2 Sauvignon Blanc was flowing. Is there anything a Sharpie can't do?

Verdict: Fast but not fancy.



The goal here is to use a key in a way similar to how a corkscrew functions: Stick the key into the cork at a 45-degree angle, then slowly twist the cork around and up with the key. It works pretty well in this video. Alas, it was not so easy for us.

While initially forcing the key into the cork, the cork popped halfway down the neck of the bottle and became stuck. Once again, the Sharpie saved the day: With a quick push, the cork moved down into the bottle, finishing the job.

Verdict: Just use a Sharpie.



An emergency corkscrew can allegedly be rigged up with two paperclips and a pen. (Here is a video of a guy successfully using one in his office.) These are the steps:

  • Straighten the paper clips.
  • Slide them down the neck of the bottle, along the sides of the cork.
  • Fasten the tops of the paperclips together around a pen, which will be the "handle."
  • Pull up on the cork.

So we tried it. For over two and a half hours. The result?

Two hands that look like they went through a pricker bush (even while wearing safety gloves) and a few marks on the cork. About 20 paperclips were sacrificed in the process, but no wine was forthcoming.

Verdict: This is a terrible hack. Especially when you already have a Sharpie.



"Um, are you trying to open that wine with a shoe?," a colleague at The Atlantic asked while I was standing in the office stairwell with safety goggles on and one sock exposed, looking like a weirdo. Yes, I was, because this is one of the most publicized methods to hack a bottle of wine without a proper opener.

How-to videos (here and here) detail the process: Put the butt of the wine bottle in your shoe, then firmly-but-carefully bang the shoe on a wall. (Note: There is a real danger of the bottle breaking, so wear proper protection if attempting.) Over time—a long, long time—the force will inch the cork out of the bottle.

(Not) Opening a Bottle of Wine With a Shoe from CityLab on Vimeo.

After seven minutes of doing just that, my arms quickly felt like spaghetti. The cork had moved up, but only by a mere quarter-inch.

Verdict: Sharpie wins again.



Many offices have a tire pump in the building's bicycle room or garage. And who wouldn't want to use one to try to make a cork fly out of a wine bottle? Just imagine your office legacy.

To do this, you (again, wearing appropriate safety gear) attach a needle to the pump and stick it down through the cork. A few strong and steady pumps should shoot the cork from the bottle. And it worked! Eventually.

(Not) Opening a Bottle of Wine With a Bike Pump from CityLab on Vimeo.

On our first attempt, the needle, sadly, remained lodged in the cork as the rest of the pump flew away from the bottle.

(Kind Of) Opening a Bottle of Wine With a Bike Pump from CityLab on Vimeo.

On the second try, the pump stayed intact, slowly filling the bottle with air. After about 6 minutes of pumping, the cork had dislodged enough that it could be yanked out by hand with a satisfying Pop! Ssssssss. Cheap wine had turned into cheap, briefly sparkling wine.

Verdict: Probably the most entertaining option, if your office does have a pump on hand. This will probably seem like a much better option after consuming the first bottle of wine. But there's always that Sharpie.

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