Corkscrew Showdown: Waiter’s vs. Electric Style Wine Openers

Corkscrew Showdown: Waiter’s vs. Electric Style Wine Openers

Ask any wine connoisseur, and they’ll gladly tell you which is the best style wine opener and why. From no-fuss gas cork extractors to simple-yet-labor-intensive twist and pull corkscrews, everybody has their favorite—and the staff at Wine Enthusiast is no exception!

For Wine Director Josh Farrell, it’s the wine key, commonly referred to as the waiter’s friend. If you’ve ever ordered a bottle at a restaurant, your server or somm would have used this style corkscrew to uncork your wine table-side. And for our VP of Sales, Marshall Tilden III, the spector and simplicity of the electric opener can’t be beat. 

… Or can it?

For fun, we decided to pit these accessories against each other in a good, old fashioned wine bottle opening race. Call it our attempt at answering the decades old question, “Which is better: The newfangled tech, or the tried and true gadget?”

The race is on in the videos below!



Waiter’s Corkscrew vs. Electric Wine Opener

Of course, speed may not be the most important factor to you when shopping for a new wine opener. Assuming that’s the case, here are some other differences between the waiter’s key and automatic wine opener that may help you to make your decision:

Price

If budget is of utmost importance, that decision will be a simple one. Wine keys are the cheapest of all corkscrews, readily available for only a few bucks at your local drugstore or liquor store. Of course, the only value of those alternatives is in their convenience: For an attractive and durable wine key, expect to spend $30-70. Our catalog includes a curated selection of higher quality waiter’s style corkscrews, the Stag Horn Executive among them, ranging from $20 to upwards of $300.  

Electric bottle openers are often a bit pricier. On the lower end of the spectrum, you can find these gadgets at big box stores for $20 or $30. However, electric corkscrews with that “wow” factor can retail for hundreds a piece! Our 6-piece Electric Blue Pro Wine Opener doubles as a preserver and aerator, and costs a cool $99. 

Dexterity

Whether shopping for yourself or someone special, ease of use is likely top of mind. For this reason, you may find it helpful to know that wine-loving seniors and individuals who suffer from arthritis, wrist pain or a weakened grip tend to gravitate towards electric bottle openers. As Marshall said, electric corkscrews are undeniably the easiest to use!

Conversely, as Josh demonstrated, the waiter’s corkscrew can be artfully mastered with experience. It’s a favorite among bartenders and front of house staff who have plenty of practice opening prized bottles in front of patrons. That said, the wine key isn’t necessarily intuitive. These small implements can be tricky to get the hang of when using them for the first time (or even the first dozen times).

Space & Storage

The most obvious difference between waiter’s style and electric wine openers is size. If you’re short on storage space, this consideration will certainly come into play!

Wine keys are small, discreet, and easy to tuck into utensil drawers or other kitchen/bar organizers. Electric bottle openers typically require more room. The majority sit on display on countertops or reserve real estate in kitchen cabinets, however, there are a few fantastic options for wall and counter-mounted openers. 

If you prioritize space saving, the wine key is the way to go; but if you’re looking for a conversation starter to display or a grandiose gift to present, electric is the clear choice. 

Room for Error

If you haven’t used either style corkscrew before, both may seem intimidating in their own way. With an electric opener, success comes from the setup; with the wine key, you’ll need to adjust as you go for a clean open. 

Again, it’s worth impressing how much easier the electric corkscrew is to use than its manual counterpart. Automatic openers apply consistent pressure that make piercing and pulling up the cork nearly foolproof. Meanwhile, the wiggling and pumping motion required to force out the cork via wine key makes it much easier to rip the cork or pierce it through. Talk about a hosting faux pas!

Shopping for Wine Openers

There’s a reason why we offer only four specific wine opener styles in our catalog, out of the nearly dozen types of corkscrews from which there are to choose! Simply put, we value quality and practicality above all else in our bar tools, and believe our electric wine openers and waiter’s corkscrews offer plenty of both. 

If you have any questions about which wine opener is best suited for your needs, we invite you to get in touch with our experts through email, phone or online chat. We’d love to help you select your next wine accessory!

From his first sips of wicker basket Chianti at his grandfather’s dinner table to a 1986 Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin, Tilden knew that there was something magical about wine. He earned his Diploma in Wine and Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators. Having been with Wine Enthusiast catalog since 2005, when he is not writing about wine he also runs the wine storage division and is head of W.E.’s in-house education program.