It’s something you’d expect Tom to do in a Tom And Jerry cartoon. But ask 900,000 Britishers, and they will tell you that getting punched in the eye by a champagne cork is no funny matter. They should know because 12% of the UK’s entire population suffers from champagne-related injuries every year.
Before you start calling them a nation of party animals, know that the scenario isn’t much better in the United States either. Improperly aimed popping of champagne corks is one of the most common causes for celebrations-related eye injuries, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), and nearly half of these champer cork misadventures cause blindness in the eye that takes the hit.
When a small bottle stopper is suddenly released from 90 pounds of pressure — which is three times the pressure inside a typical car tire – it flies 50 miles an hour as it leaves the bottle. That’s enough impact to shatter glass! “Within a fraction of a second, you will have no chance of getting away or blinking,” says Dr. Thomas Steinemann, associate professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and spokesman for the academy.
It would seem that cork-popping is a skill that gets better as we get older because 18 to 34-year-olds cause way more incidents than the 50-year-olds and up. But why risk several more birthday parties as you wait to get to that age? Here is all that you need to know to pop corks like a pro and not end up in the ER:
- Chill the bottle for several hours before you’re going to uncork it because cold champagne is less likely to spurt. Experts say that the ideal temperature is between 39 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the bottle from the refrigerator with great care. Don’t jostle or shake the bottle.
- Hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle, making sure it’s pointing away from you and anyone else in the room. It helps to hold a napkin over the top of the cork to get a good grip and keep everything in place.
- Maintain this 45-degree angle as you firmly twist the bottle while holding the cork to break the seal. As the bottle turns, the cork will slowly ease out. Counter the force of the cork using slight downward pressure just as the cork breaks free from the bottle.
- Do not unscrew the safety wire before the bottle is pointed away from yourself and others. The worst injuries occur when the bottle is opened while looking directly at the cork so it hits the eye squarely.
- Do not pop the cork. Popping, instead of gently unscrewing the cork, forces the cork to burst out uncontrolled, increasing the chance of eye injury.
- Do not open the bottle close to a wall or a ceiling, as the cork can ricochet like a projectile.
- Never use a corkscrew to open a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine.