My best friend is a waiter’s friend

The year is 2003 and I had just begun working at the Charlotte Street Hotel working as a bartender. The customer orders a ‘dry, white wine’ (for the lady, of course) and I have to go for my trusty friend to open a new bottle.

Tucked just on the top of my long black apron that falls a few inches from my feet, catching every bit of dirt that falls off the wrong side of the bar, I pull my sommelier knife into action.

Going back to the beginning, this so-called trusty friend of mine was designed by the German Karl Wienke in 1882 and patented a year later. Often called a Sommelier Knife, the waiter’s friend has been reproduced countless times and redesigned even more times. I am a huge fan of its simplicity and wince everytime I see someone produce an over-designed, grotesquely over-priced modern equivalent of a bottle opener.


With very little effort, the waiter’s friend can open bottles and be tucked away neatly after use. With recent changes to bottling, involving screw-caps will mean the waiter’s friend will be needed less and less. I am also a fan of screw-caps as this eliminates corked wine, but I am sad to have fewer opportunities to use my waiter’s friend.

All I dread now is the many contraptions that will be designed to make opening a screw-cap easier. Oh dear lord.


Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.

1 Comment

  • Sabina says:

    The Waiter’s Friend is definitely a friend when it comes to opening bottles of wine with a cork that seals the bottle, and I’m surprised actually at how many people don’t actually know how to use one – I went to a dinner party and the host had no clue how to open the wine bottles we had brought to the party. I would recommend the following video, for people (unlike yourself!) who don’t know how to open a bottle with a Sommeliers Knife! Open a bottle of wine with a waiters friend.

    There are, these days many more screw top wine bottles, which agreed does remove the corked element from drinking wine – however the satisfying “pop” sound of an opening a new wine bottle of wine is going to disappear too, which would be an equal shame!

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