The Return of the Wine Spritzer, Now More Open-Minded Than Ever

Recently, we learned that just about the worst thing a person could ever do in a bar is to—I don't even want to say it—order that foul concoction, the mojito. Whatever to drink instead? 

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Recently, we learned that just about the worst thing a person could ever do in a bar is to—I don't even want to say it—order that foul concoction, the mojito. If one dared to go there, we were warned by The New York Post, one should expect immediate dishonor at the bar, the unvarying ill opinion of the bartender, and quite likely be told "NO!" or receive unfresh mint springs in one's glass, which might be unwashed. But what to drink instead? We were left adrift, without answers. What do we order, New York Post, if we can't order the mojito?

Today, finally, answers. Spritzers! Yes, spritzers are where it's at. Not the boring old (possibly) booze-free spritzers allegedly consumed by media types on the job. These are spritzers—wine with soda water, and, if you're getting fancy, other flavor infusions, too—with the ever-so-slightest of kicks. They're spritzers with an attitude. These are not your Aunt Lois' Bold and the Beautiful-watching spritzers. These are spritzers for a new generation. As Dana Schuster writes in The New York Post, in a delightfully effervescent piece headlined "Puttin' on the Spritz":

“They’re awesome!” exclaims the burly, tattooed spritzionado, who says there’s nothing girlie about the bubbly quencher.

Those are the words of Matthew Hamilton, chef-owner of Fort Greene's Lulu & Po, de facto headquarters of the Bring Back the Spritz movement. He considers the drink "Americana," and perhaps he's right; elderly aunts around these United States do consume them with relish while watching soaps! But this is not an anti-spritzer piece. I, too, am pro-spritzer, though perhaps for different reasons than Hamilton—I am also pro-mojito, and pro any drink that people order that is not what I prefer to drink, because, well, different drinks for different folks, right? But why is all of New York City—"everyone from bro-ish bankers to downtown party kids to Vilebrequin-loving prepsters"—currently in love with the spritzer, according to Schuster? Why are some bars even offering wine spritzers on tap?

Simplicity! Economy! Moderation. Hydration. Per Schuster:

“They’re very versatile . . . very clean, very food-friendly. They’re refreshing. They’re less alcoholic, and you drink less, which is always a good thing; people in New York drink enough,” [Eduard Frauneder, chef-owner of Edi & the Wolf] adds with a laugh.

Spritzer sales are up (Frauneder says 20 percent), perhaps due to the popularity of his "Mercedes of the spritzers ... made with white wine, elderflower syrup, soda water, mint, lemon and two dehydrated roses." Nothing says refreshing like dehydrated flowers.

But that's not all. Spritzers are also "very European,” "delicious," have a "kitsch factor" (but in a good way--"It goes back to that notion that anything that is perceived as unpretentious is cool," explains Epicurious' Tanya Wenman Steel). At the same time, a sector has clearly gone high-end, featuring orange peel, hibiscus, ginger soda, jalapeno, and special sodas. There are aspirational, artisanal spritzers, your "Spritztisanals"; and then there are old-school Dixie cups of wine with some cubes and a bit of seltzer—there's a spritzer for everyone. You can even share 'em! Some snooty folks, wary of the spritzer name, are calling them "Fizzes" instead, but we all know exactly what they are. Spritzers are taking the seriousness out of wine and giving that stodgy old Chardonnay a noogie. Schuster writes:

“Wine for so long was so serious,” says David Lombardo, the beverage director for Landmarc and Ditch Plains restaurants, who, yes, drinks wine spritzers beachside to the shock of his summer guests. “People would be embarrassed because they thought you can’t add anything to wine. It was supposed to be the most sacred, purist thing in the world. And it is. It’s wonderful and fantastic. But I think people are more willing to experiment and to take a chance.”

The other thing about spritzers, for which they must be truly commended, is their work in fighting sexist stereotypes. While a couple of men quoted by Schuster express concerns that "no real man drinks a wine spritzer," others, tattooed and burly, say the opposite. Just as girls can and should drink single-malt whiskey, or chug a hoppy beers, as they see fit, a spritzer is not a drink to be lashed to gender normative stereotypes. Spritzers are for all of us. All hail the spritzer, and the men and women who love them.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.