The wine spritzer is a summer staple from a simpler time. No, I'm not talking about the 1800s in Hungary, where the spritzer is rumored to have been born. I'm talking about the 1990s in ole US of A, when your aunts wore floral denim shorts and talked about one day buying a beach house over bottles of Bartles & Jaymes because it was the fucking 90s and people could actually buy beach houses.
And it was that place of beach dreams and neon-colored refreshments that I wanted to recreate when I contacted Josh Rosenstein of Hoxie Spritzer to help me come up with an awesome summer spritzer recipe for MUNCHIES.
Because I definitely couldn't do it on my own. I'm the kind of person who just poured week-old gamay, topped it with sparkling water, chewed up a strawberry, spit it into the glass, and joyfully drank it because I am a monster. Josh, on the other hand, is the man of the hour when it comes to spritzing. The modest professional cook (he refuses to be called a chef), who has worked for heavy hitters like Suzanne Goin, has taken his love of fresh farmers market ingredients to his wine-mixing. All-natural and all-delicious, Hoxie spritzers are the Los Angeles wine scene's new craze, popping up everywhere from Silverlake Wine to the ACE Hotel to my fridge.
I gave Josh the descriptors of "super-fucking summery," "Bartles & Jaymes," and "90s aunts" and he came up with a concoction he calls the MMM, which stands for "Marissa, Midori, and Melon." I drank like eight of them over lunch while I asked him about the finer points of making spritzers.
MUNCHIES: Hi, Josh. You typically work with food. How did you get into making spritzers? Josh Rosenstein: When you're in the kitchen cooking, you don't have access to the alcohol behind the bar. But there's always the cooking wine. An older chef, this guy Nick, taught me to make a spritzer with the cooking wine. The wine was pretty shitty, so we had to make it taste good. We'd add citrus or whatever was around. If it's brunch service, we take all the scraps of fruit and throw that in a deli cup with wine, and add some soda water. Gotta hydrate when you're sweating in a kitchen all day.
So it started with these kitchen spritzers [when I was] a kid in New York ages ago. But out here, I got so into the farmer's markets. I think that farmer's markets are so special. The farmers work so hard and they have these beautiful, seasonal flavors. I take a lot of pride in using these types of ingredients in my kitchen, so naturally they made it into my kitchen spritzers.
I started making them for friends, and everyone just really liked them, and encouraged me to bottle them.
One time I tried to make a red wine sangria spritzer by putting it in my Sodastream—even though it definitely says not to do that—and I thought I was a genius and it totally exploded and looked like I murdered someone in my kitchen.
What makes a good spritzer? A spritzer needs to be sessionable. My friend and amazing bartender, Simon Ford, introduced me to that word—meaning you can have multiples of something. You can session it! Spritzers also need to be dry so as soon as you drink it, you want more. It's really important to not go too sweet. Something can be so delicious for one sip, but you have to think about whether you'd want to have 20 sips of it. It becomes overwhelming. It should almost be not perfect. That's not to say it shouldn't be delicious, but if it's perfect, it becomes precious—and precious isn't sessionable.
Let's say a normal-ass person such as myself has a bottle of wine. What would be in a normal-ass person's fridge that is always good for a spritzer? I think about it like cooking, and it's all about layering flavors. No matter what, though, you most likely have a lemon or a lime, and you're going to need that. For red wine, a lemon cuts through the richness or sweetness. Let's not get crazy but let's look in our spice cabinet, and maybe its peppercorns or cinnamon. It becomes reminiscent of mulled wine or sangria, especially if you have some oranges to throw in there as well. White wine is already dry, so you're going to want to make it a little sweeter. You want to find the balance—you know, that umami. With white wines, it's always good to think of a cocktail you like, like a margarita. You have your white wine, a lime, an orange, some tequila for an earthy flavor…
Wait, mixing wines with hard liquor is chill? Totally! If I could do it with Hoxie, I would. It's just a huge pain in the ass legally.
So, what's your favorite wine and liquor combination? Gin. It's not so overpowering that you will still taste the wine but it has that juniper, herbal quality.
One time I tried to make a red wine sangria spritzer by putting it in my Sodastream—even though it definitely says not to do that—and I thought I was a genius and it totally exploded and looked like I murdered someone in my kitchen. Any other definite no-nos when it comes to making spritzers? I've done that too! And there is a way you can do it, but it takes a lot of time. You have to be slow and let it sit. There's a whole technique—but generally, no, no Sodastreams. I don't like to have rules, but you know, don't add fat [laughs]. Uh, thyme extract is really gross [laughs]. Like I said, I don't like rules! There's no rules to spritzing!
Just like Outback Steakhouse. Yes. Except just don't ever use a cutting board that has ever touched garlic or onion.
Ever?! What if I only have one cutting board and I cut onions on it three weeks ago? Smell it. Always smell it. Stick it to your face and make sure you can't smell anything gross. Because if you can smell it, it will show up in the spritzer. I love garlic. And there may be a place for garlic in spritzer…
I don't know. People love getting drunk and making out, and a garlic spritzer does not seem like it would be good for making out. True. We should probably stick to dreamy flavors.
Is "dreamy" your go-to for flavors? That isn't necessarily what I'm thinking when I'm picking flavors, but I do believe a spritzer should take you somewhere. It should put you on vacation. And maybe its somewhere you've never been and it feels more like a dream. It's that happy place that we can't necessarily go to. Even if you have the means, it doesn't mean you can just get up and go. A spritzer can take you there.
Thanks for speaking with me, Josh.