The Perfect Mom Drink
Spritzers in Vienna
I’ve spent eight hours sitting rigid in an airplane seat, speeding uncomfortably through one night and a dawn. I haven’t slept, know I can’t sleep until the sun goes down if I want to stave off jet lag. But I’ve gone and done it: I’ve nodded off in the short-shorn grass of a Viennese park that’s flanked, eerily, by two enormous anti-aircraft bunkers built by the Nazis. In a few minutes, I’ll stumble 20 steps to a parkside gastropub called, fittingly enough, Bunkerei, to meet my friend Bernadette for a drink. The prospect is unwelcome. It seems likely that beer will be the drink of choice here, and after three sips of beer I know I’ll fall right back to sleep. This is no way to kick off the evening.
But amid all the glasses of bock and dark lager I see appearing on the tables of the pub when I finally make my way over, I spot something else: short, frosty glass mugs filled with pale, lemon-colored liquid.
“What are those?” I ask Bernadette as she flags a waiter.
“Spritzers,” she says. Then she clarifies: “White wine spritzers. There are red ones, too, but no one orders them. They’re weird.” Bernadette orders a Weisser gespritzer. Against my better judgment, I do, too.
For those of us Americans who experienced childhood in the ‘70s, a white wine spritzer is the epitome of the mom drink: a watery, vaguely sour-flavored beverage imbibed by women trying to keep the reins on public tipsiness. I’ve never drunk a whole one before, only a few sips of my own mother’s as a child, which were enough to put me off spritzers, I thought, forever, even (especially?) when I became a mom myself.
But when I taste the spritzer set in front of me this evening, I’m surprised. It’s not only welcomingly cold and fizzy, it’s actually flavorful: zesty, full-bodied, and yes, delicious. It goes down quick and easy and as soon as it’s gone, I order up another. All around me, Viennese parents are ordering second and third spritzers, chain smoking (smoking!) as their tots run amok in the park, laughing and sitting cross-legged on chairs and sharing plates of sausages. I lift my mug to Bernadette and smile. I am awake and unspeakably comfortable here.
Later in my trip, a drinks expert at another, fancier gastropub will explain the importance of mixing a high-acid wine like Grüner Veltliner with soda water in order to achieve a spritzer worth drinking. He’ll send out wine glasses full of elegant infusions: spritzers tinged with Suze and Nardini Rosso and named after Kaisers. I like these just fine. But I spend my week in Vienna trying to recreate that first evening at Bunkerei, when I knew I had found my own, perfect mom drink.
Photo by: Bernadette Reiter