2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

The Perfect Mom Drink

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

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