The Ever-Popular Old School Fröccs

5 minutes read

When the weather gets hot in Hungary, fröccs season is on. Fröccs (which translates as “spritzer”) is a refreshing mixture of soda water and wine, and the ultimate summer go-to drink in Hungary.  Wine puritans may scoff at the idea of diluting wine, but in Hungary (and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe), fröccs drinking is the best prescription to beat the heat.

While Magyar ingenuity is legendary, not many know that even the humble wine spritzer has its origins in Hungary. Inventor Ányos Jedlik (the creator of the world’s first electric motor) is said to have been the first one to devise a way to create soda water on an industrial scale in 1826, effectively leading to the beloved combination.

According to local lore, the term fröccs was later coined by poet Mihály Vörösmarty, who in the company of Jedlik, drank copious amounts of it … and even wrote a poem about the drink! By the late 19th and early 20th century it became a staple sold throughout the country—from Budapest’s many ritzy coffeehouses to the busy railroad stations—and was consumed by people of all walks of life. The term “fröccsözni” (to drink one or many wine spritzers) became as popular as the drink itself, appearing in the works of many of the era’s famous authors, including Sándor Bródy, Gyula Krúdy, Ferenc Molnár, and Sándor Márai.

Hungarians rapidly took to the fröccs, and after a process of experimentation, they developed a repertoire of more than 20 variations, which are based on differing proportions of wine and soda water. While wine spritzers may feel like a wishy-washy option for purists who may see it as a way of making a mediocre bottle more acceptable, there are many fine wines that are perfect source material for this undemanding drink. Sweet, full-bodied, barrel-aged, or wines with high minerality are usually not recommended for fröccs. Fruity, aromatic, and unoaked white wines work best.

A fröccs is usually made of white wine, but sometimes from rosé. A fail-safe option is a young white which is mildly fruity and provides crispness, vitality, and sharpness. The key is finding the balance between bubbles and wine, with neither one stealing the show. But the best idea is to do a little DIY experimentation and see which combo creates the most satisfying spritzer for to your taste. Irsai Olivér, olaszrizling and cserszegi fűszeres are a few popular options.

Spritzers are still big sellers at cheap pubs with no-name wine, but in Hungary, the general rule is where there is wine there is fröccs. And there are plenty of places in Budapest to explore the drink in its many creatively-named variations.

Don’t let this long fröccs list scare you away if the urge hits. You can’t go wrong with either a small fröccs (equal parts wine and soda) or a big fröccs (twice as much wine as soda). Don’t expect your fröccs to be served in a stemmed wine glass, or with a twist of lemon. In Hungary they are served in functional water glasses.

  • Kisfröccs (or Rövidlépés), “small fröccs” (or “small step”): l dl wine + l dl soda
  • Nagyfröccs (or Hajtás), “big fröccs” (or “rush”): 2 dl wine + 1 dl soda
  • Hosszúlépés, “big step”: 1 dl wine + 2 dl soda
  • Nagy házmester (or Háziúr), “head janitor” (or “landlord”): 4 dl wine + 1 dl soda
  • Házmester, “janitor”: 3 dl wine + 2 dl soda
  • Viceházmester (or Fordítottja), “assistant janitor” (or “his reverse”): 2 dl wine + 3 dl soda
  • Kis házmester (or Lakófröccs), “little janitor” (or “tenant fröccs”): 1 dl wine + 4 dl soda
  • Mafla, “klutz”: 5 dl wine + 5 dl soda
  • Sóherfröccs, “stingy fröccs”: 1 dl wine + 9 dl soda
  • Krúdy-fröccs,Krúdy-fröccs” (named for Gyula Krúdy): 9 dl wine + 1 dl soda
  • Pintes (or Csatos), “pint” (or “swingtop bottle”): 1 L wine + 5 dl soda
  • Lámpás, “lantern”: 1.5 L wine and 5 dl soda
  • Málnás frocks, “raspberry fröccs”: white wine + raspberry syrup + soda
  • Kass fröccs (or Tisza-fröccs), named for an artist whose innkeeper ancestors served this drink (Tisza is the name of both a river and a lake): red wine + sparkling wine
  • Kisvadász, “small hunter”: 1 dl red wine + 1 dl cola
  • Nagyvadász, “big hunter”: 2 dl red wine + 1 dl cola
  • Újházy-fröccs (named for late-18th/early-19th-century actor Ede Újházy): wine + juice from homemade fermented cucumbers (kovászos uborka)
  • Piszkos víz, “dirty water”: a glass in which wine has been served + water, for when funds are low

1 deciliter (dl) equals approximately 3.4 ounces or 100 ml.

Learn more about Hungary’s drinking culture (and drink fröccs) on Taste Hungary’s Ruin Bar Walk!


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