The Monarch Team first caught up with Albert Hammond Jr. on the night of his DJ set at Los Angeles’ Winston House. It was a rapturous pre-game celebration for This Ain’t No Picnic – a Rose Bowl festival headlined by his groundbreaking band, The Strokes.
Earlier that night, he served up cans of a newer labor of love: JETWAY, a vibrant and flavorful wine seltzer that is his homage to the Aperol Spritz. An international star who revitalized garage rock to stadium status, having a blast behind a kiosk that looked like Lucy’s psychiatrist stand from Peanuts. Seeing it was actually him, I saw a fan race home to get vinyl, hoping for a signature (he got one with a smile). It was a delicious way for Hammond to connect with dedicated fans… and make new ones too.
The first time I heard Hammond on guitar was “New York City Cops” – an urgent and angry punk protest that still pulses with humor and groove…
… which was hardly a track to prepare me to eventually meet him on a sun-soaked Bel-Air crest of the Santa Monica mountains. We talked bubbles – and savored some – in the midst of a peaceful garden. Nearby, the pristine infinity pool overlooked a view of palm trees stretching out as far as the downtown cityscape of Los Angeles in the distance. Multi-million-dollar mansions owned the mountain in every direction – all kept privately hidden by lush greenery, of course. Monarch thanks accomplished Wine Director and Head Sommelier, Max Coane, for the exquisite environs. It was a gorgeous place to meet Albert and learn all about JETWAY.
Live Your Adventure
Much of Albert’s life is travel, so it’s fitting that he was abroad when the dream of JETWAY first entered his mind. An Italian vacation gave him his first taste of Aperol Spritz – but it wasn’t just its flavor that inspired him; he longed for the way his group’s experience trying that drink together made them feel, “It’s good to have rituals. It has more meaning. There was a positive energy.” That idea of a drink uniting with a sense of togetherness. He wanted to create something that could do that.
Originally, the traveler in him imagined calling it JET, “Ideas start a bit of a mess, like songs. If you showed someone how their favorite song began, they might not even like it.” Then it crystalized that the ritual of togetherness was the “jet” he sought – and his beverage was actually the bridge to that plane. A JETWAY, “It’s a literal bridge to get on flights to adventure. I like the idea that the drink can be a bridge to something…”
In our interview, Albert gave props to a crowd member who asked him if the drink was “a social bridge” – a turn of phrase he hadn’t quite thought of. It hit the nail on the head, “It’s a social bridge to one of those good nights where you just kind of bond with everyone.”
To create that bridge, he first needed to bond with Ben Parsons, “My other half in completing this.” Parsons, now a Partner in JETWAY, founded The Ordinary Fellow Winery and was the creator of The Infinite Monkey Theorem – an innovative urban winery in Denver. Like Hammond once drove a renaissance in garage rock, Parsons became a market disruptor in the realm of canned wines. The innovators bonded, and their journey brought them to Four Feathers Vineyards.
With no sense of what the landscape would be, Albert traveled there with Parsons, his dog, and his then-pregnant wife… and was shocked to find similarity between the rocky grounds of Washington State and that of the Italian terrain where he first had his JETWAY dream. At Four Feathers, he was astounded by the “chemist’s office” of McKinley Dixon, their assistant winemaker. They dove into mixing a wide array of flavors until they came up with JETWAY’s first two offerings, both eclectic mixes of surprising ingredients. The white intrigues and refreshes the palate with elderflower and yuzu, while the rosé delights with the infused genius of orange peel and white peach. Both, however, are built around two flavors that Hammond recalls from his youth – making every drop of JETWAY a deeply personal creation for him…
Flavors From His Childhood
Both Yerba Mate and Ginger are flavors that take Albert right back to his roots. With a mother from Argentina, he recalls many a time drinking Yerba Mate through a straw with milk and sugar. The flavor is an instant throwback for Hammond and, in an adult beverage, he finds the Mate to have an uplifting quality that counteracts any “downer” effects of alcohol.
Fijian Ginger, as well as the Yuzu in the white, have the same effect – bringing to mind dinners with his parent’s Japanese best friends, “During Thanksgiving, I would have Shabu Shabu instead of Turkey.” Albert loves cooking, as well as pairing wines with food – now he does so with his own,
“I’ve had the white with Japanese food. I’ve had it with In-N-Out Burger. I would have the Rosé to end something like a dessert. My palate likes the nose of the Rosé. It has a peach aroma that’s so strong you think it’s going to be too sweet, but it’s more subtle…” Albert and his team have perfected the drink in every detail, even in love with its smell and color. He hopes to one day find a way to market JETWAY in ornate glass bottles to showcase it, “I’ve never seen canned seltzer have color like that – and smell good.”
The Can Is The New Juicebox
No part of the creation of JETWAY escaped Albert’s drive to make it just right. That goes for the logo on the can itself. To find that symbol, Hammond worked tirelessly with visual artist Lizzie Nanut – who did work on his solo record, “Momentary Masters.” She’s also the album designer for “Angles” by The Strokes. A dedicated and prolific creator, Nanut has a long history of creating for Hammond’s projects; everything from posters, single covers, and merch… and she’s now JETWAY’s art director.
Together, they tried everything – with that same dedication that powered the flavor search up at Four Feathers. They made a series of 48 cans that looked like 70s soft drinks, then an angular and clean “Third Wave Coffee” style that didn’t feel right either. Albert realized that he wanted the spirit of JETWAY to, in some ways, recall the Golden Age of travel… while also tapping into his deep love for MotoGP and Formula One. The final logo is inspired by the racecar, as Albert wanted “something classic and striking, like the Ferrari emblem.”
“Bigger Than Just The Drink”
At first, it made Albert nervous when asked about his next dreams for JETWAY’s future. It is, after all, still a new name on the scene. As he pondered the question, however, his eyes lit up with the possibilities. He would love to move on to limited edition runs – perhaps a fizzy and light red or a nonalcoholic option. He has so many versions of the can itself, that he’d love to create an original taste for each one.
JETWAY is also kegable. In fact, Albert calls drinking it out of a keg one of the “highlights of his life… this has to be kegged.” He’d love to extend that experience out to all, perhaps by venturing into a lifestyle element like a curated bar at the airport – sipping JETWAY as jets soar above.
Back on the ground, it’s a big dream of his to emblazon the can’s logo onto the hood of a Formula One car – he even has a checkered flag version of the can ready for the occasion. You can almost see Young Albert, sipping Yerba Mate with sugar and milk through a straw, delighted by it all. After pouring so much passion and drive into every can of JETWAY, Albert Hammond Jr. wants to pour that drink and see that logo fly all over the world. Like the can says, this is Albert’s way to “Live Your Adventure.”
For Kevin, being a writer has always required a great deal of wine. He never dreamed he’d be able to combine his love for the two. His screenwriting includes works for Paramount, MTV, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Bad Robot, and his role as Executive Story Editor on “Blood & Treasure,” an action adventure show on CBS and Amazon. Before that, his thirst for sketch comedy led to pieces for The Onion and National Lampoon – as well as the stages of UCB, HBO Workspace, Comedy Central Stage and festivals in San Francisco, NYC, Vancouver and beyond. He’s a write-at-home dad always ready for a winery road trip… especially a dog-friendly one.