Never turn all the water into wine. Leave some for fröccs later


In a country where there is almost nothing else is as plentiful as good wine and natural sparkling water, fröccs is a self-evident and inevitable product of the imagination of many a good man trying to survive the blasted Hungarian summer heat regularly soaring in the high thirties.

Having mentioned it in my previous post, it has now become a duty to finish what I started and explain what fröccs is. The pleasant onomatopoeia was introduced into the Hungarian language by no less than celebrated poet Mihály Vörösmarty during the language reform in the early 1840s. It’s pretty much the literal translation of Spritzer, and it is pretty much the same thing too. So what makes it Hungarian besides the fact that the proportion of vowel and consonants is a staggering 1:5?

Image from oreganeniked.hu

Maybe there is no other drink as unpretentious, yet such a bone of contention for many. Everyone has insufferable friends that one pretends not to know when they start lecturing part-time waiters about the importance of proportion and the various lexical niceties that come with them. What’s more, every fröccs drinker has a fröccs pedant within. Scary stuff…

Okay, so here is some history/urban legend: yes, carbonated water was invented by English clergyman Joseph Priestley, who is close to my heart because he lived in Leeds and he now has a statue about ten minutes walk from our Leeds home! There’s also a blue plaque commemorating his service in Mill Hill Chapel nearby.

Photo of plaque

Priestley’s unpopular views (supported the French Revolution) caused his home and chapel being burned in 1791, and soon after this he moved to Pennsylvania in 1794.  Remember that he was a friend of Benjamin Franklin, and, like Franklin himself, he too was experimenting with electricity before turning his full attention to chemistry in the 1770s. He discovered oxygen for one thing, so he was kind of a big deal. These things are important, especially if you plan to compete in The Chase or enter one of them superhard ITV phone competitions in the future.

The thing with carbonated water is that it was an arduous task to make and it tasted bad, which could have elevated the new drink to occupy a prestigious place somewhere between Goldschlager and fermented mare’s milk, but it just didn’t. The nagging problem of the difficulty of making soda water was taken on by multitalented inventor Ányos Jedlik. Jedlik,being Hungarian, probably had ample amounts of naturally carbonated water at his disposal, but liked a challenge. He is most well-known for inventing the dynamo, and went on to invent the world’s first soda bottle and immediately started putting it to good use.

Anecdotal evidence holds that Jedlik first introduced his new invention at a friendly gathering of Hungarian greats at Andras Fay’s Fót estate near the outskirts of Budapest. He thought Spritzer would do for a name, but the poet Vörösmarty knew better than that. The fröccs was thus born and the guests probably ended up less drunk that day than they would have without the magic bubbles.

This is enough history, let’s see the scientific recipes that shroud the fröccs in mystery and free the lurking pedant in many otherwise normal bar punters. While there are many non-wine varieties (such as the Postman: double espresso with a shot of rum), here is your essential guide to the world of basic wine fröccs.

Name Alternative names English translation Wine (x 0.1 litre) Soda water (x 0.1 litre) Soda water (%)
alpolgármester   deputy mayor 4 6 60
avasi fröccs   from the village Avas 7 3 30
bakteranyós   railworker’s mother-in-law 2,5 2,5 50
csatos   clipper 10 5 33
hosszúlépés fordított long step (reverse) 1 2 67
háp-háp   quack-quack 2 2 50
háziúr nagyházmester, bivalycsók landlord (head janitor, bull’s kiss) 4 1 20
házmester   janitor 3 2 40
kisfröccs fütty, tréfa, rövidlépés small fröccs (whistle, joke, short step) 1 1 50
Krúdy-fröccs   named after writer Gyula Krúdy 9 1 10
kőműves   bricklayer 25 5 17
lakófröccs kisházmester, sportfröccs tenant (small janitor, sport) 1 4 80
lámpás   lit-up 15 5 25
maflás mafla slap (also means ‘dullard’) 5 5 50
nagyfröccs fröccs, hajtás, húzás long fröccs (slug, swig) 2 1 33
permet suhintós mist (swisher) 1 0,01 minimum
polgármester   mayor 6 4 40

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this beverage is that the type and quality of wine and water interests way fewer people than the proportion of the ingredients and the appropriate vocabulary. This may indicate that this field has a lot of hitherto not fully explored opportunities for alco-geeks, obsessives, and passive agressives (don’t worry there is an app for it already).

The rest of us can just ask for a fröccs and enjoy the consequences: yum!

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