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The wheels of Albert Hammond Jr.’s brain keep turning, and they seemingly never stop. You can see it in his face and hear it in his voice as he talks, barely finishing one sentence before another begins, each time with earnest, newfound enthusiasm. We’re in a quiet courtyard in Hollywood chatting about his latest venture, JETWAY, the product of years of ideation after a night out in Italy drinking Aperol spritzes with friends. But Hammond Jr. wanted to do things his own way, and the result—a naturally-flavored canned wine seltzer in white and rosé—is nothing like White Claw. But they’re definitely not your great-aunt’s porch pounders, either.
“The ingredients are just stuff I grew up with,” says Hammond Jr. “My mom’s from Argentina, so I wanted maté in there—I grew up drinking that, and I also thought it’d be a nice balance to kind of naturally uplift from the alcohol. They’re interesting flavors, too.”
JETWAY’s rosé and white wine seltzers feature yerba maté as a flagship ingredient, along with Fijian ginger, though each flavor profile is distinctly different from the other. The rosé’s white peach and orange essence soften its crisp acidity and effervescence while yuzu and elderflower give the sparkling white a totally different vibe—juicy, complex, and almost too thirst-quenching for its own good. These seltzers are easy sessionable, just the way Hammond Jr. intended.
Here, he talks wine entrepreneurship, toasting on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and perhaps most importantly, his early days as a champion roller skater.
You’ve spoken about it before, but give us the rundown on how JETWAY came to fruition.
The origin story…I went to see a MotoGP race in Milan (an Italian friend invited me), and we met at this bar and had Aperol spritzes, and it just created a magical night. A memory. And I think that was the spark—I’d never had [Aperol spritzes before]. And then I slowly just thought, how could I modernize that? That was September of 2017. Almost a year later, I was at the Formula One in Monaco, and that’s where I started to think of flavors. And then I just began a journey of failing to make it for years until I met [my now-business partner] Ben Parsons.
How does JETWAY differ from the Aperol Spritz, then? And how did you envision its introduction to the market?
I guess in my head maybe I just always saw beer as who I wanted to sit next to if I had a dream goal. It’s weird because the name seltzer represents so much to people that I don’t feel like our company is, but for such a small startup, it felt like if we called it seltzer it’d be easier for it to translate to people, at least to start off. It’s like reinventing, upgrading a wine cooler or Aperol spritz. They’re afternoon drinks, [just] older, so I took that nostalgia in the artwork and put it in this golden age of travel. I wanted to do something new with it.
Can you tell us more about the white and rosé? What’s your personal favorite?
I prefer the white in general. I can just keep drinking those—that achieved what I wanted it to achieve. It felt like a beer or a shandy, which I had growing up. The rosé…I’ll use that to switch it up or if I get tired or fatigued…people love the rosé though. The peach is really big on the nose. It’s actually really big to the point where you would think it was really sweet, and it’s not. I think the flavors are more, like, watermelon and strawberry…it’s kind of like modern coffee, in a way. I mean, I don’t think you would describe a [regular] seltzer that way.
In the white, with the yuzu and ginger, I grew up in LA and my parents were really close with this Japanese couple and so i grew up eating Japanese food from a really young age, like to the point where on Thanksgiving I’d have shabu shabu instead of turkey. I just [felt like those flavors] go well with what I imagined a white wine would be. You can imagine drinking it over dinner.
What are some of your personal favorite food pairings with JETWAY?
Anything, to be honest. I’ve had it with In-N-Out, bar food, Mexican food…at home I cook quite simply—just like fish, chicken, or meat with some kind of BBQ vegetable. It goes great with all that stuff. It’s [like] wine; the flavors don’t get in the way of the food. And there’s no sugar in the drink, so the palate kind of cleanses itself. That’s why it works with food, because it’s dry.
Okay, you’ve gotta share your In-N-Out order.
3×3. Sometimes I’ll leave in the tomato, with no onions; sometimes I put in chopped chiles. It’s pretty amazing.
What are some of your favorite occasions to drink JETWAY, personally?
Times like this, watching sports…I did love it in the studio, [and] I sometimes have two when I play live. But we’ve also had parties with it—we had a party at Bungalow in Santa Monica where Hendrick’s Gin and Milagro Tequila made cocktails for both [using JETWAY] almost like a mixer.
What does the rest of the band think of your drinks?
Well not everyone drinks in the band, but they probably thought it was funny, kinda like I did—it’s just a weird thing [to speak about something] and then actually have physical product. But people around the band, siblings [and] friends who do drink love it. We had it on the road when we were just with the Red Hot Chili Peppers—everyone was having it backstage and everyone loved it, from people’s parents in their fifties, sixties, or seventies, to you know, younger siblings. It was pretty cool. Nick [Valensi] had it a bunch (he’s the guy in the band who drinks). Don’t wanna put it on you, Nick, but no, he seems to like it.
Any new ideas you’ve been tossing around?
There are a bunch of ideas just in the process of growing right now. We actually wanted to make a brick-and-mortar place in LA, like a bar…the JETWAY brand itself feels like it could be a curation. Like, we’re curating things that go well together.
I [also] thought we could stick with the wine base and do sake, so I have ideas for that. There’s a lot of artwork that we didn’t get to use, like checkered patterns (it was based off the checkered flag), and different colors that I think would be amazing. And then also just, you know, [doing limited runs with] different wineries.
What do you like to drink when you’re not sipping JETWAY?
I drink a lot of water (laughs). I’m a fan of learning about wine. It’s really fun to understand a region or a year, so I like that. I’m not a huge fan of the way I feel after hard alcohol, so I tend to not go there, [but] it’s always fun to make a dirty martini with really good olives, [like] these Italian olives with really great brine…Castelvetrano olives. The brine is magical—it brings out all the flavors of gin but It doesn’t taste dirty like when you get it at a restaurant. It’s salty, but there are more flavors than just salt. I like beer too, a lot—on the road I had a lot of Stella and Japanese beer.
Well, between music and JETWAY, it sounds like you’re really carving out a niche for those who love both—if only that little roller rink champ could see you now. Could you tell us a bit more about that part of your life?
Yeah! Nine, 10, and 11, maybe a little bit of 12, I did figure skating (like you see in ice skating, just with four wheels). I had a dance partner and I did it by myself. I don’t know, I went to a birthday party I think at seven or eight and I was just naturally balanced…a coach was there and [said I] should try it, and I enjoyed it. I used to practice three or four hours a day after school, just jumping and falling, jumping and falling. I loved competing. I loved winning. I wish I was as disciplined now as I was then [laughs].