Albert Hammond Jr.’s Jetway: A Stroke Of Marketing Genius

Albert Hammond Jr., the lead guitarist of The Strokes and a solo artist in his own right, was visiting friends in Italy who introduced him to a local drink called Aperol Spritz – a bubbling wine concoction unlike the American varieties that have come and gone over the years. So memorable was the occasion that Hammond flashed back to it some months later while attending a Formula One auto race at Monaco.

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JET SET: Albert Hammond Jr., lead guitarist for The Strokes, is ready to take off with his own wine seltzer brand, Jetway, with a major activation at Coachella Music & Arts Festival this weekend.

“I’d never had that – I thought it was a great, euphoric high and it mixed with the way people just kind of hang out over there, chatting in a circle and then going back to see a key race. The whole environment gave me the idea,” Hammond Jr. tells Pollstar.

He came up with Jetway, a light, effervescent wine-based beverage that he tested at Outside Lands and a Strokes show at the Forum in L.A. last year but will unveil in a big way the first weekend of Coachella Music & Arts Festival, April 15-17.

While there’s no shortage of products branded and marketed by rock stars and other celebrities, Jetway differs in that Hammond Jr. has been a hands-on creator of the beverage, from sourcing wine grapes to creating a company and procuring investment to distributing the final product.

The first two offerings – a Sauvignon Blanc and a Rosé of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, are sourced from the McNary Vineyard in Washington, which overlooks the Columbia River. Both are blended with additional natural ingredients Hammond Jr. says were hand-picked by him to enhance well-being, including elderflower, yerba mate, Fijian ginger and yuzu. The ingredients are all natural, and Jetway contains no cane sugar, unlike most coolers and hard seltzers.

Jetway differs because it’s far more elevated – this isn’t your grandad’s Bartles & Jaymes.

“It’s an interesting category because it’s been there since the ‘80s, you know, with wine coolers and then hard lemonade and now seltzers,” Hammond Jr. explains.

“There’s something fun in creating an elevated brand in that world. To me, the compelling thing is that it competes. I wanted to compete against beer and win. And so that’s where I wanted to take the white wine version of this drink. It’s kind of like in that category of a refreshing beer.”

The first thing Hammond Jr. did was find a partner with experience in not just the wine business, but with a creative streak when it came to delivery systems. In Chief Operating Officer Ben Parsons, Hammond found just that – a partner with an extensive, 20-year career in the wine industry.

Parsons started Colorado’s first urban winery, The Infinite Monkey Theorem (TIMT) in 2008. A year later, he launched TIMT’s “wine on tap” program that led to consumers embracing the idea of kegged wine. In 2011, Parsons launched TIMT’s first canned wine, which later was named one of the 40 wines that changed the way people drink by Food & Wine Magazine.

The fit was perfect – Hammond says part of his inspiration for Jetway comes from the European approach to consuming beer and wine, and the kegging process is as elevated as the ingredients.

“It’s exciting to me because all the flavors are brighter [when Jetway is tapped from a keg],” Hammond says. “To me, it’s more refreshing, sharper and more alive. And Jetway was always meant to be kegged and on tap.”

Parsons further explains, “At its core, it’s a single vineyard designate wine blended with distinct and rare ingredients that actually complement the wine, coming together in unison to make something better. Wine has a healthy halo in its DNA since it’s made with grapes, so the added ingredients only enhance that.”

Next up for Hammond Jr. was gathering a group of investors – friends and colleagues who not only believe in his vision but whose judgment he trusts and values.

Among those who quickly came on board are friends and artists in Hammonds’ orbit, including Red Light Management founder Coran Capshaw, Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Nick Hoult, Robert Schwartzman and Zoey Grossman.

“It’s funny, because when I was talking to them – they’re friends – but some I was talking to like the first time in a decade,” Hammond Jr. says. “‘Check this out. What do you guys think?’ You want to get feedback from people who weren’t involved, but you appreciate their opinions and you know they’re going to give it to you straight. I have a core group of friends who are like that, and they fell in love with [Jetway] and came on board.

“It was a shock to me because I wasn’t pushing it, and it was the first time I was doing that nonstop,” Hammond continues. “And then it turned out that the core investors each had their own connection to lifestyle or people or entertainment in different ways. It’s a really exciting group that came together very organically.”

Hammond had the vision, found his partner, and lined up an investor group to help execute a business and product that he believes represents a time and place; a lifestyle. Where else to distribute such a product but at Coachella – as much about lifestyle as it is about music – and beyond?

Try the Happiest Place On Earth.

Once Coachella wraps, Jetway heads to Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif., where it will be available as a pour from kegs – marking the first time a wine seltzer has been served in this format. Jetway is also now available in cans at the San Diego Zoo.

“I like the whole idea of Disneyland!” Hammond Jr. explains, with more than a touch of excitement in his voice. “That whole part of the business is a crazy roller coaster, but I’m definitely part of it.”