Hannes Richter

Shake the Chill with

Hannes Richter
with Austrian High Altitude Drinks

Challenged by an Alpine terrain and seasonal snows and cold, Austria has a tradition of hot winter drinks that defy wet feet and shake the chill. As the holiday season approaches, one of the true pleasures of banning winter is finding an excuse to sip pleasurable brews that turn the chill into living the dolce vita. Some of these drinks have interesting histories which are shared by other European countries; each has its own name, twist and turn, but some remain distinctly Austrian. We report on a few of them.

Enjoying a cup of Glühwein in the Alps

Glühwein (Mulled Wine)

Glühwein’s origins can be traced back to mulled wine: wine heated with spices, especially aromatic ones like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and the like. Mulled wine was known to medieval Europeans as Hipocris, after the physician Hippocrates and was celebrated as early as 400 A.D. Boiled wine was known to be more sanitary than water and, when consumed, was alleged to ward off sickness and keep people healthy through the cold winters.

With wine as its base ingredient, no other drink has provoked so much literary praise as Glühwein. A shot of Glühwein helps heat up the parlor, wrote Goethe to his friend Schiller. During the 18th and 19th centuries, it was fashionable to share a few glasses of the hot spiced drink in the company of good friends, and what was once a home tradition soon spread to the streets. Today, it is typical of the six-week Advent season and offered everywhere at the stalls of the Christkindlmarkt. Here is Austria’s special recipe for Glühwein:

1 bottle dry red wine
1 lemon, in slices
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cloves
2 tbsp. sugar
Heat the red wine. Add lemon slices, together with the spices, and let simmer for five minutes. Remove from stove, cover with a lid and allow to steep for one hour. Before serving, heat and pour liquid through a strainer.

Heiße Schokolade (Hot Chocolate)

Long before chocolate was known on the European continent, it was popular for many centuries among the Aztecs and was served in goblets made of gold. Their version was much different from the hot chocolate we know today. The Aztecs drank it cold, flavored with wine and chilli peppers, and not at all sweet. In the 1500s the Spanish explorer of the New World, Cortez, brought chocolate back to Spain, where it was quickly adopted by King Charles V. and his court. The elite drank their chocolate boiled in wine, heavily spiced and sweetened, and served for breakfast. Spain had a monopoly on this elixir for over one hundred years, but eventually the secret leaked out into the golden cups of all European monarchs. Its fate was sealed in Austria by floating Schlagobers (whipped cream) on top and prized by old and young alike especially during the holidays in coffee houses and on the street.

1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 qts. milk
6 squares dark, bitter chocolate
3 tbsp. whipped cream
sugar, according to personal taste
Allow the milk, together with the vanilla extract, to come to a boil. Break chocolate into small pieces, add the sugar and combine with the milk while stirring until completely dissolved. Pour the liquid into the mugs and decorate with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.


Jagatee (Hunter's tea)

Jagatee is an invigorating drink mixing fruit schnapps or rum into strong black tea in a proportion of 1:4. The drink originated in the 19th century when the hunters, foresters and lumbermen drank the brew while working in the woods. Today Jagatee is mixed with Stroh Rum, first produced towards the end of the 1830s by the Austrian, Sebastian Stroh and known as one of the highest-quality rums on today’s world market. Immensely aromatic, potent and delicious, Stroh Rum was already a household name throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It gained worldwide recognition at the 1900 Paris World Fair and today is celebrated as the rum of the connoisseur.

Ingredients for 1 glass:
1 jigger of rum
1 jigger fruit schnapps or fruit brandy
dry red wine
black tea

Pour rum and fruit schnapps into a mug. Fill mug up to three-fourths with red wine and the rest with tea. Drink hot. Depending on taste, one can add cloves, cinnamon, anise or oranges.

Punsch (Punch)

Punsch is a festive drink found in many regions of Europe and has various combinations of fruits, rum etc. In ancient India priests brewed warm punches to accompany ritual ceremonies in temples. The name punch is derived from the Hindustani punch meaning five - the number of ingredients used in the original recipe consisting of arrack, sugar, lemon juice, tea and water. Roving seafarers and spice merchants discovered punch in India in 1658. By the 18th and 19th centuries, warm punch was served at fashionable upscale European celebrations. In Austria, it is a highly enjoyed festive drink.

2 cups of red fruit tea
1 1/2 cups of unstrained or
naturally cloudy apple juice
1 cup of freshly pressed orange juice
3 cinnamon sticks
3 cloves
1 lemon

Combine water and fruit tea and bring to a boil. Mix together with the juices and heat again just under the boiling point. Pour liquid into glass cups and serve with a slice of lemon. Add pieces of apples or berries if desired.

Where there is merriment, there are drinks, and the list in Austria is long. Individual regions have their own specialties, along with creative names that tease the imagination:

Schneeflöckchen (Snowflake): Hot egg nog with whipped cream served in waffle cups.
Heiße Witwe (Hot Widow): Hot cherry schnapps served in a glass with whipped cream.