TIPSY TOURIST: Strong Memories of Salzburg

Most of these souvenirs of Salzburg contain sweet but strong liqueur. But a couple are schnapps. They'll take your breath away.

Most of these souvenirs of Salzburg contain sweet but strong liqueur. But a couple are schnapps. They’ll take your breath away.

It's a tiny little shop on Getreidegasse, but every time we were there most of the tables were filled — with German speaking people, not tourists.

Sporer’s is a tiny little shop on Getreidegasse, but every time we were there most of the tables were filled — with German speaking people, not tourists.

A couple of years ago, we were planning a trip to Salzburg. I figured it would be one of those “Sound of Music” and Mozart extravaganzas…you know, of course, the movie was filmed here in the von Trapp’s hometown and of course Mozart was born here.

Then I was reading a column by travel writer Rick Steves who raved about a little schnapps shop in Salzburg, called Sporer. (You can watch him drink schnapps at Sporer here.) So I thought, if we find it, we’ll stop in.

Good news! It was right next door to our hotel. Every evening after a day of tromping around this gorgeous, wonderful, picturesque little town (Did I mention I love this place?) we stopped here to taste another round of the products produced by the Sporer family. Four generations have been making all manner of strong drink here for more than a century. (And we thank them.)  The tiny shop has a wall filled with their liqueurs and schnapps. Both are strong though the liqueur tended to be sweet while the schnapps usually went down like fire. In a good sort of way.

The menu comes in both English and German. How else would I know what zimt is?

The menu comes in both English and German. How else would I know what zimt is?

We always ordered two at a time — one for each, I’m not a two-fisted drinker.  Within a few days we had tried them all. And we had our favorites. Cocoa nuss (chocolate nut) and curacao (orange) were easy. But we took to the fire of zimt (cinnamon) and vogelbeer (a rowan berry schnapps). And I liked the savory sweet flavor of allasch (caraway seed.)

We usually found a seat at a small table in the back room, usually near a group of Austrian men having a drink after work. Inevitably, they were friendly, full of laughter and curious to see how the tourists liked their schnapps. We tried a little German; they tried a little English and we had a great time.

As the day of our departure neared, we also approached a difficult decision. Which of these marvelous spirits were going home with us? We knew they would have to go in our luggage to be tossed about by several bag handlers.

That's our purchase lined up by the cash register. They didn't have any curacao so they went in back to fill a bottle.

That’s our purchase lined up by the cash register. They didn’t have any curacao so they went in back to fill a bottle.

Luckily, we came prepared. We travel with bubble-wrap wine bags (doesn’t everybody?) You never know when you’re going to find a bottle of wine that has to go home with you. Each bag held up to two of their littlest bottles, a quarter liter. So we tucked them in our bags, wrapping them in the bubble wrap and a few sweaters. And every one came home safe and sound.

I don’t know if I’ll get to Salzburg again. But every once in a while we open one of the little bottles, pour out an ounce or so of one of Sporer’s and remember the Alps, the music, the charming streets and those friendly gentlemen in the cozy little shop on Getreidegasse.

© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

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