Another staple of (Upper) Austrian food culture (in addition to beer/radler and schnitzel) is Schnaps, which should not be confused with the alcoholic syrupy stuff sold in the U.S. under the same term. Schnaps is not sweet but “sharp;” it is strong clear alcohol (anywhere from 30-45% alcohol) that is distilled fruit. The variety is large: pear, apple, apple and pear mixed which is called Obstler, cherry, plum, greengage, raspberry, apricot, elderflower, mountain herbs, and more.
Schnaps can be bought in the store, but it seems most buy it directly from the source – a farmer who also has a small distillery at home. Every Upper Austrian household I have come across has at least one bottle of Schnapps at home, but most bottles do not have a label since they were picked up directly at a home/farm distillery. According to my two grandfathers, Schnaps is a true miracle water: it helps against upset or overly full stomachs, so it is usually offered after a meat dish, it disinfects wounds, and it soothes sore muscles via a rub-down. Clearly, a well-stocked household is not complete without it.
I used to keep much of my luggage space on travels from Austria to the U.S. reserved to bring back bottles of Schnapps from favorite distilleries. Lately, U.S. beverage stores have offered more and more variety of “real” Schnapps directly imported from Austria or Germany. Even though these are usually from larger distilleries and not my local farmer, it makes it easier to save more luggage space for bread and chocolate now. I realized there is a distillery that produces Schnaps near Oakland, but I have stuck to the imported varieties so far.