Tradition and old customs are very important in the UNESCO World Heritage region of Hallstatt Dachstein Salzkammergut. Especially during the Christmas holidays and the turn of the year, when family and friends, who were scattered around the world all year round, get together. Then a very special magic goes through the towns which the inhabitants are keen to share with guests from near and far. Then, time stands still!
Every year new - always different
When all the presents have been unwrapped, the festive feast has been digested and calm slowly returns to the houses, then in many inns in Hallstatt, Bad Goisern on Lake Hallstatt, Gosau or Obertraun after the Christmas morning church service, is the time for a high-proof tradition: The "Krambamperlbrennen", which dates back a long time and over the decades has developed into a fixture in the annual event calendar. A time of relaxation. Again and again. Always different!
How it all began
"In the evening, early in the morning, I drink my glass Krambambuli ..." is a line from a popular German student song that sings the praises of the eponymous “krambambuli”, a type of mulled Schnapps. The singers enter an inn where they pass up food in favour of “krambambuli”, their favourite drink. However, the singer seems to exaggerate, as he would not be able to keep going so long, as “Krambambuli” is a bit too strong. If you do not know yet what it is about, it is about sweet-hot delicacy, which due to its high percentage of alcohol may not be to everyone’s taste, but is enjoyed on St Stephen's Day, the 26th of December, in various inns and also privately.
The name "Krambambuli" is probably derived from the Old High German word Kranawitu or chranawita ("croaker timber," another name for juniper) and from the Rotwelsch word Blamp (alcoholic drink). Nowadays they use Schnapps. The brim-full glass (usually a pint beer glass since the Krambambuli is enjoyed in a larger round) is ignited with a spruce splinter and a fork with pieces of sugar is held over the bluish flame. The sugar drops through the flame into the liquor, where it settles on the bottom as brown lumps. The Schnapps does not become lighter, but hot and sweet.
The continuous supply of sugar is stopped at the drinkers’ own discretion, but the drink should have a rich, dark brown colour. Since the dissolved sugar gets splattered it is advisable to place a plate under the glass to protect the table. Speaking of glass; it should not be the most beautiful of your collection and should also be thick-walled, otherwise it could shatter due to the hot “Krambambuli”.
Now that the flame has been extinguished, the "Krambamperl", as it is lovingly called at the foot of the Dachstein, can be enjoyed in the round. Here is the next drawback. Whoever wants to inhale while drinking will get a sip of this hot deliciousness in the - hopefully prepared - stomach. So: Exhale, hold your breath, drink - Stop! Also, let your neighbours have a sip, because those who are over ambitious will regret it for the rest of the day.
The Krambamperl is usually a small thank you for the loyalty of the last year for the regular guests of the inn. Thus, the "Krambamperl-Brennen" is a piece of inn cultivation within the inner Salzkammergut. And why shouldn’t it be to your taste also, ... the Krambambuli!
For those who have now got the taste, should keep the 26th December free during their winter holiday in the Salzkammergut. Then, on St. Stephen's Day, as the second day of Christmas holiday is known in Austria, the mix of schnapps, sugar and fire becomes a tasty holiday experience. Prost!