Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that the vodka craze would eventually reach Europe. And we should certainly be less amazed that Austrians would make excellent vodka—Old World craftsmanship, expertise in distillation, sources like the Austrian Alps. So when I reached the 18th floor bar of the new Vienna Sofitel (across the Danube canal), with its spectacular panoramic views of the old city, Stephansdom, and the Vienna Woods in the distance, I asked the bartender if he carried Austrian vodka. He fingered through the 12 bottles on the counter (Grey Goose and Ketel One are the most popular, he said) and lifted up a frosted glass bottle of Puriste Premium Vodka, which turned out to have won Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2008. It mixed well with my club soda and lime, and I’d like to think I’d choose it as a favorite in a blind taste test. But I don’t anticipate having it in my cabinet any time soon, unless the small company manages to work out a good distribution deal. (Another bartender told me she first came across Puriste not in Austria but working on a Crystal Cruise.)
In the meantime, if you’re looking for vodka made by Austrians living in America, there’s always Koval.