Vienna, much like Paris, is one of the most cultural and refined cities in Europe. Also like the City of Light, Vienna very much has a café culture boasting elaborate pastries along with coffee. While Paris leans toward macarons, mousse and napoleons, many of Vienna’s delicacies — such as tarts, strudels and pancakes — are fruit-based.
As a die-hard chocoholic, I had little interest in Austrian desserts until I read about one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties: the Sacher-Torte, a decadent, double-layer, rich chocolate cake with apricot jam and dark chocolate icing, served with unsweetened whipped cream. The description left my mouth watering. So when I found myself wandering the streets of Vienna this summer, I decided I must find this magnificent creation.
It was easy to uncover, as its moniker gave its birthplace away. The Sacher-Torte was invented at the posh Hotel Sacher. According to the hotel’s website, in 1832 the court of Prince Metternich had requested a dessert for a special occasion, but the chef was ill at the time. So 16-year-old apprentice Franz Sacher filled in and concocted this mesmerizing treat. To this day, the Sacher-Torte is still handmade using Sacher’s original recipe.
As I entered the elegant café on the ground floor, I was met by a glamorous Art Deco aura with plush rose-velvet chairs. It was reminiscent of a seductive scene from a spy thriller; I imagined a suave Sean Connery as James Bond seated in a corner scouting out his nemesis.
I was most pleased to find out that, in addition to its famous cake, the hotel also had a signature cocktail — one as lavish as my surroundings.
The Sacher Cuvée Gold is an extravagant take on the traditional champagne cocktail. Its main component is Sacher Cuvée Champagne, a bubbly specifically bottled for the hotel from a vineyard in France. A touch of sugar is added along with Grand Mariner, a blend of cognac brandy and distilled essence of bitter orange. Lastly, it’s sprinkled exquisitely with pure gold flakes. Maybe Bond was lurking in one of the booths as I was about to have a drink with Mr. Goldfinger.
While sipping pure gold made me feel dazzling, I can’t say it added much flavor to the drink. However, the Champagne itself was excellent and the Grand Marnier added an orange twang that perfectly complemented the semisweet flavor of the cake. The subtle citrus in the drink and the diminutive apricot in the cake paired well together. A bite of cake … a sip of a glittering Champagne … it was a perfectly balanced ritual that I indulged in until both were devoured.
If you would like to replicate this experience without flying to Vienna, you should be aware that Dec. 5 is National Sacher Torte Day in the U.S. The hotel has trademarked their cake; when you are served a slice in Vienna, it comes with a circular chocolate disk with a seal proclaiming its exclusivity as the Original Sacher-Torte.
If you fancy yourself being both a pastry chef and a bartender, an “approximate” recipe is given on the hotel’s website: sacher.com.
Recreating the flavor of the Sacher Cuvée Gold cocktail at home is fairly easy. However, it’s up to you if wish to splurge on the pure gold topping.
The Sacher Cuveé Gold
1 teaspoon sugar
0.5 ounce Grand Marnier
5 ounces Brut Champagne
Put sugar and Grand Marnier into a coupe Champagne glass. Top with Brut Champagne. Sprinkle with gold flakes (optional).