by Emma Hontebeyrie & Janima Nam
The alcohol business represents a significant portion of the Austrian economy. From hospitality to wine and spirits, the industry straddles several sectors. Up to 300,000 people in Austria are employed in jobs that have a connection to alcoholic drinks, from agriculture to manufacturing, retail to the hospitality industry. Although it’s still largely male-dominated, today more women are climbing their way to the top, challenging industry traditions. Here are some of the women who represent this new and emerging “female factor.”
Bartender & mixologist
Even before she was allowed to drink alcohol, Jolien Hackett could not resist the urge to create delectable concoctions. As a child, she would help out at her father’s bar-restaurant, mixing “virgin” cocktails to satisfy her increasingly exotic tastes.
Today, Hackett is an award-winning mixologist, embracing the call to explore and excel in the magical world of cocktails.
“What I love about the business is its creativity. Drinking can be an explosion of flavours, so that I sometimes feel like the Remy character from Ratatouille!” the British-born Wienerin exclaimed.
Even though she has represented Austria in international mixology competitions like the Central European Final der Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge – placing fourth as the only woman competing – she acknowledges the “chauvinistic and masculine” character of the bar culture.
But experience and passion have driven her to where she is now, not only working internationally, but also re-mixing the role of the cocktail in Vienna. At the innovative Newman restaurant, in a new-twist-on-traditions she developed an exclusive Negroni menu to accompany its Schnitzel menu. Schnitzel with Negronis, anyone? Perhaps only a imaginative outsider could have thought of that.
Founder and Managing Director of Vinodea, Austria
Although she was introduced to wine culture by her Austrian husband, Swiss-born Madlaina Sladecek-Dosch was principally inspired by the women she met in the wine industry, especially the growing number of female vintners. So much so that just this March, she decided to open a shop in Vienna dedicated exclusively to wines produced by the 20+ women who ignited her passion for wine and winemaking.
But why only female winemakers? As in many aspects of life, women know how to show up for each other, and Sladecek-Dosch saw this as the best way to show her solidarity.
“In Austria, the wine tradition is somehow still very conservative. Taking over a business, putting your own name on your label as a young woman has its own struggles. Women still have to fight to be taken seriously,” the 38-year-old explained.
Some of the female vintners represented in the shop have gone so far as form their own collective brands, such as Frauenzimmer, made up of four young vintners from winegrowing regions across Austria, and Weinblüten, six female winegrowers and -makers from the Vulkanland region of Styria, known for its rich, volcanic terroir.
In the end, for Sladecek-Dosch, it’s about offering a level playingfield for her fellow female pioneers.
“Women make wine just as well as men do,” she said. “They learn the process in the same way and nowadays, it is absurd to maintain that there’s difference.”
CEO of Waldviertler Whisky J.H., Austria
When it comes to whiskey, Austria is not the first place to come to mind. But Waldviertler Whiskey, Austria’s first whiskey distillery founded in 1995, has been changing that. The company’s founders, Johann and Monika Haider, decided to turn the impact the EU would now have on the Austrian agricultural economy and their inherited farm into an opportunity by taking on a previously unheard-of venture: making whiskey from regional resources.
Their daughter, Jasmin Haider-Stadler, has since successfully carried the torch into the next generation. As managing director, Haider-Stadler developed her skills as a distiller and producer, while also studying communications and marketing. She also played a pivotal role in developing “Whiskey Experience World” – a sort of show case/museum next to the distillery, awarded a tourism prize as a top destination in Lower Austria.
If anything, Haider-Stadler sees being a woman as an advantage in the whiskey industry.
“Whiskey is no longer a male topic,” she said. “As a woman, I face the same challenges as a man. While at the same time, women enrich the business, and above all, bring new points of view. The cliché that whisky is male is more than dusty. Women are shaking up the industry and breathing new life into the business.”