Is Vienna sausage the same as a Wiener, or a Frankfurter?

The sausage was invented by a butcher from Frankfurt, who had moved to Vienna, which is why in Vienna it’s called a frankfurter, but in Frankfurt it’s called a wiener (Viennese).

Text and Photos by Jennifer Ellson

Frankfurter? Wiener? Vienna sausage? No, they're Bavarian sausages, Münchner Weißwurst!

Frankfurter? Wiener? Vienna sausage? No, they’re Bavarian sausages, Münchner Weißwurst!

Try to order a frankfurter in Frankfurt, and you’d most likely get a blank stare. But ask for a wiener or a Vienna sausage, and the Frankfurters — the residents, not the sausages — would know what you’re talking about.

Meanwhile, do the same in Vienna — ask for a Vienna sausage, instead of a frankfurter and you’d probably hear “was is das?” (what is that?). Yes, it happened to me.

Confused yet? Bear with me, as I confuse you even more.

Frankfurt's old town

Frankfurt’s old town

The story goes that the sausage was invented by a butcher from Frankfurt, Germany, hence the name frankfurter. But the butcher moved to Vienna, Austria, which is why in Vienna the sausage is called frankfurter, but in Frankfurt it’s called a wiener. The word wiener refers to Vienna, whose German name is Wien. But wiener is not used in this context in Vienna because, again, frankfurter is how they call the sausages. Still with me? Good!

Most likely, all these terms refer to a sausage made of a mixture of pork and beef. So the answer is yes, they are the same, but just to add to your confusion, in North America, Vienna sausages usually refer to a small-sized canned variety, whereas in Europe, they are normally longer and thinner sausages.

There is a real Frankfurt sausage though, called Frankfurter Würstchen. It is a thin boiled sausage of pure pork in a casing of mutton’s intestine, and has Protected Geographical Status in Germany. This means the term is only allowed to be used for sausages that are in fact produced in the area of Frankfurt am Main, just like the term champagne can only be used for the sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France.

Vienna's Opera House

Vienna’s Opera House

So if you are Austrian, you are eating a frankfurter, and if you are German, you are eating a wiener, or a sausage from Vienna. But if, like me, you’re neither, then you are eating a sausage, or a hot dog.

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