Goldwasser (translated from German “gold water”) or Danziger Goldwasser (“Gdansk gold water”) is a herbal liqueur with a strength of 40% vol., Invented in 1595 by the Dutchman Ambrosius Vermoolen, who fled to Prussia from the religious persecution of Protestants. The young man brought from the Netherlands not only all his property, but also many recipes for alcoholic beverages unknown in this part of Europe, and in 1598 he had already opened his own winery Der Lachs (“salmon”). The Mennonites, to which Mr. Vermoolen belonged, are known for their pacifism. These Protestants never take part in hostilities, and if the government of the country begins to force them, they emigrate en masse.
The Goldwasser liqueur contains more than 20 herbs and oriental spices: juniper, cloves, cinnamon, lavender, anise, cardamom, turmeric, coriander, thyme, lemon and orange zest, celery seeds. A distinctive feature of the drink, however, lies not in its exquisite bouquet, but in flakes of 22-23-carat gold, because of which alcohol is often called “vodka with gold”, especially since its strength is 40 degrees.
Particles of precious metal immediately transfer the product to the category of elite alcohol. Throughout the history of the brand’s existence, its fans were such crowned persons as Peter I, Louis XIV, Catherine the Great. The liqueur “Goldwasser” is mentioned in the epic “Pan Tadeusz” by the Polish writer Adam Mickiewicz.
Legend of the appearance
Another Polish writer, Jerzy Samp, cites a legend according to which the inhabitants of Gdansk constantly threw gold coins into the Neptune fountain. So much money was accumulated that the noble metal purified the water, and it turned into vodka. Then Neptune came to life and smashed the coins with his trident into small particles. This is how “water with golden flakes” appeared – Goldwasser.
The German version of the legend is more tragic. She claims that once the ships of wealthy merchants entered the port of Gdansk, the ships literally burst with gold and goods. The ruler of the city invited the merchants to visit, they made a feast, and for the poor they filled the Neptune fountain with wine. The drunken rich wanted to have some fun and forced the poor to fish out gold coins from the fountain, and those who did not succeed were chopped off their heads.
Seeing this, Neptune became angry and smashed the coins into gold dust with his trident. So the fountain was filled with wine with gold fractions. The owner of the Der Lachs winery was not taken aback, quickly filled the barrel with an unusual drink and hid it in the basement.
After some time, a plague came to the city, people died in hundreds, nothing could heal them. The ruler also fell ill. Then the winemaker remembered about the wonderful wine and gave it to the sick gentleman, after which he was healed. So people learned that gold turns ordinary wine into medicine.
In the 17th century, thanks to the development of distillation technology, the production of alcoholic herbal tinctures increased significantly. Occasionally, gold or silver flakes were added to them – not so much for the sake of luxury, but to enhance the medicinal properties of the plants included in the drink.
Alchemical medicine believed that precious metals have miraculous properties, so they were added not only to tinctures, but also to other liquids: vegetable oil, vinegar, ordinary water.
Perhaps the inspiration for such drinks was the medieval gilding technique, in which the master dipped a brush in alcohol, picked up a leaf of gold leaf and applied it to the surface. With the repeated repetition of this procedure, some of the gold fractions invariably settled in the alcohol.
In 1945, the distillery that produced the liqueur was destroyed and the owners of the brand moved to Germany. As a result, one trademark appeared in two countries at once. In the days of the Polish People’s Republic, the rights to the Goldwasser trademark belonged to the state-owned company Polmos, and the production was moved to Poznan.
In 2008, a new label design and bottle shape was developed, and in 2009 the production of “Golden Water” in Poland ceased.
Today, the herbal liqueur with gold is produced only in Germany under the name Danziger Goldwasser, and it can also be ordered at the Goldwasser restaurant in Gdansk. The original recipe is kept by Graf von Hardenberg, owner of a German winery.
Schwabacher Goldwasser is produced in Schwabach, Germany. This is also a herbal liqueur with gold particles, but a completely different trademark.
How to drink Goldwasser
Like all herbal liqueurs, Goldwasser can be served as an aperitif or as a digestif. Before serving, the liquor is shaken to raise the gold flakes from the bottom.
Goldwasser is drunk cold in its pure form from transparent glasses, enjoying the play of golden particles in the light.