Gold Flakes in the Vodka, Heaven in a Glass
Looking at Goldwasser in a little cut-crystal liqueur glass is a glance at dome of heaven.
Some believe Goldwasser has magical healing effects especially on those with joint problems.
They could be GOLD! Yes, flakes of 22 carat gold! But, how did they get to the drink?
Well, to find the answer, we must go a long way back to a murky time in history, when alchemists, those proto-scientists tried every measure to turn the common lead into gold. On yet another front they also were trying to find a magic elixir which could cure every disease.
Gold was a common denominator in both the laboratories.
In the 13th century the great Catalan physician Arnaldo de Villanova found his name on the hit list of people to be executed during the Inquisition. But then he got the Pope as his patient. This could be his golden chance. Villanova saved his neck by administering the Pope an elixir, containing the precious metal. It worked!
Later in the 16th Century, the Dutch-born alchemist Ambroce Vermollen sought refuge in Danzig (Gdansk) in Germany when the Inquisition tried to get to him. He was granted asylum.
A grateful Vermollen, now wanted to gift the town with something exotic. He started a distillery in the town to produce a new drink - Goldwasser - with a medley of roots, herbs, and spices including cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, lavender, cloves, juniper and thyme. And threw a little amount of gold into the potion in true alchemical fashion - a Midasean touch.
The drink became an instant hit.
Perhaps the myths and legends associated with the birth of Goldwasser could be more alluring than its drab history. There are two conflicting stories, but both of them bubble forth from the same fountain - the Neptune fountain at Dlugi Targ, Dansig.
Legend has it that Neptune got pissed off with the habit of locals throwing coins into his fountain. One morning when he could take it no more, Neptune struck the water with his trident and smashed the coins into tiny gold flakes, which somehow got into the local vodka.
The second story has a pleased Neptune, smiling beneficially at the people, as they dropped coins in the fountain. How can I reward them, he could have thought hard before stumbling upon the idea of turning the whole fountain water into pure vodka that would nourish the whole town (Such Gods were there)!
But what followed was absolute pandemonium. Neptune’s plan backfired, as he saw selfish landlords carting off barrels and barrels of the exotic water. Dejected, Neptune was almost on the brink of taking back the gift he gave, when he saw the owner of Pod Lososieum restaurant (where you get the liqueur today, and which denies the allegation that the whole story was doped with business interest) standing aloof from the whole melee.
The God was pleased. He turned whole stock of vodka in his restaurant into gold water - Goldwasser was born.
Gold is tasteless. The syrupy liquid on the palate imparts no flavour except for a hint of the herbs added to it. But who looks for the taste when the fun is in holding the glass against the light and gently swirling it?
Looking at Goldwasser in a little cut-crystal liqueur glass is a glance at dome of heaven. Not just you, the sight and its taste has enamoured people Louis XVI, Catherine and none other than Peter the Great (See, gold makes strange bedfellows). Peter made sure that he would get a steady supply of Goldwasser to his palace, before he left to Russia.
Danzig continued to be home for the drink, until the world war. When the land went to Poland, the distillery was shifted to Germany.
Some believe Goldwasser has magical healing effects especially on those with joint problems. Some suspect that the gold in it makes microscopic injuries down the mouth and gets absorbed to the blood on the way. So that we get drunk even before the liqueur touches the stomach.
(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
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