Danziger Goldwasser (Gold water of Danzig), in Polish: Gdańska wódka (vodka of Gdańsk), with Goldwasser as the registered tradename, is a strong (40% ABV) root and herbal liqueur which has been produced since at least 1598 in Danzig (Gdańsk). The town which had been a part of the Hanseatic League was for many centuries inhabited by Germans and Poles. It was made part of Poland in 1945 after several wars and land partitions. Please see in details the History of Gdańsk (Danzig). The mixed ethnical character of Danzig is the reason why both, Germans and Poles, consider Danziger Goldwasser, or Gdańska wódka, to be a traditional domestic distilled beverage.
The most prominent characteristic of this alcoholic beverage is small flakes of 22 or 23 karat gold suspended in it. Alcoholic solutions were used by artists for Gilding, which is believed to be the inspiration for the drink. Alchemy, which was at its high point in the 16th century when Goldwasser appeared, believed gold to have many desirable medical properties. Since the flakes are extremely small and thin, the price is not prohibitive. A common rumor about Goldwasser is that the gold flakes cut the throat or stomach upon ingestion, allowing the alcohol to directly enter the bloodstream for quicker intoxication. In reality, gold is known for its softness and malleability, and given that the flakes do not have sharp edges, no such lacerations occur. When used as food additive, Gold is labelled as E175 (List of food additives, Codex Alimentarius).
The drink was invented by a Dutchman from De Lier, Ambrosius Vermöllen, who became a citizen of Danzig on 6 July 1598. Production moved in 1704 to new premises located in the Breitgasse. At that time it was common for houses to use animal symbols instead of numbers, and the new factory featured a salmon (Lachs) on the facade; hence the naming of the brand "Der Lachs zu Danzig".
Some reliable sources indicate that Russian Tsar Peter I the Great during his trip to Western Europe - the so called Grand Embassy - visited the city of Gdańsk (Danzig). He founded the official Russian consulate in Gdańsk and became a great lover of Danziger Goldwasser. He ordered permanent delivery of Goldwasser to Russia for himself.
As the Free City of Danzig and East Prussia were separated from Germany after World War I by the Polish corridor, the Der Lachs company opened in 1922 an additional factory in Berlin to supply the main part of Germany and international markets with their products Danziger Goldwasser and Krambambuli from there. After 1945, when the city became part of Poland, only the Berlin factory continued to produce genuine Danziger Goldwasser.
It is possible to buy the original brand of Danziger Goldwasser in the old town of Gdansk. However bottles are imported and have customs duty serial numbered stamps from Ministerstwo Finansow RP Znak Akcyzy.
Various Polish brands from Gdańsk sell similar drinks called Gdańska Złotówka (Gdańsk gold) or Złota Woda (Gold water).
Legend has it that when King Sigismund II Augustus visited Danzig in 1549 after his coronation, part of the city's homage to the monarch was a gift of Goldwasser, and he is said to have sung the praises of the golden drink often along the rest of his tour.
Another brand of Goldwasser, Schwabacher Goldwasser, and other sorts of food embellished with gold, are produced in the city of Schwabach near Nuremberg. Goldschläger is a Swiss cinnamon schnapps which also contains small flakes of 22 karat gold.
Goldwasser is used to flavour a traditional Soufflé Rothschild.