No visit to Gdańsk is complete without sampling the local fire water, Goldwasser vodka. Created by Ambrose Vermollen, a Dutch migrant living in Gdańsk, the first recorded mention of it dates to 1598, though it would be years later that Vermollen would open the first recorded distillery, Der Lachs (The Salmon) on ul . Szeroka. His recipe combined over 20 herbs and roots, including cardamom, coriander, juniper, cinnamon, wild orange, lavender, cloves and thyme. A clever marketing trick that was all about appearance and nothing to do with taste, 23 carat gold leaves were added for luck, and the recipe has since been passed down the generations, its current owner being the German Carl Graf von Hardenberg.
The uniqueness of this idea shows that Vermoellen was what would now be described as a marketing genius. Of course, local legend is far more interesting, and if you believe urban myth the gold flakes appeared after Neptune grew increasingly irritated that the natives were clogging up his fountain by repeatedly throwing coins into it. Driven to despair the irked God launched his trident into the fountain, shattering the coins into millions of pieces. This, according to some, is why you’ll find gold pieces floating around in your bottle of Goldwasser. Story number two paints a different picture. Apparently Neptune was delighted by the natives’ habit of throwing coins into his fountain, and decided to reward their generosity by turning the water into a tasty alcoholic beverage. Good man. Free-loading landlords carted the booze off by the barrel, all apart from the do-gooding owner of Pod Łososiem. In return for his honesty, Neptune transformed his stock of ordinary vodka into Goldwasser. Packing an alcohol content of 40%, Goldwasser’s rich, syrupy taste saw it gain popularity, and it wasn’t long before it assumed favoured status by the kingpins of Europe’s courts. Louis XIV was said to have been a committed fan, and by 1767 cases of the liquor were regularly being dispatched to the court of Imperial Russia’s Catherine the Great. Fans of this story and the drink will be delighted to know that the Salmon (Der Lachs) is still around and now trades as the exclusive Pod Łososiem restaurant where you can get the original von Hardenberg Goldwasser which is now imported from Germany. Also keep your eye out for the German owned Goldwasser restaurant on the waterfront which has specially produced gift sets available to buy. On a final note it is also said that the gold content of Goldwasser is useful in the treatment of back and joint conditions although it is unlikely that this was one of its goals 400 years ago.