For the anti-snooty-wine types, the Goldschläger is the ultimate thirst quencher. It’s cheap, it’s easy to drink, and it’s ubiquitous in the world of mass-market German lagers. A lot of people can’t believe the Goldschläger is actually made with grapes, let alone that you can taste them. That’s what makes this beer so interesting: it still has the bold, juicy snap of a typical pilsner, but it’s made with grapes, which gives it a fruity aroma and flavor that a lot of people can’t stand.
I always felt that Goldschläger was not only one of the most successful German drinks of all time, but also one of the most underrated and under-appreciated. Despite its name, the lager is not made from gold, it was actually invented in 1872 in Brandenburg, Germany, not long after the Berliner Pilsner Urquell was first brewed. It was initially brewed by a Jewish family, the Goldschläger family, who were one of the most successful brewers at the time. In 1904, the brewery was sold to the German brewing giant, Anheuser-Busch who continued to brew the beer, and the brand’s popularity grew, while the Goldschläger family livedWhen Bo Wayne, 54, an industry veteran, took his first job as a bartender at a gay bar in New York’s East Village in 1993, it was the city of gold, he says, referring to the fame of Swiss cinnamon liqueur.
There was a time when we always played golden hits, he adds, perhaps with a touch of nostalgia.
When Wayne left New York in 1997 to move to Los Angeles for a decade, Goldschläger was still in business. And then, suddenly, she was gone.
At least, that’s what Wayne thought, reflecting on his apparent demise in the early 2000s.
I didn’t know they still did that.
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Except that there never seems to have been a break in production. (Diageo, the company that owned Goldschläger at the time, did not respond to a request for comment.) It seems that the public’s thirst for Goldschläger simply ebbed as other spirits and cocktail trends gained prominence.
Nevertheless, Goldschläger’s reputation remains in the memory of those who came of age during his heyday.
Looking for gold
Catherine Alex Biven, 40, a Los Angeles-based writer who covers travel, food and drink, doesn’t remember the first time she met Goldschläger, but she remembers being impressed by him in high school.
We all thought it was very chic because of the gold flecks, Biven said.
Brooke Herron, 41, owner of Local Food & Drink, a digital marketing company in Sonoma, also admits she was underage when she discovered Goldschläger.
Honestly, I think it was all about the gold flakes in the bottle on the liquor store shelf, Herron says of the drink’s appeal. She and her friends joked that they should go for the gold.
Goldschläger bottle with gold rim / Photo courtesy of Goldschläger
If beverage bottles are often eye-catching, Goldschläger is. The liqueur is packaged in a clear glass bottle with a long neck and a curved body. In addition to the gold flakes floating in the bottle, gold details dominate the packaging, from the gold cap to the formal, round gold medallion on the front.
Sazerac, which has more than 450 spirits worldwide, added Goldschläger to its portfolio in 2018. When asked why the company bought it, Julia Watson, brand manager at Sazerac, said: For the gold, of course.
Goldschläger, a German word for goldsmiths who break soft gold bars into thin sheets, contains light and tasty gold flakes, according to the description on the Sazerac website.
The spirit was produced in Switzerland until the 1990s, when it was bought by the British multinational Diageo. Production was moved to Italy for a short time and then back to Switzerland. Today, it is produced in Montreal, Watson says.
A shot in the water
Raven Adrian, 37, remembers being intrigued by the gold bat wrappers.
Shaking the bottle and watching the beautiful flakes was mesmerizing, she says. Plus, it was easy to drink, although it burns enough to be hard.
According to Adrian, everyone seemed to have it in their drink collection, and it played a part in the celebration of the seven deadly sins they gave for the 21st anniversary 16 years ago. I threw her boyfriend’s birthday party. It was a so-called anger management game, with a shot of Goldschläger, Absolut Peppar and a drop of Tabasco offered as punishment.
Adrian hasn’t had a Goldbeater since that epic party, she says, but now she’d like to start drinking it again after dinner.
We were hardcore. Why waste time cooling it down? -Bo Wayne, the bartender. -Bo.
Mike Driscoll, a former social studies teacher, runs Goldschläger at his Founding Fathers pub in Buffalo. Driscoll says the drink has been out of fashion for decades, but he loves it mixed with an Irish cream liqueur like Baileys.
When Goldschlager mastered the shots scene, Wayne used him to make what he called oatmeal cookies. Versions can be found online, but the most popular options are Bailey’s Irish Cream, Butterscotch Schnapps and, of course, Goldschläger.
Sometimes Wayne would mix cinnamon liqueur with cranberry juice or Dr. Paprika.
The German word Goldschläger means someone who beats gold into thin sheets / Photo Alamy
Biven and his friends mostly took pictures. They really liked the taste, she says. Slightly sweet and cinnamon-y, with a note that stirs a fire in the throat.
Herron also remembers the intense aroma of cinnamon, but not with particular affection. After a particularly drunken night Goldschlager, said it took her several years before she could tolerate chewing gum or cinnamon-flavored candy.
Cinnamon gum is tolerable enough these days, but I still don’t touch cinnamon-flavored alcohol, Herron says.
Wayne thinks chilling the alcohol is a good way to reduce the burn, but for the East Village band he served in the ’90s, that wasn’t a priority.
We were hardcore, he says. Why waste time cooling it down?
Where is it now?
The gold beaters can be found in stores and restaurants across the country, Watson said. However, it cannot disclose actual sales figures.
This is news to Wayne, who says he can’t remember the last time he saw a Goldschlager in a bar. After he disappeared, people started drinking Jägermeister, Wayne says. He doubts anyone else can name the gold strike.
In fact, he says, if the drinks scene hasn’t aged, it’s not what it used to be, thanks to a thriving cocktail culture and greater choice.
Wayne says people still drink Jägermeister and other spirits like Fireball. Neither is on the menu at the Spanish Diner, a bar/restaurant in Manhattan’s Far West Side where he works as a bartender.
Still, the golden tube is far from gone. Sazerac also unveiled a new version of the Goldschläger 107 in March this year. With 107 proof, a nod to the original 100+ proof liqueur formula, it seems downright hardcore.
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