Most people who have ever been to a night club or teenage/student party will probably have come across Goldschlager (a cinnamon liqueur containing floating, gold flakes) and will probably have found the some plonker who is wielding it, trying to impress people and saying that the gold flakes are there to cut the inside of your mouth/throat so that the alcohol is more quickly absorbed. This is, obviously, rubbish.
Rather, the gold flakes are a reflection of the once widely-held belief that gold has healing properties; as such, it was included for medicinal reasons just like alcohol before its wider recreational use.
The concept of adding gold goes back to Eastern Europe, where products such as danzig goldwasser* and silverwasser were produced. Some of these were sweetened schnapps, but, more often, they were much dryer and more closely resembled vodkas. Sadly, these days, most goldwassers go down the liqueur route and are not at all like dry vodka.
Silverwasser is essentially the same deal, but - yes, you've guessed it - containing silver flakes instead of gold ones. These days, silverwassers (of either the vodka or liqueur varieties) are hard to come by in the UK and all I could find was Silver Star, a product by Bols.
In addition to the historical use of gold and silver flakes, I did notice BlueNun have just brought out a sparkling wine with gold flakes.
The silver flakes settle to the bottom and look interesting, but how will they effect the taste? This had a smooth and full texture, was quite sweet and had a strong flavour of confectionery cinnamon, like a Danish pastry, cinnabon or BIG RED chewing gum; a flavour that I believe Americans describe as "Red Cinnamon". The silver is almost imperceivable in terms of both taste and texture.
2) The Prospector
[Layer 40ml of Rye Whisky on top of 15ml of Bols Silver Strike]
This is the sort of drink that you could imagine was served in a saloon in Silver City; if you can't find silver in the hills, then maybe you can find it at the bottom of your glass!
The whisky is smooth and light and so went well with the cinnamon, without giving it too much burn. Definitely something of a novelty, however.
3) Buffalo Bill
[50ml Buffalo Trace, 10ml Silver Strike, 15ml Red Vermouth - STIR]
This Manhattan-variation is a tribute, not to the dog-toting kidnapper from "Silence of the Lambs", but rather the sharp-shooting showman of the 19th Century.
This Manhattan was stirred** and tastes just like a Manhattan only with a cinnamon kick, making it a touch more warming. The sweet balance is actually quite good and this has a nice, autumnal feel.
Silver Strike liqueur certainly has its place in cocktails and, whilst I shall politely refrain from labelling the silver flakes as a gimmick, their effect is almost entirely visual and needs to be considered when mixing. I also suggest shaking the bottle before pouring, as the flakes have a tendency to settle.
Bols Silver Strike is available for around £16.25 for 50cl from The Whisky Exchange.
* Not be confused with the brand "Gold Wasser", which is just one variety of the liqueur.
** I stirred this drink, not for some pretentious stuffiness about the horrors of shaken Manhattans, but rather because it's easier to see the silver specks in a transparent drink. I think that if you like your Manhattan shaken, then drink it shaken (and the same goes for Martinis) and don't let any self-appointed expert tell you that you should have it otherwise!