19th c. alcohol discovered in contemporary mineral water bottle is to shed light to our recent ancestors’ drinks of leisure. Elements of the spirit, which is still drinkable, were contained in a sealed stoneware bottle recovered in June from the bottom of the Baltic Sea, during the exploration of a shipwreck in Gdańsk Bay, close to the Polish coast.
The bottle had been submitted for testing to the J.S. Hamilton chemical laboratory in Gdynia, Poland, in order to see whether the vessel contained original “Selters” water, or it had been refilled with a different liquid.Preliminary results suggest the bottle had been refilled with some kind of alcohol, while the final results are expected in September.
According to researchers, the bottle contained a 14-percent alcohol distillate, which may be vodka or a type of gin called jenever, most likely diluted with water. Water is actually a clue to this 200 year old cocktail: the bottle itself is engraved with the word “Selters”, the name of a well recorded supplier of mineral water originating in Taunus Mountains area in Germany. And while water from Selters is according to researchers one of the oldest types of mineral water in Europe, the bottle itself represents some kind of material culture history too: it was manufactured in Ranschbach, Germany, 40km. away from the original Selters springs, dried at the beginning of the 19th c.
For the record, an alternative mineral water source was discovered in 1896 by Selters residents who kept selling it. Now, Selters water is still sold, but as a luxury product.