Although some sources mention Madeira, it was most probably poisoned Tokaji wine, which they tried to assassinate Grigori Rasputin with. In fact, during his last evening, Rasputin consumed high quantities of pastries and sweet wine - both poisoned with cyanide. Indeed, Rasputin didn´t show any symptoms of poisoning. His murderers finally resorted to the gun. After Rasputin's death there could not be detected any cyanide in his body, but alcohol ...
It has long been claimed that Essencia has curative and medical benefits, and indeed, in the 19th and early 20th century the principle market for it was as a kind of revitalizing tonic, to be given to invalids and the seriously ill by the teaspoonful. Many eminent doctors of the day attested to its remarkable powers, in some cases claiming that a single teaspoon of the elixir had literally restored patients on their deathbed to robust good health.
These medical properties are the reason why the copper snake became the central element in Tokaj’s coat-of-arms. Gyula Krúdy (1878-1933, Hungarian journalist) noted the following about the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph:
„Our old king is healthy because he drinks a bottle of Tokaji wine every day– is what they used to say in Hungary at the time when throughout his long reign Franz Joseph was involved in every kind of legend, anecdote and fairy tale.“
And it is true that there is scarcely any other wine so rich in minerals and penicillin as Tokaji, so much so that in the first half of the 20th century aszú wines were available in pharmacies and sold as medicine. Tokaji was used as a remedy especially for anemie. As a matter of fact, the Tokaj wine's content of the vitamins B, E, and the "happiness hormone" serotonin is partially significant higher than in other wines. Furthermore, good Tokaj wines contain a comparatively high amount of constitutional substances such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), resveratrol, polyamines and polyphenols, which reduce oxidative stress in the organism in their role as antioxidants. Thus they help decreasing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular deseases. Similar to the red wines, the Tokaj wine's high content of polyphenols is a result of leaving the grape's paring with the mash vor several hours, before being pressed.
Berry Bros., England´s oldest wine merchant (since 1698), was very active during the 1920s and 1930s in exploring hidden treasures in the cellars of the Tokaji region, which were formerly owned by famous noble families. A bibliophilic collector´s item became their brochure "Tokay", released in 1933. It is a collection of fascinating extracts from letters received by Berry Bros. extolling the delights and medicinal benefits of Tokay. Here are some examples:
A beautiful Essencia from the outstanding Danczka vineyard. Behind the beauty of this Essencia lies a powerful golden goddess, whose soul and magic is contained within the orange blossom honey nectar.
see more ...
„Another glass, Watson!” said Mr. Sherlock Holmes as he extended the bottle of Imperial Tokay. ... „It is a good wine, Holmes.” - „A remarkable wine, Watson. Our friend upon the sofa has assured me that it is from Franz Josef’s special cellar at the Schoenbrunn Palace.”
from „His Last Bow”
Arthur Conan Doyle