genever – gin, but not as you know it…

Bols Genever Gin

When we think of gin today we think of the London Dry style, and well-known brands such as Beefeater and Tanqueray. But long before this style of gin was popular, people were consuming a very different spirit known as “genever” also known as “Geneva gin” or “Holland’s gin”. In the 17th century, Holland and Belgium were the main producers of this style, but distilling of genever also took place across other parts of central Europe.

Bols Genever GinWhat is interesting about this style of spirit is that it is more like a whisky in terms of its base ingredients and distilling techniques than it is gin. Genever was traditionally made from a mash of wheat, barley and rye that was then distilled in a traditional copper pot still. Juniper was traditionally added to mask the flavor of the unpalatable compounds resulting from the unrefined distilling techniques that were in use at that time. The resulting spirit was malty, thick and heavy with traces of juniper.

Then in the late 19th century distilling techniques improved greatly, with London distillers leading the charge. The distillers now had new more efficient stills at their disposal and were subsequently able to create a lighter more palatable spirit, which the thirsty working class Europeans approved of with open mouths! London Dry gin was born and genever faded away.

Holland and Belgium were the only two countries to keep the genever tradition alive. Up to a few years ago it was virtually impossible to find genever in the US. However that changed when there was a renewed interest in classic cocktails by bartenders and spirit geeks. Recently, Cocktail Historian David Wondrich helped un-earth a recipe from 1820, which lists Bols Genever as the primary ingredient.  However, there are still only a few brands available in the US, but a recent stroke of good fortune was when Bols, the Dutch drinks company, recently began exporting their genever to the States.

Bols Genever is an excellent example of the style and is worthy of your attention if you are at all into creating cocktails or just expanding your palate. Traditionally genever is consumed chilled and neat, but for me the “Original Collins” recipe below is excellent and deliciously refreshing. The recipe does not call for bitters, but adding a wee dash of the Bitterman’s Burlesque bitters adds a touch of sweet, spicy-tartness to the drink, kind of like a naughty Burlesque show!

The Original Collins Recipe is:
2 oz of Bols Genever
1 oz of Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz of Simple Syrup
Sparkling Water
Lemon Wedge

Shake Bols Genever, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice. Strain into a Collins glass over ice and top with sparking water.

Bols Genever Gin Gift set w/ Mixing Spoon and Bittermens Burlesque Bitters
Bold aromas of frosted raisin scone and fruit cake follow through on a very smooth and satiny entry to a glycerous dry-yet-fruity medium-full body with excellent depth and balance. Finishes with a vivacious, sweet oatmeal, dried flower and pepper accented fade. A delicious, vibrant and bready genever that will be great on its own or in cocktails.


Denis Lynch

About Denis Lynch

I am a true homegrown Irishman hailing from the only county you really need to know about, Cork. Whiskey, beer, wine and all manner of spirits are in my blood (figuratively speaking of course!). I first started my career in my Great Aunty Maisey’s pub in New Tipperary, Donoughmore, pouring pints and small drops to the auld lads after the fair. Little did I think back then that I would be taking a short hop, skip and a jump over to the U.S of A. But here I am and I have been with Vine & Table since the beginning. I am now the stores Beverage Manager and Spirits Buyer. I like to think that I have found my niche here in the US. I have a great love for all things spirits-wise and have developed our offerings here at Vine & Table to include the best Single Malt selection in Indiana. Pop in and see me for a chinwag and a small drop next time you are in Carmel. Slainte, Denis
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