Spice Up Your Cocktails with Genever

After one sip of this old-school spirit, you’ll be a genever believer.

By Virginia Rainey December 14, 2016 Published in the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of Park City Magazine

Barrel aged jug r6mztl

Ever heard of a Dutch spirit called genever? It rhymes with believer. Though it was first introduced in the mid-1600s, genever is still unfamiliar to most Americans. But now, as sometimes happens with overlooked (or perhaps misunderstood) bottles on the bar shelf, mixologists across the US, including here in Park City, are rediscovering its old-school appeal.

Originated by the Lucas Bols distillery of Holland in 1664—at the height of that country’s thriving spice trade—genever has been called “the love child of gin and whiskey,” but that’s a backward concept, since genever is actually gin’s granddaddy. A distillate of rye, corn, and wheat (known as malt wine) and a neutral grain spirit blended with botanicals, including juniper, genever’s distinctive malty flavors are still far more reminiscent of whiskey than gin, and you definitely do not want to use it as a gin substitute. 

Today, genever is available in the US in two distinct styles. In Utah, you’ll find Bols—the original brand. Jonge, Bols’s newer and widely available genever style, is clear with a pleasing viscosity. It is ever-so-slightly reminiscent of Scotch with a piney finish. Oude is the original, older style with a maltier/sweeter side and a glowing golden appearance, a result of aging for 18 months in French oak. It’s available only by special order (or at your local bar). Smooth and mellow, this sleek spirit lends itself to an Old Fashioned or even a Manhattan.

In Holland, the tradition is to sip genever shots from a full-to-the rim tulip-shaped glass—so full that you have to leave it on the bar, put your hands behind your back, and bend over to take the first sip. Some Dutch drinkers prefer to mix it with a cola. Here in Park City, a few bartenders are putting a more sophisticated spin on things (recipes at right). Proost!

Genever Cocktail Concoctions

Raspberry Danish

Clif Reagle, HANDLE, (136 Heber Ave)   

  • 1½ oz Bols jonge genever
  • ¾ oz raspberry and watercress syrup
  • ½ oz lemon juice
  • ¼ oz orgeat
  • ¼ oz Aperol
  • 3 drops salt water

Shake with ice, strain, and serve in a coupe.

Attaché Case  

Adam Kaessner, The Eating Establishment, (317 Main St)

  • 1½ oz Bols jonge genever
  • ½ oz Bols oude genever
  • ½ oz Carpano Antica
  • ½ oz Dolin dry vermouth
  • 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice   
  • 1 drop orange 
  • blossom water

Shake with ice, strain, and serve in a coupe with a mint garnish.   

The Alps Apple Toddy

Bruno Araujo, Goldener Hirsch Inn (7570 Royal St)

  • 1½ oz genever   
  • 1½ oz apple cider
  • ¾ oz honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)   
  • Dash of Angostura bitters

Heat all ingredients (go ahead, make four drinks at a time) until just simmering (you don’t want to cook anything, just warm it through). Pour into a snifter glass; garnish with a cinnamon stick and a large lemon twist.

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