Last night I visited Vandaag (Dutch for "today"), a new Dutch themed restaurant in the East Village which I had been hearing lots of good things about, including a 2 star review by Sam Sifton of the NY Times. Though I knew the food would be good, my interest was of course piqued by their drink menu, particularly their cocktails, which Sifton described as "thought-provoking." Being a Dutch themed joint, it was obligatory for the menu to list a variety of Dutch beers, and of course cocktails made with the Dutch spirit genever, also known as Holland gin, or as I call it, the O.G. (Original Gin).
And thought-provoking the cocktails were indeed. Sipping them reminded me of how long it had been since I wrote about genever (back in June '09 in fact), and that perhaps another post on the Dutch spirit was due, especially considering how U.S. sales of the spirit have skyrocketed since it's reintroduction to the American market a few years ago. So I scrapped my previously planned cocktail for this week's post and decided I'd write about a genever cocktail instead.
If we are to compare London Dry gin (the style of gin most popular today) as essentially juniper flavored vodka, then genever best compares to juniper flavored whiskey. Of course that's a much too simplistic view, but it should give you a sense of the difference in flavor and body between London Dry gin and genever.
While both styles of gin share the juniper berry as the cornerstone of their flavor profiles, the road splits from there. London Dry is as the term denotes, a "dry" style that's almost always complemented by notes of citrus on the nose (and often the palate as well) and is much lighter bodied, thereby drawing the comparison to vodka. Genever on the other hand draws a better comparison to whiskey because it has much more body than a London Dry, has a touch of sweetness, and has the distinctive funky aroma and taste of the malt and grains from which it was made.
Genever, or Holland gin as it was widely called, was the popular style of gin in America up until the late 19th century when the modern London Dry style became all the rage. Over the last few years genever has mounted a quiet comeback, having become the darling of the craft cocktail set for its unique flavor profile and how well those flavors play in the right cocktail made by someone with the right talent.
The cocktails I had at Vandaag were definitely spot on, made by bartenders with real talent, but I was unfortunately too busy throwing them back to remember to ask for the recipes. So instead I'm sharing a recipe for a genever cocktail from another bar that knows a thing or two about Dutch spirits, Door 74 in Amsterdam. Created by proprietor Philip Duff, the V.O.C. is a great example of incorporating genever with ingredients that stand out but still allow the base spirit to really shine through. First the recipe, then a little about the drink's name.
1 1/2 oz genever (I used Bols)
1/2 oz demerara syrup (equal parts demerara sugar and water)
1/4 oz apricot liqueur (I used Rothman & Winters)
1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1 barspoon Zen green tea liqueur (approx. 1 tsp)
orange or lemon twist
Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: small coupe or cocktail glass
Shake all ingredients until well chilled and strain into your glass, which would ideally be chilled in advance. Squeeze the twist over the drink and place it as garnish.
V.O.C. stands for Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, known in the English world as the Dutch East India Company. Established in 1602, it was the world's first multinational corporation, and once the largest company in the world. Chartered with the task of representing the colonial interests of the Dutch government abroad, it had the power to raise its own army, declare war, print its own money, set up colonies and act on behalf of the Netherlands in foreign trade negotiations. The Dutch East Indies Company represented the climax of Dutch colonial power in the world, with their merchant and navy boats ruling the high seas centuries before the Brits took that crown.
Keep it O.G.
*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below.