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Genever … A newbie’s trek through the land of malty goodness

In an upcoming series of posts, assuming I get off my large behind and write them up, I’ll be doing a set of reviews on some favorite spirits and interesting ways via drinks, etc. to imbibe them.  As theSpeakista was prepping for that little adventure I recalled – day dreamed actually – our trip to Bar Pleiades a number of weeks back. While sampling the fine wares that evening and seeing a bottle of Bols Genever sitting shyly on the shelf I asked the crack crew behind the stick to prepare a drink using this ingredient.  This completely random encounter with a spirit that up to that point I had no interaction with led to a typical event for yours truly – running out and purchasing a bottle for further, ah hem, experimentation.  It wasn’t until this past Wednesday during a WMN gone awry that I decided to break out the targeted recipes and take this bad boy for a test drive around the theSpeakista’s track.

While I am definitely not an expert, of any kind let alone on Dutch style gin, I sometimes find that a little background is helpful especially when trying out something new.  Jenever, Holland or Dutch gin is a strongly flavored spirit that would appear to be the grandfather to English style gin.  This spirit was originally, and it would seem still most commonly, distilled from malted or malt wine and in most current incarnations also distilled or blended with different types of botanicals.  Some of the most popular brands include Boomsma, Genevieve, a pot-distilled genever-style gin from Anchor Distilling Company and Bols Genever.  Bols was the victim of choice selected for my testing.

Ok, so theSpeakista had a great drink at Bar Pleiades and purchased a bottle of the stuff … now what do I do?  Typical to my experimentation I sought out drink recipes that would try to show case the Genever in a variety of different settings and so I settled on a line up of three interesting candidates.  First, the classic drink made popular again by David Wondrich in his book Killer Cocktails, the Improved Gin Cocktail. Simple in construction and yet a sublime showcase for the amazing qualities of this unique spirit. Second up is an interesting selection from the book Mr. Boston Holiday Cocktails.  Last up we find ourselves taking a drive down The Skid Row Cocktail, one of Eric Alperin’s fine creations.  This was only the start of my exploration into Genever — Stevi has some interesting recipes from a while back that are on my short list to make over the next several weeks.

Note: Prior to making the drinks noted above I conducted a very brief tasting of the Bols Genever on its own, both with and without ice added.

Aroma: the smell of malty goodness hits you immediately and upon deeper inspection reveals an interesting blend of grains (reminding me of certain “healthy” cereals I’ve tasted). With water/ice added, the smell of the malted grain becomes stronger on the nose.

Taste: multiple waves of flavors hit the tongue – first is a slightly sweet taste of the various types of grain followed by a strong blast of the malt ending with an interesting herbal/botanical mixture.  Chilled slightly with ice (this is also how I enjoy sipping London style gins), the Genever reveals a stronger herbal presence.

All right, all right … start mixing it up Mr.!!

The Improved Gin Cocktail
Recipe from the book “Killer Cocktails” by David Wondrich

•    2 oz Bols Genever Gin
•    1 tsp rich simple syrup
•    1 tsp Maraschino liqueur (Luxardo brand was used)
•    2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
Garnish: lemon peel
Glass: old fashioned glass
Tools: barspoon and a y-peeler for the garnish

Assembly: Build ingredients in the glass and add ice; stir and add the lemon twist as a garnish and sip the malty goodness.

The verdict: What a difference a spirit makes.  I’ve tried David’s recipe before but using a solid London dry in place of the Genever and thought that that version created a nice sipping drink for gin.  Now, with Genever occupying a prominent place in my cabinet of goodies, it is a much better drink when made with the proper main ingredient.  Rather simple in its construction (simple is sometimes best … just ask our old friends the Old Fashioned or Sazerac …) this drink is clearly designed to highlight the main character with its fantastic malty profile being front and center.  More interesting is how the maraschino and simple syrup combine forces to enhance the wonderful herballyness (yes, I think this is a real word) characters of the gin and also create a wonderful mouth feel.  Will most definitely being doing this drink again, and again, and again and it alone is a reason for you to go out and purchase a bottle.

theSpeakista’s Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Next up, we turn to a gift given this past Christmas for a little inspiration and something different.

The Sherry-Netherland
Recipe adapted from the book “Mr. Boston Holiday Cocktails”

•    2 oz Genever (Bols Genever was used)
•    1 oz Pedro Ximenez Sherry
•    1/4 oz orange curacao (Senior brand was used)
•    12 raisins
Garnish: 3 raisins
Glass: champagne coupe
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, julep strainer, muddler and a fine mesh tea strainer

Assembly: Muddle the raisins in the mixing glass and then add the remaining ingredients.  Stir the mixture with plenty of cracked ice until well chilled. Double strain into the serving glass and garnish with raisins on a pick.

The verdict: This drink through me off at first because the color and texture of my creation was so much different then that pictured in the book. Whereas the picture in the book is of a drink with a brownish amber hue and somewhat light in texture the version I poured out was almost black and viscous in texture.  I’m guessing that this was the result of over muddling the raisins.  This is a richly flavored drink with several strong taste players showing up.  Interesting but the drink almost tastes like a stout beer – malty and sweet with a punch of fruit both from the raisins and the sherry. An interesting drink to have attempted and a good example of how our start ingredient can be combined with some what different flavors to create a drink that is clearly different in taste then its component parts.

theSpeakista’s Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Feeling like my first drink was a home run and my second left me wanting more I decided to proceed forward.  Chuck’s site is a great resource for a novice Speakista like yours truly and in recent perusal for drinks containing Ramazzotti I stumbled across a post for the Skid Row Cocktail that seemed appealing.

Skid Row Cocktail
Recipe adapted from the original created by Eric Alperin at the Varnish in Los Angeles (recipe sourced from the Looka/Gumbo Pages blog)

•    2 oz Genever (Bols Genever of course was used)
•    1/2 oz apricot liqueur (Marie Brizard Apry)
•    1/2 oz Ramazzotti Amaro
•    1 dash of orange bitters (Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6)
Garnish: flamed orange peel
Glass: champagne coupe
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon and a julep strainer

Assembly: Mix all of the ingredients in the mixing glass with plenty of ice until well cooled.  Strain the mixture into the serving glass and garnish with the flamed orange peel.

The verdict: Another interesting combination of flavors.  At first the taste is a somewhat muted fruity sweetness yielding to an equally muted florally-herbal hint from the amaro.  Behind this, yet clearly present and capable of being recognized, is the grainy-malty Genever.  This mixture is so much more then the some of its parts with herbal, fruity, sweetness and grains coming together in the glass to heighten the others.  Nice job Eric on this creation and thanks Chuck for posting it (some time ago).

theSpeakista’s Rating: a soft 4 stars (out of 5)

theSpeakista asks?

1. Any thoughts on Genever?

2. I want to play more with this spirit – thoughts on interesting drink arrows in your quiver?

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