As a lark for spring, I thought over the next little while we could take a little exploratory jaunt along the edges of the world of gin — a world more interesting, particularly lately, than many drinkers may realize.
We start with the gins of the Netherlands, which are beginning to enjoy an unlikely renaissance in the rest of the world thanks to cocktail hipsters who keep an eye on the past. Canadian drinkers, especially those with access to U.S. liquor stores, may notice genever, the mellow Dutch cousin of English gin, suddenly popping up in their view.
Genever goes by many other names — Hollands gin, Dutch gin, and so on — and it divides into two categories, “oude” (old, which is sweeter) and “jonge” (young, tasting crisper and drier). Both are flavoured with juniper just like the gin you’re used to, but the Dutch kind is considerably sweeter than the English.
Until the 1880s or so, oude genever was the preferred gin of North Americans (or at least New Yorkers), and we called it Hollands. That was a major discovery of David Wondrich, a leader of today’s hip wayback machine school of bartending (watch this video). Hence the recent flow of genever in smart cocktail bars in New York and London.
One of the most popular brands, Bols Oude Genever tastes strongly of juniper and darker sugars. My bottle arrived in Canada via the luggage of a friend returning from a trip to the Netherlands.
If you can’t get your hands on some Bols, you might get lucky and see De Kuyper Geneva on the shelves in your province. It’s distilled under licence in Quebec, it’s dead cheap (less than $23 for 750 millilitres in Ontario) and sold in a green plastic bottle. All signs point to a hobo-juice territory, and yet De Kuyper’s gin — an oude-style one, though not labelled as such — is a delicious product, fresh and malty-tasting and on the sweet side even for a Dutch gin. It’s wonderful in cocktails.
I played around with a recipe for the Turf Cocktail No. 2 from Jacques Straub’s 1914 Drinks and and came up with this, which I shall dub the Reclaimed Turf Cocktail in honour of the dyke-building Dutch. You will have no trouble making this at home:
• 1 oz. sweet/old genever, e.g. De Kuyper or Bols
• ½ oz. Martini Rosso vermouth
• 2 dashes Angostura bitters
• 3-4 dashes gum or simple syrup (optional but recommended)
• twist of orange peel
To a mixing glass half-filled with ice, add all ingredients except orange peel. Stir for a good long time — until the level of the liquid has risen and submerged the ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Using a paring knife or potato peeler, peel off and squeeze a twist of orange peel above the drink. Rub glass rim with orange peel and drop into the glass.
More recipes to follow soon, and we’ll figure out what to do with jonge genever.