In the pre-Prohibition heyday of the cocktail, 19th-century bartenders reached for Dutch genever as well as rum, brandy and whiskey. A forefather to gin in that both employ juniper, but possessing many of the richer qualities of whiskey, genever is an AOC spirit unique to the Netherlands and nearby, where it’s the No. 1 spirit. Using a rediscovered recipe dating back to the 1820s, Bols Genever (BolsGenever.com, $39) gets much of its characteristic flavor from maltwine, a distillate of corn, rye and wheat.
The American importation of genever, Bols Genever brand ambassador Anthony Pullen points out, was six times that of gin in 1880, when genever was the headliner in many of the cocktails we today make with gin. Prohibition pretty much put an end to that.
This week’s cocktail was the signature drink of the Holland House, once one of New York’s finest cocktail bars and the former workplace of mixology forefather Harry Craddock before Prohibition, during which he moved to the Savoy Bar in London. The Holland House bar is rumored to have served the last cocktail before Prohibition.
“Dry, complex and strong,” Pullen says, the Holland House cocktail is closely akin to the White Lady and the Aviation. It’s a simple enough union of genever, lemon juice and Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, served up, with a twist. But you might also get acquainted with genever by indulging in a very Dutch tradition by pouring a generous shot of genever (Dutch Courage) until the glass is just about to overflow. Assail this lips-first (“slurpen”), then follow up with a cold Heineken to make it a Kopstootje (“little head butt”). And don’t worry—attracting strange looks means you’re doing it right.
- 1¾ ounces Bols Genever
- ¾ ounce Noilly Prat dry vermouth
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
- Lemon zest for garnish
Shake all ingredients with large, hard, cold ice cubes (Kold Draft ideally) and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express the oil of the lemon zest on to the surface of the cocktail, then rim the glass and set on the rim. Try one at Herbs & Rye (3713 W. Sahara Ave., HerbsAndRye.com $9).