Bols Genever

I know, I know, the picture of the bottle is enormous but it’s because I’m in love. Bols Genever is now available for sale right here in Australia, only 3 years after global distribution was announced.

Why am I excited? A whole lot of reasons really, primarily because of the liberal use of Genever that Jerry Thomas made is his Bon Vivant’s Guide, and a stack of other great drinks, like the Flying Dutchman, that make use of this very unique spirit.

The modern revival of this product really starts with Dave Wondrich, and his fantastic Imbibe! which chronicled the life of Jerry Thomas, and the birth of modern cocktailing. Following the runaway success of the title, demand for the Genever style used by Thomas skyrocketed, but there was very little of it to be found, replaced over the years by different styles that reflected the evolving Dutch palate. Two years after the book was published, in 2008, Bols announced they would distribute the bottle you see above around the world. Finally, it is here.

The story of Genever and Bols too starts much earlier than that, as it says on the bottle, in 1575.

The story of Genever is the story of Dutch Colonial expansion. The Bols family held a major share in the VOC, better known these days as the Dutch East India Trading Company. As such they had access to the bounty of spices flooding into the country. The industrious Bols family quickly developed an astonishing 300 liqueur recipes to take advantage of these spices.

It would be another 89 years before the family produced Genever in 1664, but their distilling chops were well established by that time.

A further 14 years after that, in 1688, Genever really took off. As is their wont, the English had run out of royalty (a recurring theme in British history) and installed a Dutchman on the throne, William III. The clogged monarch introduced Genever and the public went mad, getting extremely drunk (a recurring theme in British culture). As happens all around the world, popular products beg local imitation, the Brits tried their hand and came up instead with Gin (another of the reasons I love this spirit so).

Fast foward again, another 132 years, to 1820. Genever gets close to what we have in the bottle that sits atop this piece. Technology caught up with ambition and enabled production of rich malt wine, a flavourful distillate of wheat, corn and rye, run thrice through a copper pot. This malty goodness is then married with a botanical distillate of a very special recipe, containing, but not dominated by juniper.

The advent of the class of sporting gentlemen in the States created a huge demand for distilled spirits, and at the time Jerry Thomas stood, blazing behind a bar, US imports of Genever exceed Gin by a factor of six to one. This dutch spirit then, is the authentic way to enjoy Collins, Slings and Sours.

The malty base does cause a bit of a learning curve in mixing, but it’s one I am looking incredibly forward to progressing.

You’ll be able to find it at Dan Murphy’s and I think that type of distribution is fantastic for a spirit as storied and fantastic as this. Expect to pay about $50, which is really quite the bargain.

Cocktail, Event, MixMarch, New Zealand

MixMarch #29: The Flying Dutchman

Updating the Classics is a tricky business. You are taking a recipe that is loved by people around the world. It’s a fucking hard thing to do with any level of success. Imagine my surprise then, when American Bartender of the Year, Jim Meehan, stepped up to update both a classic and one of my favourite drinks, the Aviation Cocktail.

I’ve tried a few updates on the Aviation, and most end up like the Cherry Aviation at Pocket Bar in Burton St, too sweet, too different, just not really at all like the Cocktail they’re supposed to be channeling.

This is so very different to that scenario.

Jim’s drink amplifys everything I love about the Aviation, Strong, Sour and fruity floral. Sitting at home back in Sydney, I’m ready to book a ticket, pack my bags and fly half way around the world just so he can make me another one.

The Flying Dutchman

.75 oz. (22.5mls) Clear Creek Plum Brandy, .75 oz. (22.5mls) Bols Genever, .5 oz. (15mls) Creme Yvette .5 oz. (15mls)Lemon Juice, .5 oz. (15mls) Pineapple Juice, 1 Barspoon (5mls) of Luxardo Maraschino

Shake with ice and fine strain into a chilled coupe

Garnish with one brandied cherry

(Jim Meehan, Winter 2010)

An ancestor of the Aviation Cocktail, first published in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks in 1916, this blue plum, pineapple, cherry and violet accented sour references Dutch genever, not the cursed ship forever lost at sea.

Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #15: The Martinez

Having finally found a bottle of Luxardo* Maraschino Liqueur, I thought it time to investigate a few drinks that had been sitting on my list of things to try for a while, and, with the Martini going up (and down) last night, here is a drink that some bartenders call the grandfather of the Martini. I’m not sure about that, but it sure is great. More floral than the Gin & It I wrote about earlier in the month, the bitters and maraschino really work some magic.


  • 40mls Genever
  • 40mls Martini Rosso
  • 5mls Maraschino Liqueur
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters

Stir and strain it up in the style of a Martini.

* I know Luxardo is not the only brand out there, but my first Aviation came from one of the straw wrapped bottles and having tried the finer drier versions, I’d still sway towards this one.

Go check out Science of Drink and the great unpacking of the different styles of Martinez, and see where I got this great shot of the drink as well.

Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #8: Alamagoozlum

Okay, so the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and the recipe isn’t exactly what you’d call a “standard”. It comes from f Charles H. Baker, Jr.’s  The Gentleman’s Companion or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask, published in 1939.  Baker described this cocktail as:

“J. Pierpont Morgan’s Alamagoozlum: the Personal Mix Credited to that Financier, Philanthropist & Banker of a Bygone Era.”

I’ve included this drink as in a post GFC world, JP Morgan simply has less to play with, like the man and his enduring Bank, Northen Hemisphere bartenders must also do without, as they are held on rationed stocks of Angostura Bitters, the addition of half an ounce to a Cocktail would seem indulgent to the extreme.

The drink itself is different to be sure, but I reckon it does actually work. The Genever should be the Oude variety, as it really needs the malty kick. The bitters deliver a real Christmas cake feel, backed up by the Chartreuse, Curaçao & the Rum. I think this is one I’ll have to roll out again when I track down some gum arabic and  get round to mixing up a batch of old school gomme.

The Alamagoozlum Cocktail

60mls genever gin
60mls water
45mls Jamaican rum
45mls yellow or green Chartreuse
45mls simple syrup
15mls orange curaçao
15mls Angostura bitters
½ egg white

Yield: 2 large or 3 small cocktails
Shake very hard over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glasses.

This cocktail and the wonderful photo come from the amazingly colourful, well-read & considered Sloshed.