Discovering Amsterdam Through Genever

If cities were to be identified by their greatest offerings to the world of alcohol, then Amsterdam would be Genever Central. The spirit is all too often diminutively referred to as “Dutch gin,” but the drink is much more complex than that title would imply. In fact, genever (or jenever) is a historic precursor to gin. It was first developed during the 17th century as a cure-all for the various ailments plaguing the people of the Netherlands. Its association with gin, a drink that achieved popularity in London after it was brought back to England by troops, is the result of being flavored by the juniper berry. Both gin and genever receive their notes of pine and evergreen from the juice of the juniper berry. However, genever, unlike gin, achieves an amazingly complex flavor thanks to the number of herbal aromatics they add to it apart from juniper. In addition, the distilling process of genever results in a smoky, malty flavor that further distinguishes it from its British cousin.

While genever enjoys a distinctively Dutch provenance, it is possible to get your hands on some of the good stuff stateside. The Dutch producer Bols began exporting its genever to the U.S. in 2008, resulting in its gradual appearance in bars across the country. However, for the most authentic genever experience, you will have to adventure out to Amsterdam, often referred to in Dutch as a jeneversteden – jenever city. The House of Bols offers a museum to the drink while intrepid travelers can look inside the process of distilling genever with a distillery tour at the A. van Wees Distilleerder de Ooievaar. No matter how you drink it, straight up or in a cocktail, the malty, aromatic elixir is sure to conjure up images of the golden age of the Dutch city.

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