On Monday Carlyle hosted the Oregon launch event for Bols genever. Genever, the predecessor to the old tom, London dry, and Plymouth styles of gin that eventually took hold in the United States, has until recently been extremely hard to find here despite its continued popularity in parts of Europe. Mixologists seeking to replicate 19th century cocktail recipes have had to resort to desperate measures like blending Irish whiskey, Plymouth, and simple syrup to approximate its flavor in cocktails. Needless to say, having a real genever in wide distribution is a welcome development.
The juniper flavor in genever is much less aggressive than in London dry. Malt notes from the grain instead take center stage. It mixes differently than junipery gins, which can be a challenge if you try to treat it like one (though it does make a nice Collins). David Embury, for example, didn’t know what to do with it. “Holland gin does not blend well with other flavors and, while dozens of recipes have been written for Holland-gin cocktails, they are generally regarded (and properly so) as pretty much worthless,” he wrote in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.
This is more a failure of imagination than of the spirit. Treating it more like a whiskey than a gin can lead to some great results. One of my favorite drinks we served was a simple genever Old-Fashioned, made with Bols, superfine sugar, Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters, and a slice of lemon peel. It’s delicious. Other bartenders at the event tried substituting it for rye in variations on the Vieux Carré and Remember the Maine, both of which showed promise. There’s a lot of unexplored territory here and I expect we’ll be seeing innovative genever cocktails showing up on many local cocktail menus soon.
As part of the event I was given the opportunity to feature one of my own creations. I realized early on that chocolate bitters could play well off the malt flavors of the genever, though bridging the two together with other ingredients required some experimentation. Ron at PDXplate and Tim at The Goodist tried out many variations and offered suggestions. I like what we eventually hit on with the Van Houten cocktail:
1.25 oz Bols genever
.75 oz Lillet
.75 oz Cointreau
.33 oz lemon juice
.5 tsp Chartreuse
2 dashes Bitter Truth Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a chilled coupe. The bitters tie this drink together, offering lots of flavor affinities: chocolate and malt, chocolate and orange, chocolate and Chartreuse. I’ll be adding it to the menu at Carlyle later this week.
The name, by the way, isn’t a reference to Milhouse Van Houten. Bonus points if you know who it is a reference too, especially if you can name him without Googling.
[Photo courtesy of PDXplate.]