Clermont, Kentucky, October 3- Beam officia
Bols Genever: “Add history to your cocktail”
By Jamey Merkel
I would like to tell you about a fantastic story, involving history, cocktails and Genever. What is Genever you ask? To simplify, Genever is an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status spirit produced in Holland and is commonly referred to as Dutch Gin. Do not confuse it with a London Dry style Gin, Genever is actually much older and is indeed the parent of that gin style.
Now on to the story. In order to fully understand this story, I must point out three relevant historical facts.
First of all, prior to 1655, modern New York was called New Amsterdam as it was a Dutch colony. This meant that even through the 1800’s there would have been a large number of Dutch colonists (although by this point they would be called American), and wherever the Dutch were, there was Genever (which is still true to this day).
Second, according to Bols and VOC (Dutch East India Company) internal records, large amounts of Genever were being exported to America in the late 1700’s through the 1800’s.
And lastly, the first printed mention of a cocktail occurred in 1803 in a newspaper called the Farmer’s Cabinet, which was an upstate New York publication. And the first definition of a cocktail occurred in 1806 in The Balance and Columbian Repository, another publication from New York, it was defined as “spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” But it doesn’t specify what the base spirit was!
To a mixologist’s mind, this calls for some experimentation. Taking the classic cocktail, an Old-Fashioned, as a starting point, I began substituting the base spirit, based on the four that would have been most commonly available at the time. Genever, as you may (or may not) know, is one of the original four base spirits. The other three would have been a dark Jamaican-style Rum, Single Malt Scotch (similar to an Islay Malt), and Cognac or Brandy. Interesting enough, when I tried the four cocktails, they were all good in their own right, but the ones I made with Genever were the best of the lot, with wonderful aromas and textures and flavours.
The Challenge: Go try it for yourself, and draw your own opinions. I would like to share with you an excerpt from an article written by David Wondrich, which includes a recipe.
My conclusion? If there were many Dutch descendants living in the New York area, lots of Genever readily available, and the first definition of a cocktail appearing in a New York paper, than it is possible that Genever could have been the original spirit in the original cocktail definition. This, however, cannot be proven, but like many events in history, it makes for a good story….