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Nightlife

After years away, Genever is back at the bar

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Photo: Mikey McNulty
Sarah Gianetto

Genever: Don’t know what it is. Can’t pronounce it. What do I do now? I read the brochure and menu, listen to the presentation, watch the movie and try to pay attention to the technicalities and historical facts presented at this Bols Genever brand reintroduction tasting party. But it all comes down to the cocktail on my lips. And with Herbs & Rye playing host, I am poised to lose my genever-ginity.

A slip of the “gin” hints that they’re related. Gin evolved from this spirit ages ago, and they share juniper-berry flavor (from which both take their name). However, genever is its own category of spirit—traditional in the Netherlands—and it hasn’t hit American soil since Prohibition, before which it had apparently dominated cocktail culture. Bols Genever is in the process of changing the “strangeness” of the spirit while staying true to the production process—or as close as possible with a few reformulations to suit taste differences since the 1820s.

At the Herbs & Rye party, I’m presented with a John Collins (the Tom Collins’ predecessor) to begin. The fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and soda water allow the unique genever to punch through. A Holland House comes next, made with dry vermouth, lemon juice and Maraschino, but it’s simply too potent for my taste. By the time I’ve joined in the crowd’s “Proost!” and slurped off the top of a Dutch Courage—a traditional, room-temperature shot of straight genever, expertly poured to the very rim of a classic tulip glass—I’ve given up. This spirit is for palates more distinguished than mine.

With the rise in popularity of the crafted cocktail, Bols Genever is excited to join the Las Vegas market. “We love how you drink,” says Tal Nadari, managing director of parent company Lucas Bols. As for pronunciation, when you’re ready to give it a try think “Geneva,” but end it with “er.” Yeah, I feel clumsy saying it, too.

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