A History of Dutch Gin
Jenever has been Holland’s national spirit since the 17th century. It is said Dutch people have the same amount of words for jenever, as the Eskimos have for snow. English speakers however will know the lovely spirit by the name of Dutch gin. Although Conservatorium's Tunes Bar is recognized for its Gin & Tonics, the predecessor of gin has surely not been forgotten.
Jenever also known as genièvre, genever, peket, or in the English-speaking world as Dutch gin or is the juniper-flavored national and traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium, from which gin evolved.
The liquor was originally produced by distilling malt wine (moutwijn in Dutch) to 50% alcohol by volume. Since the resulting spirit was not palatable due to the lack of refined distilling techniques, herbs were added to mask the flavour. The juniper berry, jeneverbes in Dutch, hence the name jenever (and the English name gin), was used for its alleged medicinal benefits.
The origin of cocktail
Although mixed drinks called punch were being made as far back as the 1500s, most people date the invention of the cocktail to the 1800s. The word 'cocktail' was first published in a newspaper in 1806.
There are many theories about the origin of the word cocktail, but the strongest claim is that it is derived from the French word 'coquetier', which refers to an eggcup type measure. Apothecaries used these measures to dispense alcoholic 'tonics' in New Orleans. It’s only a small step from 'coquetier' to 'cocktail'.
Genever across borders
Recent research has shown that 6 times more genever was imported into the US than gin during the 1800s. Recipes made with (Dutch) gin were meant to be made with genever, genever was one of the four main cocktail ingredients and was often (mistakenly) called gin at the time. Genever gives its cocktails a smooth and characteristic depth and allows classic cocktails such as the famous The Holland House cocktail to be recreated perfectly.
Gin is sometimes called ‘Dutch courage’ in English. According to historians, Dutch gin was popular among English soldiers fighting on the side of the Spanish during the 80-year long war between Holland and Spain. They found a bit of jenever helped them relax before going off battle, giving them ‘courage’.
Taste of jenever
Jonge jenever has a neutral taste, like vodka, with a slight aroma of juniper and malt wine. Oude jenever has a smoother, very aromatic taste with malty flavours. Oude jenever is sometimes aged in wood; its malty, woody and smoky flavours resemble whisky. Different grains used in the production process – such as barley, wheat, spelt and rye – produce different flavoured jenevers.
When jenever is drunk with beer, it is referred to as a kopstoot (headbutt) or duikboot (submarine) in Flanders. Traditionally, jenever is served in full shot glasses taken directly from the freezer. As the glass is very cold it is advisable to take the first sips without holding the glass, leaving it on the table and bending one's back to apply one's mouth to the glass.
Genever at Tunes Bar
Head on down to Conservatorium’s elegant yet casual Tunes Bar during your stay in Amsterdam to try the different jenever varieties such as Bols jonge jenever, Bols oude jenever and Bols corenwijn. Our Dutch Negroni is made with barrel aged genever, Galliano, Willem’s wermoed and orange peel.