Ever had genever? You've probably had gin, but it's likely you haven't had genever. The Dutch/Belgian version of gin, the earliest form of commercial gin, has not been popular in America for centuries -- a damned shame, cuz genever is good stuff. It's grainy, it's got more body than gin, it's not as piney as gin, and mostly, you drink it straight up, and you know...I like that.
That's me on the left, liking it, having a Belgian genever at 't Dreupelkot in Ghent last spring. They serve it so full, right up to the very brim, that you kind of have to take that first sip right off the bar, and then pick up the glass. That's their genever menu on the bar beside the glass; you can see how many genevers they have...and that's just one side of the menu.
I don't remember if they had Bols Genever or not. 't Dreupelkot is the kind of place that might not have Bols because it's too ubiquitous (and too Dutch...). Bols claims to be the oldest spirit brand in the world, though they've kind of hidden their genever light under a basket in the U.S.; I knew Bols as a bottler of blue curaçao, the bright blue, orange-flavored liqueur that was an ingredient in a drink we called "Tidi-Bols," along with a depth charge-sized slug of vodka and 7-Up to top up. Anything to get drunk, back in those hazy post-college days.
But Bols has been making genever since 1820, and they've brought it back to the U.S. recently, with a big launch in New York and San Francisco. They're pushing it as a cocktail ingredient, and I'm sure it's a good one. But I hear people put bourbon in cocktails, too, and that's never impressed me much either. Okay, maybe a little. But I'd rather just drink the stuff.
I remember talking with Steve Beaumont at Dreupelkot, as we sipped genevers and watched people "eat" advocaat, a kind of booze pudding made from brandy, eggs, sugar, and flavorings. The bar had a crazy rainbow of flavored advocaats, and you get a little cup and eat it with a utensil that looks something like the plastic coffee stirrers you get at McDonald's. We were both thinking that a genever and advocaat bar would be a can't-miss proposition in Manhattan...which probably proves how many genevers we'd had. Still...genever and booze pudding? I think we might have been right. With this Bols launch, maybe we'll find out.