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Spirit of the Dutch

With the Amsterdam trend officially born, it's time to get familiar with that cousin of gin, genever, in four easy lessons.

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LESSON 1
IT’S A G THING
Some people pronounce genever with a soft g. Others hardly pronounce the g at all, saying “yah-nee-ver.” Clint Rogers, the mixologist at Henri, pronounces it the former way, contending “I’m not Dutch.” If you aren’t either, follow his lead.

 

LESSON 1
IT’S A G THING
Some people pronounce genever with a soft g. Others hardly pronounce the g at all, saying “yah-nee-ver.” Clint Rogers, the mixologist at Henri, pronounces it the former way, contending “I’m not Dutch.” If you aren’t either, follow his lead.

LESSON 2
IT’S OLD-SCHOOL
This is not the first time genever has had its moment. It’s been around since the 1600s, when the Dutch created it to soothe upset stomachs and give soldiers courage. The spirit persisted until after Prohibition, when its cousin, gin, stole its limelight. “Genever and Old Tom Gin is what everybody in the U.S. used to drink pre-Prohibition,” Rogers says. “That’s all there was.”

LESSON 3
IT’S MALT LIQUOR
Gin is a direct descendent of genever, but the two are hardly twins. Whereas the base of gin is, essentially, vodka, the base of genever is malt wine, which lends the spirit warmer, baked flavors. “Genever is sort of halfway between a white whiskey and gin,” says Mike Ryan, the mixologist at Sable Kitchen & Bar.

LESSON 4
KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF IT
“Whereas gin can be good on its own, I don’t think you’d ever want a genever martini,” Rogers says. “That would be really gross.” And yet the traditional way of drinking genever is to drink it straight, from a tiny tulip glass. “The style is to fill it all the way up to the rim, so you have to bend over and slurp it,” explains Ryan (who, for the record, stocks such tulip glasses at his bar). “You slurp it until you get it low enough you can pick it up.” Still, Ryan agrees with Rogers: “It’s not for the uninitiated.”

EXTRA CREDIT
The (admittedly still budding) genever craze started a few years ago, when Anchor Brewing released its Genevieve spirit—a “genever-style gin,” as the company calls it. A few months later, Bols Genever was relaunched in a slick, sexy package. Suddenly, everybody wanted a taste.

Any cocktail list worth its salt includes a genever cocktail. At Sable (505 N State St, 312-755-9704), Ryan pairs Bols Genever with strawberry, lime cordial and prosecco in the Clockwork Cocktail (pictured). At Henri (18 S Michigan Ave, 312-578-0763), Rogers fashions a Tom Collins out of the stuff and dubs it the Phillip Collins.

All the comparisons between gin and genever are due to the botanicals they share. The most prevalent is juniper (the Dutch term for which is genver), followed closely by coriander.

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