Genever – also spelled “jenever” – has a lot to answer for. Dutch Courage? Originally referred to genever. Bathtub Gin craze? All started with genever. While the history of genever can be traced back as far as the 13th century when it was used medicinally, it became popular as a recreational drink in the Dutch Golden Age. From Holland, genever made its way across the North Sea to England, where the Brits also began distilling grain alcohol with juniper berries and gin was born.
The difference between the two is subtle but important: genever contains malt spirit, which lends the drink its characteristic rich whiskey notes; whereas gin is made from 100% neutral grain alcohol.
Luckily, Amsterdam has plenty of watering holes to try both. Not only that – you can even buy DIY kits, take boozy tours or celebrate the humble juniper berry at a gin festival.
For the Curious: Where to Taste Genever and Gin in Amsterdam
From old-fashioned proeflokaals (tasting rooms) to swanky new cocktail bars, Amsterdam offers something for every juniper enthusiast:
- For the true Golden Age experience, head behind the Nieuwe Kerk on Dam square to De Drie Fleschjes (the three little bottles) which dates back to 1650. Not much has changed in over three centuries: you’ll still find the back wall lined with barrels, and the clientele standing at the bar sipping their oude (old) or jonge (young) genever out of tulip-shaped glasses.
- Closer to Central Station, pop into De Ooievaar (the stork) for an early evening borrel – generally an after-work drink. To make it super Dutch, order a kopstoot: a beer with a genever chaser – much like an American boilermaker.
- If you fancy some nature with your genever, make your way out of town to Flevopark in Amsterdam Oost (east). ‘t Nieuwe Diep is both a distillery and a tasting room, where you can enjoy your genever in the picturesque garden.
- On the other end of the spectrum, the ultra-modern G&T bar in the Foodhallen in Amsterdam West opened just a couple of years ago. Housed in a converted tram depot alongside dozens of tasty food stands, the bar offers a creative take on the gin & tonic, using everything from lavender to cinnamon.
- At Kimpton De Witt’s House Bar, you can enjoy an expertly crafted cocktail in a historic space dating back to 1645. And yes, many gins and genevers are on the menu
For the Connoisseur: Taking Genever and Gin to the Next Level
If you want to get serious about your juniper fix in Amsterdam, try these for good measure:
- De Ooievaar (mentioned above) also organizes distillery tours, culminating in a tasting at the van Wees Proeflokaal. Dates are only occasional, so plan ahead!
- Go DIY on your gin and tonic or G&T with bespoke mixing kits available at Hutspot stores: Our pick? The silky smooth Vørding’s gin.
- Amsterdam goes juniper-tastic from May 19-20 at the official Gin Festival. Hop on the Gin Boat from Central Station to Amsterdam North and taste not only gin, tonic and genever, but also vermouth, mezcal and craft beer. Cheers to that!
– Vicky Hampton