Preview: Bols Barrel Aged Genever

25 08 2011

“Gives you a taste appreciated not only by man, but by woman too.” – Piet Van Leijenhorst, Master Distiller

Something may have been lost in translation, but Piet’s sentiments at The Vault last Monday were clear: Bols Barrel Aged Genever is dangerously drinkable. Nevermind that most of the women there could drink me under the table …

This is a grown-up version of the clear bottled Bols Genever that first came to the U.S. market a few years ago and has since spread just about everywhere. They are both Oude Genevers*, but the new one is aged a minimum of 18 months in new-ish Oak in a nod to the American Whiskey tradition. I’ve gone this far assuming you know what Genever is, but for the initiates, it is a traditional Dutch liquor made from distilled Malt Wine and neutral grain spirits flavored with herbs, most notably Juniper.

*Oude literally means old in Dutch, but in the context of Genever it refers to the style of production and not the age. Oude Genever is the “old style” and has >15% Malt Wine (the remainder is water and neutral grain spirits), while Jonge Genever is the “young style” and has <15%. Corenwyn is a different beast altogether …

Left to right: Jonge (Dutch market only), Oude Barrel Aged, Oude Unaged

In addition to being oaked, the new/old Barrel Aged Genever uses a slightly different recipe for its Malt Wine base than the currently available Genever. I snapped a shot of the Master Distiller’s secret recipe book, but I can’t quite make out all the details. Or read Dutch.

The secret ingredient is ... cough syrup?! No, that can't be right

Regardless, the most important difference is of course taste. Starting with the unaged Bols as a reference, the Barrel Aged bottle comes out sweeter, maltier and more complex. It has, basically, the same flavors of Juniper, Vanilla and Cinnamon. But at the same time, the aging marries them together and, unexpectedly, makes them easier to single out because they aren’t all trying to push each other aside. Whereas the unaged is fantastic for mixing in just about anything because of its distinct contrasts, the Barrel Aged is much better on its own or in cocktails that keep it simple.

Frank stirring an Aged Bols Manhattan

Think classics with only a few ingredients like the Old Fashioned, the Martinez, the Manhattan and the Julep. For the drinks with vermouth though, a little caution is warranted. The Barrel Aged does best with herbal, fruity spirits that compliment its flavor profile. The standard Noilly Pratt or Dolin isn’t going to taste quite right. Substitute Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc for dry vermouth and Carpano Antica or Cocchi Torino for sweet vermouth to get a more balanced drink.

Scary good Mint Julep

In the Netherlands you’d be far more likely to find this alone in a glass, scarcely sharing space with ice. Something to be sipped and savored like a good scotch or bourbon. Here’s the problem: in the U.S. Market there will only be four Genevers available when this is released and two of them aren’t all that interesting (Boomsma Jonge and Boomsma Oude). With whiskey though, you have an incredible number of choices across brands and styles and grains and ages, making it downright fun to try them all and discover where your tastes lie. I happen to love Bols, but it’s not necessarily for everyone and there’s nothing to directly compare their Genever to. I’ve got a smuggled bottle of Jonge (tastes like a good, lightly distilled wheat vodka) to have another style for comparison, but that’s it. Until we start seeing more Genevers coming into the U.S., the perception of Genever as a niche product is unlikely to change. That said, it does make a damn fine cocktail. Here are my favorites so far

Genever Julep

  • 2oz Bols Barrel Aged Genever
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 8-ish mint leaves
  • mint sprig for garnish

Place sugar cube in a Julep cup and muddle with a 1/2oz water. Simple syrup can be used instead, but you won’t get the crunchy bits of sugar that are essential to a classic Julep. Add mint leaves and gently muddle to release the oils. Cover with crushed ice and pour in Genever. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Oude Martinez

  • 1 1/2oz Bols Barrel Aged Genever
  • 3/4oz Cocchi Torino or Carpano Antica Vermouth
  • 1/4oz Maraschino Liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Lemon twist

Add the Genever, Vermouth, Maraschino and bitters to a mixing glass and stir with ice to chill. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a twist of lemon, making sure to get the oils on top of the drink and around the rim.

Manhattan (New Amsterdam?) / Perfect

  • 2oz Bols Barrel Aged Genever
  • 1/2oz Cocchi Americano
  • 1/2oz Cocchi Torino
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Maraschino cherry

Add the Genever, Angostura, Cocchi Americano and Torino to a mixing glass and stir with ice to chill. Strain into a coupe and drop cherry to the bottom of the glass.

Bols Barrel Aged is scheduled for a September release with a suggested retail price of $49.99 / 1 Liter.


Tales of the Cocktail: Do Not Disturb

22 07 2011

More great things coming, or at least a few incoherent ramblings on Tasting Rooms, cigars, parties in the WWII Museum and after hours at the Old Absinthe House. Until then:

Day 1 at Tales of the Cocktail

20 07 2011

The official kick off to Tales doesn’t happen until today at 2PM, but in reality, TOTC begins when you get to the airport. Flying LGA->MSY anytime between Monday and Wednesday the week of guarantees your flight will be packed with bartenders, brand ambassadors, writers and as one person diplomatically put it, “prosumers.”

We were welcomed to Louis Armstrong at 3:04PM by the Delta attendant proudly enjoining us to have fun at Tales and drink Chartreuse responsibly. Tales: check! Chartreuese: check! Responsibly: …

Ramos with a double water back

The first stop in New Orleans is of course the hotel, which in our case means walk straight past the check-in at the Loews and sit down at the Swizzle Stick Bar. The bar is run by Lu Brow, who is easily one of my favorite bartenders and really just an amazing person. We caught her for a few minutes after she got back from [redacted] and talked about [redacted]. I think I’ve already said too much ;) Sorry to tease, but I’ll make it up with a picture of us last year at Halloween.

Lady Cop Lu (hot!), me as Capt. Kirk (possibly Tasha Yar?) and the inimitable Fu Man Chu

We were also joined for a few rounds of Aviations, Corpse Revivers and Vieux Carres by Emily of Mouth of the Border. She’s a force that I first met at Tales last year on the last night at Bartender’s Breakfast. I was appropriately sodden at the time so the details of it are hazy, but I’m happy to count her as friend. And of course I can’t get this far without mentioning my companions on the trip: the toxicologist who introduced me to cocktails two years ago, the “local” who drank us both under the table last year while still making it to the strip club, and the controversial Rolling Stone author who scientifically proved Lady Gaga to be the Queen of Pop.

Why am I writing more about the people then the cocktails? Drinks are a lovely thing in and of themselves, used to cool you when you’re hot, to warm you when you’re cold and to take away the shame of the day. But the pleasure in them really comes from their unique power to make new friends and bring old ones together.

So anyway, it’s 6PM which means a stop by Mission Control to be just in time to miss registration. Undaunted, we moved on to Napoleon House for a Sazerac and a Pimm’s. If you’re new to New Orleans, you’ll probably notice that the Sazerac’s here are sweeter, and let’s just say better, than what’d you get from territories farther north.

Sazerac with the requisite double water back

Food. Yeah, food’s a necessity and one of the best places to get it is at Coop’s Place on Decatur. Yes, they sell t-shirts. Yes, it gets attacked by tourists. Yes, it’s not the cleanest looking place. But damn it if they don’t make the best Jambalaya I’ve had in my life! Filled with shrimp, rabbit, sausage and aweseome-sauce, otherwise knows as tasso, this will put your stomach at ease for a long night ahead. They also make quite a nice Sazerac.

A Jambalaya Supreme

Laden down with an appropriate supply of salt and grease, we grabbed a cab to Cure where I had a mind-blowingly good trio of cocktails. The first was the Scotch and Salt: blended scotch, Cocchi Americano, Cocchi Torino, grapefruit and smoked salt.

You can really taste the salt (Apu voice)

I only came here once last year, and sadly it was later in the week so the place was packed, but this is an absolutely incredible bar. The inside is stunning, the bartenders are seriously on point, and the drinks will genuinely surprise you. I followed this up with a Last Word made with V.E.P. Green Chartreuse, and my god, so good! I went into it expecting it to be better than the standard Last Word, but probably not worth the very expensive addition of V.E.P. I was wrong. So very very wrong. I’m not going to do justice in a description, but I’ll just say what I kept repeating that night: “like buttah.”

I closed out at Cure with a mezcal bartender’s choice. I’m not going to lie, this one stumped me. It was mezcal, punt e mes and something quinine-y. That’s the flavor in tonic water pretty much. It wasn’t Bonal (too dry), it wasn’t Varnelli (it didn’t melt my face off), it was a Sauz tincture. Seriously?? These guys are just ridiculous.

The night closed out at The Saint, a dive bar if there ever was one, with $2 High Life’s and a bevy of bartenders rocking the karaoke machine. We packed it in around 2AM, missing the traditional Chartreuese and Cigars at the Old Absinthe House, but that can wait for another night. Right now, it’s time for a Pisco tasting!

Welcome to Tails of the Cocktail 2011

19 07 2011

This marks my second year at Tales and I’m thrilled to be back. I’ve already had my first Sazerac and I’m still in the cab coming in from the airport.


It’s a truly special event that I’ll have more updates on throughout the week. I’m tremendously lucky to be here and will close this with some obvious, but often ignored, advice for Tales attendees: have lots of water and pace yourself. There’s always more around the corner and you don’t want to sleep through an impromptu trip to Rick’s Cabaret like I did last year.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Indy Spirits Expo NYC

18 05 2011

Monday night at Soiree on the Bowery, the Indy Spirits Expo took over with dozens of the most unique, new and independent spirits brands. Old favorites like Templeton Rye and Hudson Whiskey showed up to serve generous pours of their fantastic whiskeys. It is incredible how far these brands have come; not even two years ago the only way to get Templeton outside Iowa and Illinois was to order it by the case from Binny’s. I got my last order from them in December 2009 just before their supply dried up completely.

Steve pimping the Templeton

From Bourbon to Rye to 4 grain to White Dog, Tuthilltown has built up a great range all from their operation in upstate NY

Now that they’ve ramped up production and are backed by Southern Wine & Spirits in NY, Templeton has exploded and can be found everywhere from Astor to the Korean liquor store four blocks from my door. And this is a large part of what Indy Spirits is about: discovering and promoting smaller brands so that everyone can enjoy them.

Both Brooklyn and Breuckelen gin were in attendance, not two tables apart, and I’m happy to report they didn’t duke it out. Well, happy and disappointed. A two gins enter, one gin leaves, Thunderdome-style death match would’ve been entertaining. I mean, at least pelt each other with juniper berries or something! (A little background) In any event, they both make great, and distinctly different gins, so I say the more the merrier.

I like vodka. So shoot me.

One of the great surprises of the night for me was Dry Fly Distilling‘s Washington Wheat Whiskey and Gin. An American whiskey that drinks more like an Irish or a Genever, it is truly unique and something I plan to play around with. The gin too distinguishes itself in an increasingly crowded market by using their excellent wheat vodka as base, which they thankfully did not distill to death. Neutral vodka’s have their place (nothing I’d rather have with herring and caviar), but it definitely makes it more interesting for cocktails when the base grains can come through.

Tennyson also made a very strong showing with their Absinthe, eminently drinkable with just a little water. You could add sugar, sure, but this one doesn’t need anything to smooth it out.

Next purchase: Absinthe Fountain

Lastly there’s Fidencio, which brought out their Pechuga and Classico Mezcal’s, excellent complements to their original. The Classico adds smokiness, coming off as the name would imply, like a more traditional style and their Pechuga, well, is made with chicken breast. Yes, and it’s delicious.

Cinnamon and Orange are to Mezcal as Salt and Lime are to Tequila

On a slightly sour note, the bouncers and floor managers from Soiree tried to confiscate much of the vendors’ product as a “donation” to the club at the end of the night. Most stood their ground, but it left a bad taste in my mouth and doesn’t reflect well on Soiree as an event space. This is nothing against the organizers at Indy Spirits, the guys at Soiree are just douches. Look at their website, just look at it!

Who Gives a Fuck About an Oxford [Punch]?

4 05 2011

I’ve drank those Arrack punches too

They’re cruel

So if there’s any other way

To mix a bowl

It’s fine with me, with me

After having hosted way too many parties at my apartment stuck behind the bar, manning the waffle iron, and shepherding sheets of bacon to the stove, I had enough. Having to cut one of them, and not trusting anyone to understand the ‘quirks’ of my appliances, I decided to make a punch and let people serve it themselves.

Enter Punch, David Wondrich’s authoritative tome on the history of ‘The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl.’ Having cut my teeth on the blindingly strong Chatham Artillery, I set myself up for failure with the Oxford Punch. Wondrich confessed it to be ‘one of the most complicated recipes in this book.’ Who could resist a challenge like that? Also, it has jello in it. JELLO!


Like a great many punches, this one starts with an oleosaccharumhuh? Sugar and oil,  sugar and oil. Punch came long before the cocktail, but you’d recognize this best as a bartender squeezing a lemon peel over your cocktail and rimming the glass with it. This is to get the oils out of the citrus skin and into your glass so they can flavor and aromatize the drink. For punch, you’re going to extract the oil in advance and just mix it straight in.

The lemons and minneolas are so reflective because of the oil in their skin.

The oleosaccharum starts with peeling the citrus and putting it into a large glass bowl. This is easier if you strip the lemons in one piece, but it certainly won’t hurt your punch to have it in smaller segments. The recipe calls for 5 lemons and 2 Seville oranges, but the latter are hard to come by and are sadly out of season. As a substitute I used minneolas and orange bitters.

5 lemon and 2 minneola peels

The peels aren’t going to do much on their own and letting them soak in the punch to extract would take far too long (ever make limoncello?), so we muddle them with sugar. Ordinarily an oleosaccharum uses 2 ounces sugar for every peel, but we’ll be sweetening this later with capillaire so we’re only using 4 ounces here. Thoroughly mix and muddle the sugar with the peels and after as little as five minutes, you’ll start seeing the oil come out. An hour is enough to fully extract, so I make this first and then set it aside while putting together all the other components.

Oil = flavor

After waiting the appropriate time, juice your lemons and add them to bowl. You’ll need 10 ounces so you might need to grab a few more than the five you peeled. 4 ounces of Seville orange juice goes in as well, but since we’re lacking in that I added an extra 2 ounces of lemon juice, 2 ounces of minneola juice and a few dashes of orange bitters. Remove the peels, bottle the liquid, and refrigerate.

The next oddball component to this recipe is capillaire, which is really just rich simple syrup with orange flower water added. Boil 2 cups sugar in 1 cup water until it completely dissolves and add an 1/8oz orange flower water. Let the mixture cool, then bottle and refrigerate. If you’re impatient like me, a quick way to cool it down is put the pot you boil it in inside a larger pot of ice water.

The last component is the gelatin. Just read the box (omit the fruit juice), two 1/4 ounce packets will do.

All Together Now

Most of the hard work is done, now comes the fun part.  The base for this punch is an imperial pint (20oz) each of VSOP Cognac, aged rum and orange shrub, and half a pint (10oz) of dry white wine. The cognac I used was Adet, the rum Angostura 1919 and the orange shrub a 2:1 mix of Clement Creole Shrub and water. If I go to the trouble of making this again, I would upgrade the cognac and rum.

Since this punch isn’t going to be served over ice cubes that’d rapidly chill it, I recommend sticking all your bottles of alcohol in the freezer the night before so it starts out reasonably cold. Just mind the corks when opening them; they have a tendency to crack in the freezer.

Start by stirring together the cognac, rum, white wine and oleosaccharum in a punch container with two quarts water. (ed. thanks to John in the comments for pointing out the missing water) Next start adding the orange shrub and the capillaire: 24 ounces of the 2:1 creole shrub:water mix and 16 ounce of the capillaire should do. Start with half that and add from there. You can’t unsweeten a punch, so do just a bit at a time and taste as you go. When you’ve got it where you want it, add the 2 packets of gelatin you’ve prepared and stick the whole thing in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.

If you add ice, use a single large block so you don't break apart the gelatin

It’s a little tough to make out in the picture, but there is a layer of gelatin on top that’ll end up in your cup when you ladle it out.

Jello, Really?

Originally they would’ve used calves-foot jelly (this is from 1827!), but we’re just going to cheat a little bit on that point of history. It’s easy to associate jello and alcohol, especially poorly made jello shots, with all manner of douchbaggery. I did too, until I tried this punch. You may get a bit of snobbery from people who don’t like the idea of gelatin in their glass, but just tell them it’s historically accurate ;)

The jello does two things: adds texture and makes the punch seem less alcoholic. The texture, well, some people aren’t wild about it. If it’s a problem for them, give them a straw and tell them to suck it up. As for less alcoholic, the jello adds something to chew in the drink and, although it really is just perception, makes you feel like it isn’t 15% alcohol. When I made it I did warn people of this, but nevertheless the punch was finished remarkably fast. Quoting a nameless friend’s remarks from the following day (at 3PM!)

This is the sickest ive ever been in my entire life. 100% not joking. Never drinking again. Haha” – anonymous

Be careful with this; it can be far too easy to overindulge.

Cheat Sheet


  • 20 ounces VSOP Cognac
  • 20 ounces aged rum
  • 10 ounces dry white wine
  • 24 ounces orange shrub (16 ounces creole shrub, 8 ounces water)
  • 64 ounces water


  • 5 lemon peels
  • 2 Seville orange peels
  • 4 ounce sugar


  • 10 ounces lemon juice
  • 4 ounces Seville orange juice


  • 16 ounces sugar
  • 8 ounces water
  • 1/8 ounce orange flower water

One last thing, and I can’t impress this enough, taste the punch every step of the way. These proportions are guidelines and will depend on the sweetness, freshness, strength and bitterness of your ingredients. Please don’t just throw all this in a bowl; you’ll be unhappy with the results. It may also cause blindness.

Bootlegger 21 Amateur Cocktail Showdown

15 04 2011

Tomorrow night I’ll be competing in the Bootlegger 21 Amateur Cocktail Showdown, going after 4 tickets to the sold out Opening Gala of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. My Martinez Blanc was selected as one of three finalists and I’ll be making them for your enjoyment. The Homage to Harlem Glamour event has sold out, but if you’ve already got your tickets then stop by and say hi!

My submission:

The most common vodka drink, apart from maybe a vodka cranberry, is the Martini. The dry vodka Martini was only popularized in the 1950’s though, and since this is about the roaring 20’s, I decided to adapt the original Martini (the Martinez) to vodka. Using Dolin Blanc instead of sweet vermouth still gives it the prohibition era sweetness you’d expect, but keeps it clean looking like a modern vodka Martini. The grapefruit bitters are lighter and brighter than angostura, which would dominate a drink with vodka since its flavor is much more subtle than gin.

Martinez Blanc

  • 2oz Bootlegger 21 NY Vodka
  • 1/2oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
  • 1 tsp Maraschino Liqueur
  • 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
  • maraschino cherry

Stir, serve up in a cocktail glass, garnish with cherry.