Straddling the Line

Flying Pig

3/4 oz Genever <Bols>
3/4 oz Becherovka
3/4 oz Aperol
1/2 oz Blood Orange juice
1/4 oz Bourbon <Woodford Reserve>

Shake with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass

Genever is an interesting beast. It lives somewhere between gin and whiskey.  Gin is simply a distilled neutral grain spirit infused with some botanicals; genever is partly that same spirit, but also blended with a maltier spirit made from the same grains to give it a sweeter edge.  Serious Eats goes into a bit more detail, but you get the idea.  Genever is also the proto-gin, as the Dutch were making the stuff and throwing some of the classic gin botanicals (juniper, coriander, etc) into it to take the edge off.  Eventually it made its way to England and the malty base was eliminated, and you get the more familiar London Dry Gin.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying I recently restocked my bar with a bottle of Bols Genever and spent last friday night experimenting.  The great thing about genever is you can take a recipe that traditionally calls for gin or whiskey, and swap this stuff in with great success.  Depending on the original recipe, subbing in genever can make a drink sweeter or drier, but it’s always fun to see which face it presents in a cocktail.  As it happened, I found two that sounded really tasty (one genever based, one gin based), but was missing some ingredients.  Time for the ol’ switcheroo!

First up was the Flying Pig, which was inspired by the Schiphol (Cocktail Virgin Slut FTW!). The post explained it was a riff on the Paper Plane, using genever as the base. Frederic at Cocktail Virgin Slut says its creator (Sahil Mehta) drew on the “aeronautical and Dutch themes, [and] dubbed this one the Schiphol after the airport in Amsterdam.” For my drink, I played a little fast and loose with the Dutch aeronautical thing.  It’s named after the hostel in Amsterdam I stayed in while backpacking around Europe before my senior year of college.

Now the original drink called for aged genever, which I didn’t have.  But then I thought, aged just means spending time in a barrel.  I have some bourbon that spent time in a barrel.  Combining the bourbon with my genever should get me close to that aged quality.  Another augmentation was blood orange juice instead of lemons.  We had a few in the kitchen that were on their way out, so I gave one a proper send off by adding it to my drink.   Finally I grabbed some Becherovka instead of Montenegro, thinking the cinnamon notes would go better with the blood orange.

First thing I noticed was how striking this looked in the glass.  The blood orange juice gave it this rich, reddish orange color. The nose of this drink was dominated by the blood orange and roots and spices from the Becherovka.  The first sip still had a lot of citrus, but the sweetness of the genever started to cut through it, and the warmth from the cinnamon and bourbon was a nice touch.  Everything finished with a slight tartness that was very refreshing.  The more I drank it the more I thought this might be one of the most delicious cocktails I came up with in a while.


Purple Door

2 oz Genever <Bols>
1/2 oz Amaro Montenegro
1/2 oz Cocchi Americano
1/4 oz Green Chartreuse

Stir with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass


Having made a shaken drink with citrus, I wanted to go in the stirred, spirit forward direction for drink number two.  Luckily my copy of the Death & Co book had just the thing in the form of the Key Party.  The substitutions were a little more straight forward in my Purple Door.  One Amaro for another (Montenegro in for Nardini); and one bitter aperitif for another (Cocchi Americano in for Bonal).  I like to think that Cocchi Americano is to dry vermouth as Punt e Mes is to sweet vermouth; somewhat more bitter and generally sharper around the edges, with the same underlying flavors of their tamer cousins.  I kept the original Green Chartreuse since I know it goes so well with gin, and this holds true for genever as well.

This was a very different drink from the Flying Pig.  Herbs dominated here in many different forms, from the Montenegro to the Chartreuse.  Everything rode the malty backbone of the genever (kind of like how the best IPAs have a strong malt character).  It also had a wonderful golden yellow color from the Montenegro and Cocchi.  While not as immediately impressive as the Flying Pig, I enjoyed this more as it sat in the glass.  A very refined drink that I’m sure will reveal more when I make it again.  And if you’re wondering, I called it the Purple Door because someone once told me that indicates the people living in that house are swingers.  Don’t know if it’s true, but fit the theme of the original.

If you ever find yourself deciding between a gin or whiskey drink, remember genever.  It has a certain chameleon like quality of showing its best flavors depending on what it’s mixed with.  A bottle that is new and familiar at the same time.

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