Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: Gin and Genever

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke

Weekly insight into the world of drinks with Paul Clarke from the Cocktail Chronicles and Imbibe magazine.

20080227-cocktails-genevieve.jpgIt seems that every time I step into a liquor store, a new gin has appeared on the shelf, from new formulas promoted by established liquor giants to microdistilled boutique gins flavored with ambitious—and sometimes unpleasant—new combinations of botanicals.

But as Jason Wilson pointed out last week in the Washington Post, many gin and cocktail aficionados are ignoring the new gins in favor of something old: in this case, a gin known as genever.

Earthier, heavier, sweeter, and oftentimes more flavorful than the more familiar London dry gins, genever is the venerable ancestor to the now ubiquitous British tipple. Produced in the Netherlands and with a rich cultural history there, genever is also pretty obscure almost everywhere else. While brands such as Boomsma and Zuidam can be found in well-stocked liquor stores in some larger cities, genever is mostly absent from the U.S. market (for his article, Wilson flew to Amsterdam to satisfy his appetite for genever).

Of course, it wasn't always this way. In his recent book Imbibe!, cocktail historian David Wondrich reminds readers that many 19th century recipes that call for gin as an ingredient were designed with the complex flavor of the then-common genever in mind. And fortunately, domestic distillers may be satisfying some of the demand that Dutch exporters aren't addressing: last fall, San Francisco-based Anchor Distilling released limited quantities of Genevieve, an artisan-distilled genever-style gin.

Me, I'm a big fan of what genever can do in a glass. Who else has tried this distinctive gin? Which types are your favorites?