Spirits Around the World: Genever

Try these three cocktails using this historic Dutch spirit

First invented for medicinal purposes in the mid-1600s, the Dutch liquor known as genever has a long and flavorful history—most notably, its role as the precursor to gin.

That’s because the original incarnation of genever (derived from Dutch pronunciation of the French word for juniper, genièvre) was flavored with oil of juniper to make the drink palatable. 

Although the English style of gin eclipsed its predecessor long ago, genever once flourished as visiting British sailors brought it back to their homeland. Likewise, British soldiers in the Thirty Years’ War are believed to have drank genever to calm their nerves ahead of battle, thus spawning the colloquialism known as “Dutch courage.”

And production remains regional: Genever can be made only in the Netherlands, Belgium and parts of Germany and France, according to European Union law.

Unlike gin, genever boasts a malty grain base. Some imbibers may liken its taste to a much lighter scotch—and observe that a less herb-forward palette makes it suitable for classic cocktails such as the old-fashioned.

Here are three genever cocktails to try, courtesy of Food & Wine:

Genever and Soda

What you need:

  • 4 ounces club soda
  • 1 1/2 ounces genever
  • Lemon wheel
  • Ice

How to make it: In a tall glass with ice, combine genever and club soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel. 


Genever Old-Fashioned

What you need:

  • 2 ounces genever
  • ¼ ounce high-quality maple syrup
  • 2 big dashes Angostura bitters
  • Lemon peel
  • Orange peel
  • Ice

How to make it: In a mixing glass with ice, combine genever, maple syrup and bitters. Stir with ice, then strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with lemon and orange peel, twisting both over the glass to release their citrus oils.

The Dutch Apple

What you need:

  • 2 ounces genever
  • 2 ounces apple cider
  • ½ ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)
  • Dash Angostura bitters
  • Cinnamon stick

How to make it: In a small pot, combine genever, cider, honey syrup and bitters. Heat over the stove just until it simmers (you don’t want to cook anything, just warm it through). Pour into a heat-safe glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.