HPSa secret circle of tastebud enchanters
The second cocktailbar we wanted to visit was the HPS – Hiding in Plain Sight. An award winning bar in the Dutch cocktail scene and a bar much recommended by Belgian bartenders.Curiousity was triggered, I had to pay a visit. Ben Belmans, internationally acknowledged genever specialist and godfather of the Belgian cocktailscene, said it was one of his favourite bars he ever visited. I really had to pay a visit.
I did and I wasn’t dissapointed. I mean the crew in this bar and their drinks are a perfect cocktail and you are the missing ingredient. This is living and breathing passion for hospitality and the liquid result challenges and surprises you without fanciness overkill or too much TTH (trying too hard). And that last bit is the clue I believe. This is in fact a very simple bar, but staffed with an extraordinary crew serving spectacularly balanced, but equally challenging drinks. And when you look at it, I believe that is what they do: they are hiding in plain sight. This is an exclusive world class cocktail bar “hiding” as a normal bar.
But they are not normal bartenders it’s rather something like a ‘liquid circle of tastebud enchanters’. Also, they’re from everywhere. Guillermo Gonzales and Vera Magagnini are from Argentina and lived a while in Barcelona, before deciding to hide in plain sight Amsterdam. Simon Martin Alexander was born in San Francisco, raised in Schotland and travelled half the globe before appearing behind the bar.
The bar is ellegantly designed, but very simple. The interior is not spectacular, but just…perfect. It is a well balanced cocktail in itself.
Again, like in Door 74, the menu was beautiful, clever and funny. This time filled with strange animals. I especially remember the “hipster bear” with a “foodiegram” to take pictures of his prey.
The cocktails were amazing. The Mango Crusta was fruity, refreshing, but also contained some hot peppery notes. The Megalomaniac was served in a simple red mug with a sticker that had your name on it, to boost the ego.
After a while we were asked to join the crew in a strange ritual, we had to drink a Pickleback.
Intrigued, I asked what it was.
With a hint of mischief in his eyes, Simon answered: “it’s a shot of whiskey, chased by a shot of pickle juice”.
– Pickle juice?
– Yes, pickle juice! You have to try it, it’s very good!
Shots were prepared for the entire bar and met with great enthousiasm.
So, we downed the shots and they tasted strangely pleasant. A very uncommon sensation. Described by others as close to the ‘umami’ taste, you know that “other” taste besides sweet, salty, sour and bitter. In my opinion it was almost all those tastes together.
Near the end we tasted a 60% German gin (I think it was German, I can’t really remember), which was very good. A real gin, no fancy stuff, not TTH. I challenged Simon to make me a Dry Martini with it. No problem, he said. I find it very difficult to make a two-ingredient cocktail with an overproof drink, so I was very curious, but of course he pulled it off. It was an exceptional Dry Martini, I adored it.
I loved it, the atmosphere, the crew, the drinks. And I know that whenever I am in Amsterdam again, in the evening you’ll find me in this bar. It’s an instant favourite.