Tag Archives: gin

Bro’s Gin is a real pro’s gin

A new gin? Yes. Really? Yes. Belgian? Yes. Any good? In one word: fantastic! 

It is one of the rare examples when the all too familiar story of 'X-number of friends come together and decide to make gin' really turns out to be a good idea! Bro's gin is a magnificently well balanced London Dry with its own personality. A straightforward and honest gin, no bs. Also, this gin is so good it's actually slowly conquering every Michelin Star restaurant in Belgium.

Well it’s Bro’s gin and the origin story is as follows: three bro’s – who happen to love gin – decided to make one for themselves. And we can see the reason for this. Being bro’s they most probably live according to the Bro Code and considering rules 25, 30, 109 and 114 you might as well come to the conclusion after a while that it will be cheaper to create your own booze. And you know, we kinda like this origin story. Why? Because it’s honest and it did really happen. For once it didn’t include the fortunate discovery of a family gin recipe dating from just after the creation of the juniper berry.

How neo-gins are made: “Finally, my great granddad’s lost recipe! I knew it was in the attic all the time!”

These guys just wanted to make gin, but in stark contrast to their countless predecessors, these friends are really serious about it, even more they’re dedicated and passionate about gin. So one of the bros bought a make-your-own-gin-at-home set and they started off their adventure, experimenting with recipes for more than 365 days. Oh, happy days!

“Day 353! We’re nearly there! Chances are I’ve lost the cat in the proces, but hey, sacrifices have to be made!”

Upon finally reaching a recipe they all agreed upon the Bros went to Vibe Distilleries in Herentals (Antwerp) and asked them if they could produce this. The result is Bro’s Gin and the result is doing very well. Here’s some of the star restaurants that immediately put it on their menus: Restaurant Philippe Meyers, Het Gebaar, De Kromme Watergang, ‘t Kreukeltje, Hof Van Cleve, …


Bro’s Gin is a very nice London Dry, full of flavour and not just for tonic. Considering the name it’s the ultimate birthday gift for a good friend. We immediately made the remark that it is quite “male oriented” and that they should make a female version too. Let us conclude that the first names for this would-be experiment came out quite wrong 😉


Bro’s Gin is infused with 13 botanicals including: juniper berry (thank God), rosemary, lemon, orange peel, cardamom, Java pepper, basel, coriander and even apple. Distilled in copper pot stills.

Serving suggestions you ask us? Anyway the Hell you want it!  😉






Belgian Steam Gin Gets Your Engine Rolling

Another gin, you say? Yes, people don't seem to get enough of it. Which recently lead to the quaint discovery that our blood vaguely tastes of juniper. A fact which largely broadened our Transylvanian fanbase by the way. Read below why you should try Steam Gin.

Steam Gin is the product of a unique cooperation between the Van Damme Distillery, Small Distillery Lede and VDS Distillery. And there is at least one reason why we got interested in this gin, namely, it’s distilled by Van Damme Distillery…

Van Damme is better known for its fantastic genever products, especially Balegemsche Graanjenever 54° – aka: Ol’ Blue One. Further more Van Damme distillery is the only farm distillery left in Belgium. We used to have hundreds, but one law and two world wars later, there’s only one left. What’s so special about a farm distillery you wonder? Well, a farm distillery produces its spirits entirely by itself. So everything, except for the bottle, is made on the farm, beginning with the grain. They have one expression which sounds great in Flemish and much less so in English nevertheless I will enrich you with it: “Van de grond tot in de mond!”, translated this becomes: “From the soil to the mouth!”

Van Damme Distillery Column

So, apart from growing, malting and distilling their own grain they also have on or two other special features. They use open fermentation and next to this barrel stands a huge f***ing steam engine that heats their column! It dates from 1862 and was recently completely disassembled, cleaned, lubricated and put together again. It’s quite an impressive sight and it rolls like a dream! It’s also – like you might have guessed – the origin of the name for this gin.

A 155 years old steam engine, looks like new to us!

We especially like the bottle design, which is custom created in Italy and took longer than Caesar to arrive in Belgium apparently. The scorched cork and pewter seal are nice details. We couldn’t fathom, though, the need, reason and meaning of the motto: “we saw taste”. It’s only later, when you turn the bottle around, and read the poem on the back of the label that you see the origin – yet still not the reason – for it. In light of good taste we suggest to dispose of the motto, as well as the poem.

Steam Gin gift box, rather nice.

The taste is rather good and well balanced, a nice mixture between flower and spice with distinct juniper and cardamom notes. It works very well in G&T with a grapefruit twist, less suitable for Dry Martinis, but surprisingly superb in Negronis and very nice neat over ice. So get steaming!







Hammering a good drink to life requires a Sip-smith

No doubt Sipsmith, as a relatively new gin, has earned its place among the classics and will keep it for a long while. Fairfax, Sam and the well known Jared Brown took their first steps into sip smithing with prudence, which also happens to be the name of their first small copper still. A few steps later, due to high demand "Constance" and "Patience" were installed. Make no mistake "the one with the swan" will survive many other 'new' gins.


Smithing a sip, that’s actually where the name comes from, a distiller that creates a drink like a blacksmith would create a fine blade. I had no idea. I, until recently, believed it honestly was somebody’s surname, you know, a Mister Sipsmith… probably connected to the usual story: being somebody from the 19th Century who made a gin everybody forgot about until some seven years ago, when suddenly somebody – with thunder and lightning – discovered the ancient recipe and considered it his sacred duty to reproduce it even though he himself was an IT consultant from Fordwich and could spell distillate as well as Tatcher could spell empathy.

The Sipsmiths
The three Spirit Blacksmiths: Jared, Sam & Fairfax, actually smithing a sip right there!

That’s not what happened here! This about three men who want to prudently, constantly and patiently hammer good drinks into life. And they do know a lot, if not everything, about distilling the finest of spirits. And Sipsmith is a fine spirit indeed.

The Queen’s Martini (in obscure circles also known as a Dry Lizzy)

Sipsmith is a London dry in the truest sense of the word. It’s a very traditional and classic London dry, tasting quite dry with hints of citrus and being distilled in London itself. It’s a well balanced gin with a capital G. You know that lovely dry, herbal tartness with juniper and citrus flavours. This gin is like born to make Dry Martinis with, they’re fabulous! And we happily approve of this, for many of these new “gins” are made solely for the purpose of producing a (dreadful) Gin Tonic. We hardly can call those “gins”. Not Sipsmith, Sipsmith is Gin!

Queen's Birthday Launch-Alt-Copy

If you ever wondered why there’s a swan’s head in the logo, it’s a reference to the ‘swan neck’ copper still they use. Speaking of old swans, the Queen turned 90 recently and everybody knows Lizzy enjoys a good drink, therefor the three at Sipsmith released a limited edition bottle to honour her, draped in imperial purple and with a little Union Jack upon it. The Queen especially loves the following sensation before lunch:

  • 3cl Sipsmith London Dry
  • 7cl Dubonnet
  • stirred over ice
  • garnish with lemon wheel

The protocol demands to sip it with a majestical gesture!

Sipsmiths Prudence

And please, remember, be prudent and drink responsibly, because if there’s one thing you’d want to avoid it’s being hammered by a sip-smith!


Trends and tipular fixings for 2016

To augur the cocktail and spirit trends for 2016 is more like horoscopes, tarot and disembowelling lamb to check their livers for strange spots. It’s not hard science. So instead we take a look at what we saw in 2015 and what we would like to see in 2016, mixed together with what we could possibly see in the future. Also we’re talking mostly about Belgium here and not the UK or USA.

Cocktail bars are slowly shedding their retro vibe

So less bowties and suspenders walking around in 1930’s speakeasies or 1920’s flapper parties, chique American Bars or Café de Paris. I still love those bars, most of them are great. In my opinion it is exactly the same thing as the old Tiki bars, where they wanted to transport you to a Polynesian island and experience a tropical vacation without leaving town. The speakeasies and retro bars want to transport you back into time and serve you 19th century cocktails in a 1930’s bar. And we enjoy that very much.

It is logical that we took a few steps back into time to relearn what cocktails, hospitality and bartending are, considering the republishing of Jerry Thomas’ recipes and the beginning of the cocktail renaissance. But after these few steps back, we’re ready to lunge forward and actually interesting times are ahead of us to see and observe the new concepts of cocktail bars that are coming. The signs were already there for a while, like for instance the influence of star restaurants which introduced new techniques, products, textures, etc… or pre batched cocktails on tap or the “highballisation” of drinking culture. You name it. One thing remains definite: the future brings new things. Sometimes so fast that we start to wonder whether the greater public will be capable in keeping up. Or will it be reserved for the few who always remain hip & trendy? The question brings us to our next observing.

So, less of this, although these people rock!!!

Less classy, more dive bars

Don’t get me wrong, classy is fun too. It doesn’t necessarily equals stiff and boring. I can really enjoy a classy bar with waiters and bartenders dressed in starched white bowing to you in humble servitude fixing your drink with ice-cold perfection like they were performing a hart surgery. On the other hand I also love the more upbeat bars, where everything is pleasantly chaotic and the bartender looks like a tattooed hermit covered in locusts, preparing your cocktail like an Italian chef would make his personal pasta recipe. As long as the drinks, the service, the atmosphere and the company are good, people will normally enjoy themselves. All the rest depends on moods and preferences.

Interesting to notice is the fact that three of the last bars that opened here in 2015-16 are a distinct move away from the “classy” ones. You got the Dirty Rabbit – former (classy) Josephine’s – a rock n roll cocktailbar, then there are the two side projects of Jigger’s: Pony’s and Ganzerik. Pony’s is a ‘no brand’ cocktailbar with about 8 cocktails on the menu – if I remember correctly – all of them 10€. And Ganzerik is more like a local pub with beer, local food and simple cocktails. It’s on my top to visit list. All three have one thing in common: they scream “cocktails are for everybody”! And they’re absolutely right.

The Ganzerik, cocktails for everybody (and craft beer and food and good service and happiness and …).

Considering the cocktail renaissance it’s a logical step in my opinion. Before that cocktails were nothing more than spiked lemonades and we needed to convince ourselves and the public that there was more to it than that. That a bartender was more than an underpaid school dropout, but somebody with a particular set of skills and knowledge who can do more than just fix you sickly sweet shit. That bartending is about serving people and making a visit to a bar an entire experience. Actually an entire drinking-culture became reinvented and we brought back from America and the UK: Speakeasies, pre-prohibition bars, bowties, suspenders, tattoos and awesome drinks. Amazing concepts and experiences were created, we still love them all. (cf the first observing above)

Actually the bartenders and cocktailians did their best so hard that it scared some people away (apparently) who thought it was too classy for them or misunderstanding that most of those “bar rules” are written in great fun and mostly mere suggestions. (The bartender is not going to flip a shotgun from under the counter and shoot your head off when you start talking into your cell phone. He might do that in his mind, you see but he’s not going to spit in your drink. If the conversation is a hindrance to other customers he will ask you to continue your phone call on the terrace or something.) Some people got scared that they would misbehave in some way or another. Or think it’s just for the rich people, it’s too expensive (those people prefer to sip on their Malibus, Pisangs and Safaris somewhere else).

I actually remember one person who asked the oft repeated question: “where can I get a good cocktail?”, I answered by naming and describing a well known Belgian cocktail bar whereupon she interrupted me, gasping: “Oh, no! That’s the bar where you have to ring the door and then they put you in the cellar!” I replied: “Well you make it sound horrible, but it’s actually quite enjoyable. They’re the nicest people with the best drinks you can imagine!” Large hazel eyes stared at me in doubt and disbelief. “Am I not underdressed for the place?”, she squeaked. My turn to blink in disbelief at the late twenty-something lady, my eyes snapped 160cm down and back up again. “Look, you don’t have to worry about that at all, nobody has to, actually. You can walk in there sporting a mohawk, 21 different face piercings and a stench-core punk shirt and they will still serve you!”.

And I heard more comments like that on cocktail bars in general. These people are mistaking obviously, but it doesn’t stop the bartender/owner – creative as he/she is – to think about some solution. And the “solution” is simple: create a “normal” dive, beer, people, music bar and serve cocktails too, apply everything you’ve learned about hospitality and tada! I think Attaboy in New York was the first to come up with the idea one or two years ago and now it’s here. Here end the two most important observings, what follows are just a few points you should remember.

The “future” and cocktails beautiful pictures, featuring Pony’s by Jiggers Ghent.

Low alcohol cocktails will continue

Yes they will. We’re practically forced to. Considering insane taxations on spirits and the delusional political opinion that when you’ve had 2 ounces of navy strength rum you’ll step into your four-wheeled killing machine and mow down an entire village. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against low alcohol cocktails, I love them, but I just hate the reason why people tremble in fear at high or even normal proof spirits. It’s not their fault though… money is. Anyways, there’s a lot of creative and exquisite low alc cocktails around now, so you can safely drink two or three.

Not another gin

I’m sorry, but I’m good with what’s on the market and frankly there’s so much derivative work that they’re almost making categories for it. Remember how we f***ed up genever?

In regards to gin, I don’t want a vodka that smells like bath salts or potpourri. I don’t want a miscreant distilled from the garbage they even wouldn’t dare to give to cattle mixed up with a dozen disgusting aromatic oils to – literally – cloud the bad base product in the first place. “Here’s shit covered in flowers, thank you for your 40€!”. I want juniper berries and a few other botanicals in a smooth distilled product made from quality grain. But that’s just my opinion… you know, Gin! Not something else. I love the few beer distillations that are going round, but please, stop calling them gin! It’s not. Invent another name, another kind of spirit, maybe?

Ginger ale

They call it the new tonic, well f*** you, it isn’t. It’s ginger ale. And it’s good. And more and more companies are creating their own, which is good. But if somebody starts to add flowers or whatever to it to create “that very distinct and unique ginger ale” then please reconsider. Ginger ale is a fantastic product and you can make great cocktails with it.

Agave drinks

Mezcal and tequila will keep their steady, slowly rise. There’s a recent book by Kobe Desmet and Isabelle Boons that introduces you to this spirit if you want to know more about it. Mezcal is amazing and a bartenders favourite for over two years now.

Easy written and complete information on your favourite agave spirits

Single serves

This is something I’d like to see in bars in the future. Just a single spirit, a little tweaked up regarding the taste of the customer. I started doing this with genever, stirred a few seconds over ice and served straight up with a lemon twist and a scrape of nutmeg. It’s amazing and you can think of thousands of variations using any spirit you have. It’s well worth a try.

What really makes a Negroni, a Negroni?

Sometimes you really start wondering, seeing these countless and delicious variations and dedications. Quite a few people go very extreme in this, resulting in the unavoidable remark by someone: “is this still a Negroni?”. The question is, if not, what is then? The answer must be sought in its clouded and disputed origin…

photographs by Bart D'Hooge Nullam Microwaveum

The official recipe as we all know, is equal measures of gin, Campari and red vermouth. And logically, when we want to make a variation on it we start to substitute one of the ingredients for another. starting with the spirit, this resulted quickly in rum Negronis, whisky Negronis, bourbon Negronis, cognac Negronis, genever Negronis and so on. Next we switch Campari for other amaro like Cynar or Averna or others. Finally we can change the vermouth from red to dry, white or even use quinquinas and other stuff. Also measurements can be adapted, bitters can be added, glasses can be rinsed, perfume or smoke can be used, etc, etc…

Actually it is fantastic to see this unbridled, unlimited passionate creativity of bartenders playing around with this famous Italian aperitif cocktail. Recently we had the BeNeLux Negroni Competition organised by Campari and even though the jury contained several very experienced Negroni lovers like Salvatore Calabrese en Mauro Mahjoub, it must have been very difficult reaching a decision on the winner (in this case Sofie Ketels from Sofie’s Living Room, De Panne, Belgium) seeing and tasting all these different and delicious Negroni styles. But what when you encounter a recipe in a book, that contains gin, sherry and Galliano; then you really start to wonder, delicious as it might be, is this still a Negroni? And if not, why then?

Lucca Picchi serving a Negroni to two eagerly grabbing hands
Lucca Picchi serving a Negroni to two eagerly grabbing hands

Luca Picchi

We recently had the good fortune to attend a workshop concerning the famous Negroni cocktail. The workshop was given by the great Luca Picchi from Florence, Italy, who wrote a hefty 221 pages about the Negroni, focussing on its origins. We like the book a lot, we read it with pleasure and delight and eventually learned and deduced something that was new for us about the origin of this iconic cocktail.

Campari Sodas at Camparino in Milano

A letter

Most of you already know the origin of the Negroni, featuring the famous Count who gave his name to this delicious red libation. Camillo Negroni probably was indeed the original reason for the creation of the cocktail. There are pictures of him drinking (a Negroni?) at Casoni Café and more importantly there is a letter, dating 1920, from a friend who advises him not to drink more than 20 ‘Negronis’ a day. This letter actually proves that there was a drink in 1920 named after him. Much more interesting is: what’s in it and how did it became to be  (the drink, not the letter) in the first place?


‘Americano’ is not just one cocktail

The popular story is that count Camillo, whilst in Florence, walked into Casoni’s and asked Fosco Scarselli, the bartender, to…erm…”spike” his ‘Americano’. Now here the story starts. I always thought the actual Americano cocktail was meant here and only to be told later that it was in fact a Milano-Torino, which was called Americano afterwards (so they say) due to the high popularity with Americans (tourists, businessmen or soldiers you can choose between stories here). In my strictly personal opinion ( I do not claim this to be the absolute truth, it’s just a theory of mine) he did not mean the actual Americano cocktail. Americano just means ‘American style’ and refers to the then rather new fashion of mixing one drink with others. That is what we’ve learned from Luca Picchi.

A fantastic Negroni variation in MAG bar in Milano the rim of the glass has been garnished with cacao powder
A fantastic Negroni variation in MAG bar in Milano the rim of the glass has been garnished with cacao powder

The drink in this case probably just being vermouth, which was extremely popular in Italy at that time. “American style” meant ‘the way they drank drinks in America’ and the very popular ‘American bars’ in Europe. So it probably has nothing to do with American soldiers after the war – a story which I hear and read frequently. Americano was probably nothing else than saying “cocktail” in Italian. You know, mixed with a spirit or amaro over ice. That information was new for me.

Vermouth as a base

So Camillo probably ordered a simple Italian vermouth (which was extremely popular by then), but had it made American style to strengthen it. The bartender, Fosco Scarselli, chose gin and then Camillo himself chose to add some bitters – Campari most probably – and thus created his signature drink. We deduce this out of an interesting interview with Fosco himself in 1962 about the Negroni. He (Fosco) literally says: “I added a few drops of gin to fortify the drink and then the count had the habit of adding a few drops of bitters“.

MAG bar @ Milano
MAG bar @ Milano

Eventually other guests at Casoni were curious and also ordered an Americano ( meaning, I think, as much as ‘vermouth cocktail’ or just ‘cocktail’ in general), Negroni style. And so the birth of one of the most famous cocktails in history came to be. I think the story is very credible knowing that the count spend more than seven years in the USA in the exact ‘golden age of cocktail making’ before he came back to Florence and ordered his drink. Also, the vermouth back then, was served in small liquor glasses (about 1 or 1,5 oz), which explains the “drops” of gin and bitters and the sentence in the letter that warns him not to drink more than 20 of it each day. Also when you consider his words, he says he adds two things (gin and bitters) to something he didn’t mention. Something so obvious that he needn’t mentioning it and I think that’s vermouth.

Campari ‘Americano’

And the story of Gaspare Campari who made his famous red amaro “americano” to make it more palatable and trendy for the Milanese high rollers at that time is a different story that eventually converged into the Negroni drink. The theory makes sense, I think, also considering the way Negronis are made today. By which I mean all the variations on it. What really defines a Negroni? Is it the gin? Surely not, it is the first thing they replace by something different. Is it Campari? Although most Negronis are made with it, it can also be made with other bitters and even though chances are high that the first one was made with it, we’ll never know for sure.

2 Americano’s

So actually it’s two different kinds of Americano coming together: one being gin + vermouth, the other being: amaro + vermouth. Of which the common element is the vermouth. In the end it gives us our answer to the question as to what defines a Negroni. In my opinion it is – very simply like the recipe says – a combination of spirit, vermouth and amaro. May you break this rule and create something else? Sure! Can you call it a Negroni? Well, it’s a free country, so you can call it whatever the hell you want, as long as it tastes good. Because, no matter how many Negroni “families” you create, the real Negroni will always be remembered as equal measures of London Dry, Campari and red vermouth.

Luca Picchi's Coffee Negroni
Luca Picchi’s Coffee Negroni

Negroni families

Speaking of Negroni families… how about the other count Negroni? You know, General Pascal Olivier de Negroni, which one of them is the real Count? Well, why does one of them have to be fake? It is perfectly possible. A letter written by Pascal mentions a vermouth cocktail which was received well by the other officers. Perfectly possible, although it would be interesting to know more about the ingredients.

Negroni Sbagliato @ Bar Basso where it was invented and made by the son of the inventor. These glasses were huge! More like vases.
Negroni Sbagliato @ Bar Basso where it was invented and made by the son of the inventor. These glasses were huge! More like vases.

Countless Negronis

In the end it doesn’t really matter who invented the drink, eventually somebody somehow would have come up with gin, Campari and red vermouth. You know, I prefer ‘countless’ Negronis over Count Negroni, any time.



Tanqueray Bloomsbury -Pity the Gods it’s limited, for this is as gin should be

Tanqueray’s Master Distiller Tom Nichol has created his final Tanqueray gin: the Bloomsbury. We love its masterfully balanced modesty. The gin possesses a quintessential purity in itself without losing character or the Tanqueray personality,  so much that it almost becomes an archetype of gin itself.

Let me explain the above. For starters it’s not boring, that’s not what I meant. It’s a beautiful balance between juniper berries, coriander, angelica and crushed cassia, just like the bottle says. And frankly, we were almost moved by this honesty. Many contemporary gins try to combine so many flavours and aromas resulting in the loss of their own identity of gin and consequently more resembling a startled skunk in a fireworks factory. But no worries, if you put an entire bottle of tonic over it, something eventually will shine through.

Not this gin. This one can stand on its own or take tonic without losing character and more importantly it can take other things besides tonic and works beautifully in cocktails. It makes one hell of a Dry Martini for instance. Actually when you taste it, it feels like the grandfather of Tanqueray Ten. You know, without the grapefruit or citrus notes and much more rounded, smooth with that little hint of cassia and all the blessings of juniper berries.

Master Tom Nichol having another brilliant gin idea
Master Tom Nichol having another brilliant gin idea

Grandfather may be an apt title for it, because Tom Nichol based it on an old recipe from Charles Waugh Tanqueray ( the son of Charles Tanqueray who took over the company after his father’s death in 1868) himself. ‘Waugh‘ was actually the first thing I said when I tasted it. Well, Mr Nichol, if this was the last gin you made for Tanqueray I would say it is a daring masterpiece and a fitting farewell. Because somehow, this day and age, it seems easier to continually diversify than to make the actual real thing. Which you did!


Genever is one of the most coveted spirits in American craft cocktailscene

It seems that our national spirit is slowly gaining a great deal of (re)appreciation in the States. Every self respecting cocktailbar in America is dusting off that specially reserved place on the backbar for the Queen Mum of all gins. In fact they want it so much that they are starting to make their own.

It is not surprising that this beautifully rich and malty spirit is getting more and more attention in the US, after all they imported 6 times more genever than gin in the 19th century. Famous barchaeologist David Wondrich tells us that London Dry style gins weren’t distributed in the States before the 1890’s. Which leads us to the safe conclusion that every gin recipe in the glorious 1862 edition of Jerry Thomas’s cocktailbible was made with either Genever or Old Tom Gin. In the 1887 revision of Thomas’s book the gin types are specified with the recipes: 8 call for Old Tom and no less than 12 ask for “Holland Gin” or “Dutch Gin”, which is the very practical American way to pronounce “Genever”.

Filliers Vintage 1990 Genever
Filliers Vintage 1990 Genever

Why so much Genever, you ask? Well it has been a very (if not the most) popular tipple in Europe for centuries and also, if you remember, ‘Old New York’ was once called ‘New Amsterdam’. No need to explain that the Dutch colonists and sailors of the VOIC (Dutch East India Company) brought with them their precious Genever. And the sweet mother of gins became part of Manhattan’s imbibing culture up untill the 1890’s.

Bols Corenwyn
Bols Corenwyn

So what we see today is kind of a REdiscovery. And it needn’t not to baffle us, considering contemporary cocktailrenaissance happening globally for the last 15 years. Where cocktailians, bartenders and barchaeologists are passionately dedicated to rediscover anything ancient and old, but definitely booze related. So it is not quite unlogical that after gin they start to glance curiously at Gin’s old progenitor.

One of 2 Belgian imported Genevers in The States
One of 2 Belgian imported Genevers in The States

And some of them didn’t leave it to curious glances, but gladly jumped into the haystack with the Queen Mum Of All Gins. Loving her so well that they are starting to make their own. A fact which we preceive as a little dash, since we did our damnest best to protect our Genever i.e. with an AOC and lots of laws (in very short: it is forbidden to produce – or at least call it genever – outside of Belgium and The Netherlands). We are starting to doubt the use of an AOC if you can bypass it easily by calling it “Genever Style Gin”, or “Geneva Gin”, but it’s indeed probably cheaper to make your own. Although in The Netherlands and Belgium Genever is cheaper than most gins…


Genevieve - American Geneva from the people who also make Junipero Gin
Genevieve – American Geneva from the people who also make Junipero Gin

Anyway, here are two of our favourite Genever based cocktails:

The Dirk Martinez

The Dirk Martinez
The Dirk Martinez

Named after the Humanist philosopher Dirk Martens – personal friend of Erasmus and Thomas Moore –  who introduced ‘printing’ in the Low Countries. Also the name of a very fine Genever from my hometown.

  • 6cl Dirk Martens Korenwijn Genever
  • 3cl Red Vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula)
  • 1 or 2 dashes of Orange Bitters
  • 1cl Luxardo Maraschino

Stirr over ice and strain into pre-chilled antique champagne coupe, garnish with orange zest.

The Malty Contessa

Basically a Genever Negroni, but instead of it being the famous Count Negroni’s favourite tipple, it became the Malty Contessa.

  • 3cl Genever
  • 3cl Red Vermouth
  • 3cl Campari

Build up over ice in a rock’s glass, garnish with orange or lemon zest.

And we leave you to your booziness with the following:

In our own opinion when you would compare every modern crafted London Dry to this: 

Fast, slick and seldom used to its full potential

Then Genever is more like this 

Old, slow, blows everything away and has become a museum now, but who knows… maybe they take her out for a ride some time.




Hendrick’s Quinetum – An Unusual Cordial

Hendrick’s Master Distiller Lesley Gracie created an unusual cordial to use in your gin cocktails
Hendrick's Master Distiller Lesley Gracie
Hendrick’s Master Distiller Lesley Gracie

We don’t think we need to introduce Hendrick’s to you. These cucumber-crazed pilgrims of the gin revival have already conquered the world with their famous black bottle and retro looks. Now they’re up to something new: Quinetum.

Hendrick's Quinetum a new quinine cordial . #Hendrick's

A post shared by The Cocktail Nation (@rschollaert) on

A cordial called Quinetum

A cordial is an ancient medicine containing alcohol, herbs and sometimes flecks of gold leaf, pearls and other jewellery. Probably invented by Italian alchemists during the Renaissance, the cordials were made to invigorate and revitalise the heart, body and spirit. Apparently a lot of revitalising and invigorating was needed in those times, because the stuff became so popular that everybody was starting to forget it was a medicine to begin with. So it actually became sort of a herbal liqueur as it were.

So this cordial is called Quinetum, because it contains – and you guessed correctly – quinine. Amongst other things like lavender, oranges, wormwood and holy thistle. According to the Nation’s tasting notes, it’s like chewing on a bittersweet flower. Quinine was used to battle malaria in the old colonies. They made a ‘tonicum‘ out of it, another word for herbal medicine, much like cordial, whence the word tonic. So this cordial is actually a tonicum containing quinine, whence Quinetum.

Cordial, medicine, tonicum or poison

Now, we are convinced that there must be an evil genius in the design and marketing section of Hendrick’s (who obviously has watched too many Monty Python movies). The bottle design, as a matter of fact, is an exact replica of a ‘poison flask’ found in a London antiques shop in 1940. Putting a medicine in a poison flask is very… unusual (and yet we have the macabre tendency to like it).


How to use it

You could use it to add more funk to your Hendrick’s gin. Actually when you add about 15ml of the stuff and top up with soda you get a G&T. It starts to become very interesting in other cocktails though. At the product presentation in the famous jazz cafe Archiduc (Brussels), I was presented the ‘Maigret’ cocktail. Maigret is a famous literary figure, a pipe smoking Belgian detective in fact.


5 cl Hendrick’s

1cl Quinetum

1/2cl grapefruit juice

1/2cl lime juice

a drop of Bruichladdich Octomore

We love the idea of using a medicine in a poison bottle to create a cocktail named after a detective. Also it is very yummy!

We suggested to make a Bijou variation with the Quinetum and Hendrick’s brand new brand ambassador, the fabulous Marco Mathieux, dragged us behind the bar to make it and we must confess in all modesty that the result is of course brilliant.

The famous Marco Mathieux and myself at L'Archiduc Brussels
The famous Marco Mathieux and myself at L’Archiduc Brussels

Bijou variation

5cl Hendrick’s

2cl red vermouth

1/2cl Quinetum

Stirr over ice for 30sec and strain in Coupe.

Or you can try it in a funky punch
Or you can try it in a funky punch

Hendrick’s Christmas Cake

Hendrick’s contacted famous stylist and fashion designer Harald Ligtvoet who in his spare time – together with his partner Wim Soete – is a passionate cake baker. Under the promising battle name of ‘Sweety Darling’ these guys conjure the most amazing cakes in their laboratory. Including this one:

Hendrick's Christmas Cake by Harald Ligtvoet
Hendrick’s Christmas Cake by Harald Ligtvoet

This beauty can be yours for the small sum of 150€ (remember it’s X-Mas). It’s available in the summum of sartorialism: Café Costume.

  • Café Costume Brussel: Rue Léon Lepage 24, 1000 Brussel
  • Café Costume Antwerpen: Emiel Banningstraat 11, 2000 Antwerpen
  • Café Costume Gent: Brabantdam 135, 9000 Gent
  • Café Costume Kortrijk: Leiestraat 20, 8500 Kortrijk

Place your order before the 18th of December at Café Costume and you can pick them up in the same place on the 24th or 31st after 11AM.

Rumpus Tiki Bar, Budapest.

Hung(a)ry for Tiki? Oh, yes we were!

Ah, beautiful Budapest, city on the banks of the mighty Doneau. The architecture of this historical jewel is overwhelming. This city is very much alive and we had some great cocktails there.

Most surprising of all, they had a Tiki bar there, a real one for that matter, not the usual faux tropical cocktailbar where they serve 15 different tooth-achingly sweet fruit flavored Daiquiri miscreants and a Pina Colada, but real Tiki cocktails. Mugs, rums and the whole shebang. The Rumpus Tiki Bar.

Excellent Tiki Cocktails at the Rumpus Tiki Bar Budapest, served to us by Mr. Zsolt Tarjànyi that evening

And it really is an experience visiting a Tikibar. It is a one shot launch to tropical summer and you easily forget the near freezing temperatures, fog and rain altogether. This bamboo-built bar is filled with Tiki statues, mugs, puffer fish, shrunken heads, hula girls, the works… And most importantly, the guy behind the bar could mix!

Rumpus Tki Bar Budapest
Rumpus Tki Bar Budapest

I drank the most amazing Drunken Monkey variation, scoring top points on both taste and looks. Maybe more important, the drink stayed true to its character even when, after half an hour, most of the ice was molten. Not to sweet, not too strong, not boring, not too challenging, interesting flavour combination, evolving over time. Sadly enough, it wasn’t my drink, but Geertrui’s 🙂

Ingredients: Tiki rum Dark, Bols banane, Falernum, Special Honey Mix, Pernod, Angostura Bitters, lime juice and ginger beer.

The Rumpus Tiki Bar Team. Mr. Zsolt Tarjànyi is second from the left.
The Rumpus Tiki Bar Team. Mr. Zsolt Tarjànyi is second from the left.

Mine looked promising, but there was definitely missing something, unbalanced. Release the Kraken, it was called.

Ingredients: Bermudez Rum 151, Myers’s Rum, Kraken Rum Black, Pimento Dram, lime juice, grapefruit juice, Angostura bitters. The recipe looked promising, but something went wrong here. Too much Pimento Dram and bitters? I don’t know, I’m just guessing. Too much clove that’s what I thought it tasted like (but I could easily be wrong of course, taste is influenced by so many things). Anyway, by then it didn’t matter, I was mesmerized by this Drunken Monkey and allready sold 🙂 I mean, this was a Tiki Bar!

To the left: The Drunken Monkey (some of the garnish already hit the floor by then, my bad) and the right Release The Kraken.
To the left: The Drunken Monkey (some of the garnish already hit the floor by then, my bad) and to the right: Release The Kraken.

The next cocktail I ordered in the Rumpus Tiki Bar was an alltime favourite of mine: the original Mai Tai. And yes, it was awesome.

We had, some fun hours there and can recommend this bar to everyone, it’s a blast.

By the way, there was an Italian restaurant in Budapest where we had the most interesting Gin Tonic variation I ever tasted. It had the following ingredients that I can remeber: G’Vine Gin, Cointreau, Pisco, Lemon juice, syrup, bitters and tonic. Basil leaves and raddish as a garnish, delivering a distinct aroma that combined excellent with the ingredients. A real treat. Maybe not a real Gin Tonic per se, but still a wonderful cocktail it was.

So, Budapest, you scored well on the cocktail chart! And we will meet again, because time was too short.


More info: 

Drunken Monkey! Burrps!
Drunken Monkey! Burrps!

ImagiNation – The Nation invades the Imagin Bar in Knokke

I’m a gin bar it said, but it didn’t say anything about some great rum and whiskey cocktails too

Knokke, love it or hate it. I got mixed feelings about it. It is the last place on earth where people still tie sweaters around there neck, preferably in hues of pink or baby blue, making an untasteful match with their equally wrong coloured chinos. Topped off with a very, very uncertain look in their eyes, driving around in golf carts, holding back the ferraris trying to reach the casino.

Anyway, I was interested in the Bombay Sapphire pop up bar, called Imagin. It is located in an old antiques shop on the Elizabetlaan and I must say very cosy indeed. We arrived just in time to see the special presentation of Dominique Persoone, world famous chocolatier and Eveline Hoorens, barrista and wife of famous artist Panamarenko and their personal interpretation of a G&T.

The Imagin Bar - the thing in the forefront of the picture are the balls of the last person who referred to the stuffed monkey behind the bar...
The Imagin Bar – the thing in the forefront of the picture are the balls of the last person who referred to the stuffed monkey behind the bar…(at the top of the picture)

To be honest, I’ve really had it with G&T, but I was really curious what a Dominique Persoone would do with it. I mean chocolate  and tonic, you had to be there.

It was a very special G&T indeed. In fact if it didn’t need to be a G&T, it would make a great cocktail. Kick out the tonic and you’re left with a delicious combination of cacao, gin, porto, angostura and…eggwhite. At least the recipe promised eggwhite, but I didn’t see any in the preparation. Equally interesting was the garnish a special, devilhead-shaped praline on a stick. The moment I sank my teeth in it a strange sensation took over my mouth. It was as if my jaw got electrocuted or I swallowed a firecracker. Apparently a certain substance was put in the praline to achieve that effect on purpose. Nice touch.

Dominique Persoone - Cacao Metal
Dominique Persoone – Cacao Metal

Eveline Hoorens’ G&T was a very fancy drink, almost too fancy for me. Then again, the taste was very good. Three things were important for her cocktail: the colour red, herbs and a little robot, affectionately called Robby. She had turned red berry fruit and hibiscus tea into sprakling red ice cubes, which made the taste of the cocktail gradually change over time when they started to melt. The rim of the glass was decorated with red sugar and a copious amount of pink peppercorn floated around in the drink.

We’re not there yet, more garnish, Eveline must have thought. A bouquet of herbs was strung together and added. Last but not least Robby the robot – disguised as a tea holder- was sentenced to drown in the fiery red G&T. Finished! Thank God, there was a straw, if you drank it without one you’d hurt your face.

I call it...the Robotonic...mmm not fancy enough. let's go for Hinky Pinky Robby
I call it…the Robotonic…mmm not fancy enough. let’s go for Hinky Pinky Robby

The interior was amazing: a cosy ,chaotic bunch of antiques parafernalia crammed together in a room almost too small. We happily received a guided tour by Marc Colfs, Bombay Sapphire ambassador. He showed us that their was method in the apparent madness. It’s all about the spice trade and the ships that brought the goods in. When you enter the room from the hallway, you’re standing in the Captain’s Cabin, a rather chique and larger room, complete with Chesterfield, old maps, drawing table, boat models and countless clocks. There’s a separé used to give tastings. There’s an African space and an Eastern space. The bar is a real beauty, countless 17th-18th century muskets hang suspended in the air together with as much bottles of gin.

The backbar is a gorgeous piece of antique topped with a stuffed monkey. We strongly advise you not to refer to the “monkey behind the bar”. Jan Van Ongevalle, the Imagin bartender, might take it personally, grab one of those muskets and hit you with it.

Jan fixed us a great Anejo Highball with Bacardi 8 and Fevertree Ginger Beer and a rather strong Manhattan with Jack Daniels Single barrel.

The Manhattan reminded Jan of something and he instantly disappeared behind a black curtain. We heard some strange noises and shrieks of wild jungle animals.

Quickly we reasoned that the shrieks belonged to one of the beautiful waitresses.

friendly local wildlife
friendly local wildlife

Suddenly Jan returned with a glass.

-“Drink this,” he said.

– what is it? I whispered

Charcoal-infused gin

– Excuse me?

– I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s amazing.

Apparently, Peter De Clercq (World champion BBQ 2003) chopped up an empty Jack Daniels barrel, set it on fire and put the thusly gained charcoal in a Bombay Gin bottle. He then put it away for a couple of days and filtered it out. Very craz…, creative I mean. Resulting in a heavily smoky gin/whiskey  – firewater- as Jan described it.

Conclusion: it’s great fun, go and visit it. Talk to the bartender and the ambassadors. Ask for the specials.

Jan & Jan just being himself
Jan & Jan just being himself