In the shaker: Getting creative with cocktails


Gin and genever have been used in cocktails since the earliest recipes were published. Now Paul Mathew incorporates the latest genever from Bols into a range of traditional and contemporary drinks

Paul Mathew

As David Wondrich discusses in his great book Imbibe!, most of the original gin cocktails were probably made with Holland gin, or genever.

The 1862 edition of Jerry Thomas’s How to Mix Drinks doesn’t specify gins, but by the 1887 version, different cocktails have been allocated Holland, Old Tom or London Dry. At this time Holland gin was probably high in malt wine and similar to Bols’ new genever.

At 42% abv, this ‘oude’ or ‘old’-style genever is at a good mixing strength, allowing you to authentically recreate classics such as the Gin Fix and Holland Cocktail, which I’ve included below, along with a few recipes of my own.

..Mixing tips

  • With rye and malt on the palate, genever is very well-suited to traditional whisk(e)y cocktails, where it can give a lighter, drier and more herbal character. A Blood and Sand works well, for example.
  • As with rye whiskey, the spice and pepper on the palate work well with lemon and lemon twists.
  • When used in Old Tomor London Dry gin cocktails, genever makes the drink rounder and more robust. The Martinez and Gin Fix (right) are both excellent examples.
  • The malty character of genever makes it an ideal chaser, served chilled with a good beer. In Dutch, this version of the American Boiler Maker is known as a Kopstoot, or Head Butt.


Glass: Coupe

Garnish: Lemon spray over
the drink and discard

Method: Shake and strain

  • 50ml Bols Genever
  • 10ml Galliano L’Authentico
  • 10ml fresh lemon juice
  • 5ml sugar syrup (1:1)

Origin: Paul Mathew

Genever Sazerac

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: Grapefruit twist

Method: Fill a glass with crushed ice and absinthe. In another glass, soak a sugar cube in bitters, stir in ice and genever until sugar has dissolved. Empty the first glass and strain contents of the second into it

  • 60ml Bols Genever
  • 5ml Pernod absinthe
  • Sugar cube
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1 dash grapefruit bitters

Origin: Paul Mathew

Gin Fix

Glass: Highball

Garnish: Berries

Method: Build over crushed ice (or shaved if available)

  • 1 large tsp of powdered white sugar dissolved in a little water
  • 5ml raspberry syrup
  • 20ml lemon juice
  • 50ml Holland gin

Origin: How to Mix Drinks (1887)

Improved Holland Gin Cocktail

Glass: Cocktail

Garnish: Lemon twist

Method: Shake and double strain

  • 2 dashes Boker’s (or Angostura) bitters
  • 5ml sugar syrup (2:1)
  • 5ml maraschino
  • 2ml absinthe
  • 50ml Holland gin
  • 1 small piece of lemon peel, twisted

Origin: How to Mix Drinks (1887)

Amsterdam Cocktail

Glass: Coupe

Garnish: Orange twist

Method: Shake and double strain

  • 40ml genever
  • 20ml triple sec
  • 20ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 dashes orange bitters

Origin: Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide (1972)

Dutch Pomegranate Sour

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: None

Method: Double shake to froth the egg, then single strain

  • 50ml Bols Genever
  • 25ml pomegranate syrup (homemade 1:1)
  • 20ml freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 10ml egg white

Origin: Paul Mathew

Jamie Stephenson

Jamie Stephenson attempts a world record, makes a plea for bartender hygiene and re-reads a classic

A broken record?

During a recent attack of egotism, I decided I needed to add more awards to my repertoire and, when approached by the Manchester Food and Drink Festival to arrange an event, I got the chance to fulfill my fantasy of setting a Guinness World Record. The only record for cocktail making in the book is for the most made in an hour, but we wanted our event to go on for longer so we decided to go for an endurance record and try to make 400 cocktails in the quickest time possible. 

The 400 was originally going to be 500, as we wanted to use all the drinks in Simon Difford’s new Cocktails Made Easy guide, but some didn’t fit Guinness World Record criteria: each drink must contain alcohol; each drink must contain at least three liquid ingredients; no shooters are allowed; you can’t start making a drink until the previous drink has been finished.

When I’m behind a bar, I like to think I am clinical, methodical and precise. But on this occasion there was no time for finesse; I was bludgeoning my way through the list and I was lucky to have only broken one glass in the ice well – typically when I was just 15 drinks into the attempt! A good crowd came by to lend their support and each of the completed cocktails were sold for the MFDF Community Foundation – even the Prairie Oyster was bought. 

Finally, after 3 hours 40 minutes and 54 seconds, I finished feeling every bit as exhausted as if I’d done an off-road triathlon during the time. We now wait to hear if Guinness will verify the record…

Dishing the dirt

One of the drinks companies we asked to sponsor the record attempt declined on the advice of their legal department, which feared they might be seen to be promoting irresponsible drinking. As a trainer I

am 100% behind the need for educating people about the effects of consuming alcohol – as I always s

ay, every great cocktail has two essential ingredients: moderation and responsibility. But I think the responsibility should be shared between drinks companies, operators and the government.

I would like to see mandatory certification of bar staff, particularly on the subjects of alcohol responsibility and hygiene. I have been in numerous bars recently and for the most part few staff wash their hands before making drinks or after handling money. It wouldn’t be so bad, but then these people handle glasses by the rim and expect customers to put their lips where their fingers have just been. At best it’s gross, at worst you could poison somebody – think about it.

A good read

The film Cocktail inspired a whole generation of bartenders during the early 1990s. It is looking a little dated now and I must admit I no longer watch it on a weekly basis, but I recently dug out my copy of the book that the film is based on – Heywood Gould’s Cocktail – and was surprised that it was even better than I remembered.

Although Gould wrote the screenplay for the film, the novel is set in what could be a parallel universe. Brian Flanagan is a 38-year-old jaded, cynical veteran on the brink of suicide who hates bartending but is too good to quit. Through his memoirs, we are transported through Brian’s career and, sure, we meet some familiar names – Coughlin, Bonnie, Mooney – but wow, the characters couldn’t be more different from those in the glitzy Hollywood version. I really recommend reading it. bottle

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – January / February 2009

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