‘Jenever’ or Dutch gin is probably the best known among many typically Dutch alcoholic beverages. Originally, it was a malt wine to which extracts of juniper berries were added. However, since the late 19th century producers often add neutral ethyl alcohol. Virtually every pub in Holland sells it as ‘jonge jenever’ (young) or ‘oude jenever’ (mature). Although the consumption of ‘jenever’ is declining gradually, it is still by far the most popular hard liquor in Holland.
As early as the Middle Ages, the Dutch drank distilled beverages known as ‘brandewijn’ or brandy. These alcoholic beverages often served a medicinal purpose and were enjoyed liberally particularly during plague epidemics. Through the ages certain herbs were added to enhance the beneficial medical effect. The variant to which juniper berries were added was particularly popular.
Dutch pubs serve ‘jenever’ in a goblet-shaped glass or a shot glass. The glass is generally filled nearly to overflowing – so much so that the bartender normally serves an empty glass and fills it in front of the customer. The first draught is taken while the glass is still on the bar or table. If you plan to taste ‘jenever’ in Holland, make sure to enjoy in moderation. It contains more than 40% alcohol and is known for whacking unwary consumers over the head!