Bols Cocktail Experience in Amsterdam Feeds the Senses

Cruise Fan Quiz: When you dock in an exciting cruise port, you make it your first priority to:

a. get a drink — or several drinks
b. learn something
c. feed your senses

The Bols Cocktail Experience in Amsterdam provides a wonderful opportunity to combine all three priorities. We got to learn about Genever, the alcoholic drink popular in the Netherlands while sampling delicious scents and tastes. At least one of us left the experience a bit tipsy — possibly from imbibing so many facts in such a short time.

During our overnight stay in gay Amsterdam on our cruise with Azamara Club Cruises this summer, we headed to the Bols Cocktail Experience located at Paulus Potterstraat 12 in Amsterdam. The company has been making Genever (pronounced GEH-nuh-vur) for over 440 years. This little stop with an hour-long tour including a cocktail provides a great light-hearted pick-me-up and change of pace after time at the nearby Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh Museum.

Our guide Marieke shared the history of the House of Bols and information on how spirits are made and flavored. Genever means “Juniper” in Dutch. Like Gin, uses Juniper berries as one of its flavors. In fact, gin results from a failed attempt to re-create genever. British colonists in India wanted to drink the Dutch beverage, but lacked the secret ingredient of malt wine, made with grain.

The company claims that Rembrandt made a self portrait for Bols in order to pay his booze bill there. Our guide shared a short video of an actor impersonating Lucas Bols, the founder of the company. I expressed an interest in finding a ruffled lace collar like the one worn by the actor playing Lucas. To my disappointment, a collar wasn’t provided. Probably all for the best, it was raining and you can imagine what rain does to a starched ruffled lace collar! Maybe I can locate one in time for our Halloween costume party…

These days Bols produces a multitude of other liqueurs alongside Genever. Our olfactory senses received a treat when we visited a room where scores of flavors could be identified by smell. An atomizer created a mist containing wonderful scents which you could enjoy and then identify by turning a placard. Flavors ranged from the sweet and tropical of mango or pineapple to herbs like cinnamon and anise. Now I won’t even be able to put cinnamon on my oatmeal without thinking of a liqueur!

Bols produces tiny replicas of Dutch homes filled with their products given as Collectors’ items to KLM business-class flyers. In our case I can assure you us they would quickly become empty collectors’ items. 

MMOB TIP:  To our taste, almost any good-tasting liqueur works well mixed with a good quality vodka. Try one part of each and go from there to find the perfect balance for your tastes. Go ahead, make several attempts to be sure the recipe is perfect! Sleep it off and then send out the party invitations when you recover! Try the Bols Offshore Banking cocktail: equal parts Bols Strawberry and Bols Citrus Vodka. You could do this neat, on the rocks, or shaken with ice and served up. The citrus flavor in the vodka works well with the strawberry, especially with repeated use! I guess you could put a whole strawberry in the thing for garnish, but I think it takes up too much space in the glass.

The first step in manufacturing Genever or any of the liqueurs that Bols makes, is providing a distilled spirit to serve as the base. At that point there are several ways to impart flavor to distilled alcohol. For instance, Maceration is simply placing the fruit, spice or herb in the alcohol and letting time do the work. Add some heat and the method becomes infusion. In percolation, a mixture of hot or cold water and the alcohol base is repeatedly dripped through the flavor source.

The final step of the tour was the most fun. A custom-made cocktail is included in the entrance fee. Guests choose something from the menu or work with one of the attractive bartenders to customize something for your taste. Both male and female bartenders were available but Mark pushed Dale aside to reached the cute bearded guy first. Dale asked for “tropical and pineapple, but not too sweet” and got a wonderful concoction of citrus, rum, and a chunk of caramelized pineapple in just the right balance of sweet and tart. Mark has no memory of his cocktail choice!

MMOB TAKE: The 16-Euro admission includes a cocktail. We recommend the Bols Cocktail Experience for folks who enjoy cocktail culture.It provided a fun and novel break during a day of sightseeing and window shopping.Additional cocktails cost only 5 Euros, and with Mark’s resultant memory issue perhaps we stayed a bit too long!

All or part of our writer(s) travel may have been provided by various suppliers for the purposes of reviewing and writing about them for  Read disclosure policy here: