Amsterdam is known for many things – tulips, windmills and canals…
…Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. The Red Light District, laid-back ‘coffeeshops’ and debaucherous weekends away.
It is also home to the world’s oldest distillery brand, Bols, and its world-class Bartending Academy. So, when Bols asked if BarLifeUK would like to spend 24-hours in this vibrant city, the only suitable response was, “what time do we leave?”.
The whirlwind trip was timed to coincide with the Bols Around the World cocktail final and the UK launch of the new Bols Natural Yoghurt Liqueur – quite possibly the most unique liqueur flavour of the decade.
While not an immediately obvious pairing, made from 100% fresh white yoghurt, this interesting liqueur imparts a rich and tangy flavour that is surprisingly delicious to drink, as well as being fun to experiment with.
Most certainly a world-first, it is already being lapped up in Ireland, China, Russia and New Zealand, and now it is the UK’s turn.
On an afternoon canal cruise, UK Bols brand ambassador John Clay said that he was immediately intrigued when he first heard about the liqueur and has since discovered just how versatile it is, a fact that was highlighted by the seven very different cocktails he made for us to try.
Short ones, long ones, sorbets and neat, a particular favourite (of mine) was a rum-based tea punch, which was topped up with the Yoghurt Liqueur. The perfect cup of tea.
The evening then moved to the Bols Around the World final, now in its sixth year. Run in three stages, the comp tests bartenders on their knowledge, skills and customer service abilities. This year’s comp saw more than 1500 entries from 56 countries, with 75 of those coming from the UK alone.
Twelve finalists (including UK’s Danil Nevsky) were selected to compete in a four-day grand final in Amsterdam, staying in true Dutch-style on a houseboat.
To create their drink for the last night, finalists were required to comb the streets of Amsterdam, getting a feel for the Dutch culture, and using that inspiration to create a unique Amsterdam-inspired cocktail, along with a food pairing.
“In the beginning, when I arrived in Amsterdam, I had all the usual stereotypes firmly engraved into my head,” said Nevsky. “Sex, drugs and music and yet it was bikes, tulips and canals that I saw.”
On the first day of my arrival one of the boys and I went to check out the city because I thought the best way to find that flavour was to go and soak it in. We had passed by a butcher dealing with flavoured oils and vinegars. This was very unique and although I knew about the existence of shrubs back during the ‘Golden Age of Cocktails’ I had never seen them available so easily.”
The result was ‘Power to the People’, made from Bols Genever 1820, Bols Natural Yoghurt Liqueur, homemade lemon sherbert and walnut oil and served on a wooden plank with small Dutch pancakes (Poffertjes) drizzled with local honey and lemongrass syrup. “This was a nod to Amsterdam’s rich history and the popular food among the people living here,” he said.
Alas, it was not Nevsky, but the Hungarian finalist Gábor Onufer who impressed the illustrious judging team – Tiki master Jeff Berry; cocktail book authors Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown; Bols Bartending Academy Rob Rademaker and the master of Japanese bartending, Hidetsugu Ueno) – and saw him crowned Bols Bartending World Champion 2012.