What is Genever?

During the events I host, I like to share some of the rich, vibrant history behind gin. Genever (or Jenever) is considered to be the starting point for gin in England, however it’s also a delicious spirit in it’s own right.

So, what is Genever?

Genever is a separate white spirit category that has been produced since the 16th Century.

It is a blend of malt wine, a botanical distillate containing coriander, caraway and aniseed, and juniper that has been distilled separately in malt wine rather than neutral grain spirit. Bols, the main producer of Genever, also add a secret ingredient from their ancient recipes.

Genever has Appellation D’origine Controlee status meaning it can only be produced in the Netherlands (and a few surrounding areas), putting it on par with champagne, cognac and Scottish single malt whisky. The status also determines how much malt wine and juniper the genever must contain.

Relationship to gin

When William of Orange, the Dutch king, ascended the English throne, he brought Genever over with him. Sadly the English distillers weren’t as skilled in the art of grain distillation and began using other distillates that they would flavour with juniper, creating early versions of gin.

What does it taste like?

Fresh, pine flavours with hints of spice rounded out with hints of yeast. It tastes a little like unaged whisky.

 Use in cocktails

In the 19th century the import of Genever to the USA was six times greater than gin and it was one of only 4 spirits recognised as accepted bases for cocktails (the others being brandy, whisky and rum). Genever is the main ingredient in some of the oldest cocktail recipes, like the Tom Collins and Holland House. It makes a fabulous ingredient in a Gin Crusta.

Should you try it?

Yes! Genever is a versatile spirit suitable for making cocktails or sipping, or if you prefer, you could do what the Dutch do and perform the kopstoot (headbutt). Genever is taken straight from the freezer and poured into tulip-shaped glasses. As the glass is so cold it’s best to instead leave the glass on the table, and sip directly, bending your back to get the drink in your mouth!

Genever Crusta by The Barbershop, Sydney


  1. Hmmm…I’m really worried (but happy!) about this road you’re taking me down! I’m starting to stock up on gins and methinks I’m going to have to get myself a bottle of Genever…Oh dear!

    1. Great to hear I’ve recruited another ginthusiast, Quett!

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