Jenever, De Kuyper and Amsterdam

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After a day of traveling, we finally arrived at Amsterdam airport, and this is going to be the first time Skye and myself are going to stick around somewhere for longer than a week. Plenty of time to explore Amsterdam, dip into Dutch culture if there is such a thing, and hang out with the guys from EBS Amsterdam. Their head instructor, Mads met up with us at the Airport where we quickly headed for Amigo Hostel.

The next day we put on some sneakers and headed into town. I’ve never felt Amsterdam had anything interesting for me to see, but boy was I wrong. ten minutes in our walk we already got lost, and the fact that Amsterdam is built in the shape of concentric circles didn’t help our sense of orientation at all. Plus the center looks identical everywhere (editor: to the untrained eye maybe…)

After our little “let’s-get-lost” adventure in Amsterdam, we met up with Mads again and he told us we should teach their latest batch of EBS students the ins- and outs of Jenever. So in order for is to get all the knowledge necessary Mads took us through the history and trivia of the very local gin-derivative. Skye insisted we “went underground”, but that’s a bit of an overstatement. Mads told us to go see a couple of local bars where we could get a taste for Jenever, and of course we got terribly lost again. A 30-minute walk ended up taking 90 and seeing that we had to meet up with students that some night, that particular screwup was unfortunate (sorry again Mads!). We rushed through our Jenever expedition because there was a boat ride waiting for us together with the students.

Now should you ever make it to Amsterdam, do make sure you go do the same thing we did. A boat ride through the canals sounds cheesy but actually it isn’t at all. Especially with some cocktails on board and additional EBS company, it turned out to be a very relaxing experience.

The following morning saw us wake up at 6 and fighting our way to the train station, were we planned on taking the train to Rotterdam and the “De Kuyper” distillery. Netherlands happens to be a tiny city-state, so we made it to Rotterdam in no-time, and seeing that we previously had been to distilleries in Aberdeen and Tullamore, De Kuyper was a completely different experience. Instead of traditional architecture, De Kuyper rocked up with a design that wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end nightclub. And yet, this is were all their liqueurs were being made.

At the entrance we were greeted by Remi, a 12th generation De Kuyper family member, who showed us around the premises and again, Holland ripped my attitude from my hands and beat me over the head with it. I was totally wrong about this place too. So much history in one spot… it was incredible. They even had this pile of old Jenever bottles that turned up in a barn somewhere dated back to the second world war and I would have given my right hand for a crate of those.

The De Kuyper distillery happened to have a functional bar too, where we met up for some in-depth knowledge on the different De Kuyper liqueurs too and their in-house guy was just a monster. I’ve seen my share of pretty crafty cocktails but this guy took our breath away. After an humiliating demonstration of absolute superior cocktail-mixing skills, we met up with a bunch of brand ambassadors working with De Kuyper and headed back to Amsterdam to join the team over there for their “friday layer-shot workshop”. That little session came in very handy as it allowed us to dial in our pouring techniques for our shift at “The Rotisserie”, a prestigious cocktail bar the locals talked about with a respectful tone in their voice.

Stuff like “bacon-infused gin” and “tea-flavoured vodka” was certainly new to me, and totally underlines my bartender philosophy that you just don’t ever stop learning in this profession. I made those cocktails my b*** and feeling my skills improve was a satisfying experience. The head bartender Balthazar was an inspiration to us, and pretty much the nicest guy we met in the entire country at the same time. Where do they find people like this?

Throughout this trip, Skye had been a little on edge for the last couple of days, and it all came together when she broke the news to me. Skye’s managed to secure a crazy job in London and had to leave with a different flight than myself. Things happened really fast after that phone call, and it was weird to see her walk to another gate. BUT I am really happy little Skye got the job of her dreams. In a very cool establishment I might add. Kudos, and we will meet again soon! I guess I’ll head to Barcelona and hook up with Codie, a friend and fellow bartender student from my EBS Kos class. He’s an Ozzy by the way, but more on that later…

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