I can’t remember which bar near Rotterdam’s sleek Central Station I stopped into when I arrived, but the genever I had there was probably a Bols, an example of what I would later understand to be a jonge jenever, or young genever: clear, with hints of sweet petroleum on the nose. I expected it to taste harsh, maybe like a Serbian rakija or certain house–made Icelandic brennevín, but instead it was slightly malty with a touch of sweetness, herbal but only just. And while it looked and smelled like gin, there was whisky there, good whisky, the kind you roll around on your tongue on the way down.
Laphroaig had initiated me into the pleasures of distilled malts, and I’d come to gin by way of the Gibson (gin, dry vermouth, cocktail onion). My appreciation for both had only grown over the years – and now here was something that seemed to carry the best characteristics of both. I noticed locals drinking theirs quickly, a sort of Dutch espresso. I sipped and savoured mine. By the time I was done and on my way to my hotel, I had decided that my trip was going to take a hard turn so that I could learn as much as possible about this Dutch ancestor of gin, known in North America to only the most immersive mixologists.