The Netherlands has been an oft-overlooked destination for those vacationers from the UK. Amsterdam still has a massive draw but there is so much more to see in this fascinating and convenient country.
Rotterdam offers many attractions and it’s easy to get there on public transport. But take a short trip outside that celebrated city and there are new adventures to be had. Schiedam is considered by many as the Gin Capital of The Netherlands, and it even has its own Distillers District.
Canals and drawbridges
Jenever might not be a name familiar to those of us outside the Netherlands but it is the grandmother of all ‘Mother’s Ruin’ and the gin we enjoy today. It has been distilled in Schiedam for hundreds of years. This is a pretty town with iconic canals and drawbridges. There are old storehouses and giant windmills pointing to the sky, but it’s the traditional Dutch spirit that points to a successful future with gin and other distilled beverages.
The origin of jenever was a combination of distilled malt wine and juniper berries, and still today gin must contain those berries. It was prized for its medicinal properties as far back as the 16th century. British soldiers who fought with the Dutch during the Eighty and Thirty Years wars thought Dutch soldiers got their battlefield bravery from the ‘gin’, and called it ‘Dutch courage’.
In the late-18th century Schiedam boasted nearly 400 roasters and distilleries and exported jenever around the world. Competition from cheaper spirits and the US prohibition, then the German bombing in World War II, almost finished the industry – which is now enjoying a revival.
Traditional jenever is being reinvented by a new generation of distillers in Schiedam. One can visit the Museum which charts the history of Jenever, but one will likely want to taste, too, and there are plenty of ‘watering holes’ to tempt both the curious sipper and the gin aficionado.
A long history
Serious Bee Distillers have a range of delicious and unique products which are a little different. They have a focus on honey-based spirits, but these too have a long history. Pottery vessels dating from 7000 BCE found in northern China have shown chemical signatures consistent with that of fermented honey. In Europe, it is first found in ceramics of the Bell Beaker People a couple of thousand years BCE. We all know the importance of bees so now we can have a cocktail which will actually make us feel noble!
Serious Bee Distillers offer, amongst other spirits, Amber Mead Brandy with the name of Clutius and Clusius. Theodorus Clutius was a pharmacist with a passion for medicinal herbs as well as bees. Carolus Clusius was a famous botanist and professor at Leiden University. When Clusius was appointed the very first prefect of the Hortus Botanicus Leiden, the oldest botanical garden in The Netherlands, they formed a partnership and built the garden together.
This is a sweet and well-balanced spirit which retains the soothing quality of honey and the warmth of a brandy. It’s perfect on the rocks but I have devised a chilled and tempting ‘toddy’ for all-year-round enjoyment. It has a classic profile of honey, lemon and ginger and can be adapted to individual tastes.
May I present the Schiedam Sting:
50ml Serious Bee Distillers Clutius and Clusius Amber Mead Brandy
5ml fresh lemon juice – or to taste
2mm slice of fresh ginger
Put the lemon juice and ginger in the base of a cocktail shaker. Muddle till the ginger is well-crushed.
Half fill the shaker goblet with ice and pour over the Clutius and Clusius Amber Mead Brandy.
Shake vigorously till the drink is very well chilled.
Enjoy straight or on the rocks.