I knew little about genever was when I was invited to visit Rutte Distillery in Dordrecht. All I did know was that this mysterious spirit was the predecessor to gin, a very familiar spirit to me! I later found out that genever, and more specifically Rutte Genever, is a specialist malted grain-based spirit which originates from particular areas of Holland and Belgium. The spirit is clear and botanically rich, and is a blend of two of more distillates: a juniper-infused distillate and malt wine. Many consider it to be a cross between whiskey and gin. It can be served straight up or within a more complex cocktail.
And so a group of us embarked on a journey to Holland to discover more about the Rutte range of genevers and gins. The Rutte company was founded in 1872 by Simon Rutte in Dordrecht near Rotterdam and is famously the smallest distillery in the Netherlands.
It was fascinating to visit the historic house where Rutte Genever started and still today is produced. We toured the tiny distillery (which is found below the little old-fashioned shop) with the knowledgeable Master Distiller Myriam Hendrickx… here the genever and gin is made using the traditional method; blending exotic botanicals and ingredients to produce a spirit which is completely unique and distinctive in quality and taste.
The Rutte team organised a wonderful 24-hour itinerary in Rotterdam and Dordrecht, the perfect Holland mini-break, where we got to experience a few of the fine food and drink experiences which use the Rutte brand with such innovation and flare.
In Rotterdam we enjoyed a special meal at FG Food Labs, a creative Michelin-starred restaurant that presented a meal of food and cocktail pairings. Tuna ceviche with Yuzu vinaigrette (Japanese mayonaise, spicy tomato, hoisin, sweet-and-sour celery, tapioca krupuk & squid ink) was paired with the Luscombe Lime Crush cocktail (a mix of Luscombe St. Clements, Rutte Celery Gin, and Pink Peppers) and Poussin de Loire (with merquez de Turqui sausages, seasonal vegetables, rosemary, lemongrass, ginger & garlic) was matched with a spicy Loopuyt Ginger Beer concoction (Luscombe Lime Crush, Old Simon’s Genever, Juniper berries and Rosemary). The food dishes were thoughtfully and creatively prepared but I found the cocktails a little sweet and overpowering.
After dinner we were treated to an extra special round of drinks at the city’s award-winning prohibition bar, Dr. Rotterdam. This immaculate little bar has strict rules, first and foremost: no phones and no photos, to ensure the mood is maintained and the secrets kept within the walls of the bar. It was a great relief to enjoy the drinks without the usual pressure of ‘getting the perfect instagram shot’. Here we sampled a range of seasonal cocktails as well as the 2017 Official Cocktail Competition winning drink, a recipe which includes Rutte Genever created by Zachary Faden of Mirabelle in Washington D.C.
On the second day in Holland we had the opportunity to try some of Dordrecht’s speciality foods: cheese from Gert Jan De Kaasboer, raw Herring from the street stalls and chocolate from ‘Njoy Chocolate shop. My favourite thing we tried was at Vissers Poffertjes, a much-loved cafe serving traditional tiny Dutch pancakes coated in icing sugar and Rutte Genever!
After just 24 (sunny) hours in Holland it was clear to see just how many uses the unique and delicious Rutte Genever can have. I know some of London’s best restaurants (Hoppers, for example) and bars are already beginning to introduce this incredible spirit into their cocktail and spirit repertoire and I can’t wait to see more Rutte on menus soon.
More information on Rutte Genever and gin here.
We stayed at the characterful Hotel New York in Rotterdam, which has spacious rooms, plenty of personality and a lovely location on the waterfront.