Dutch Gin Joints

Lex van Lieshout

Jenever—Dutch gin—is still today a popular drink in the bruine, or brown, cafes of Amsterdam. These homey pubs, called brown for their wood paneling and/or their cigarette-smoke-darkened walls, are nearly always noisy and lively places. They became popular here in the 17th century, and some that date from the 1600s are still going strong.

Be forewarned that the traditional way to serve jenever in such establishments is in tiny glasses filled so far to the brim that they cannot be lifted without spilling; the etiquette is to bend over from the waist and take the first sip without picking up the glass.

Another kind of drinking place dating back hundreds of years is the proeflokaal, or tasting house. These were originally adjuncts to distilleries and breweries, where free samples were given away. Now they're specialized pay-as-you-go bars, serving mostly a single kind of drink—beer, wine, whiskey, whatever. One, De Admiraal (Herengracht 319), is devoted to jenevers—at least a dozen different kinds.