From traditional genevers to quaffable beers, Holland boasts many of Europe’s most historic and famous brands. And Amsterdam has a thriving drinks scene to match, with a wide variety of establishments, including ancient taverns, fine cocktail bars and all things in between. Here are a few places that I recommend you stop by when you’re next in the city. That is, if you can pull yourself away from its notorious coffee shops.
The Amstel Lounge is appropriately located in the InterContinental Amstel Hotel and, naturally, overlooks the Amstel River. It has nautical fixtures, tartan carpets and a menu designed to celebrate the hotel’s 140-year history. It’s a perfect spot for a Martini, or you can have afternoon tea at the neighboring Amstel Lounge.
What to Drink: Straits Sling (kirsch, Plymouth Gin, Bénédictine, orange bitters, Angostura Bitters, lemon juice, club soda)
There is so much dust hanging from Café De Dokter’s chandeliers that New York’s McSorley’s should be jealous. The nicotine-stained walls and dark lighting only add to the vintage feel of this more-than-200-year-old gem. It’s a tight squeeze, especially with all the treasures, like ancient musical instruments, old telephones and an odd birdcage. The bar has a silver-plated top festooned with plaques honoring regulars. There are dozens of rare whiskies, and I have it on good authority that it’s one of Liquor.com advisory board member David Wondrich’s favorite establishments.
What to Drink: Kop Stoot (shot of Bols Genever and a beer)
De Drie Fleschjes, which dates back three-and-a-half centuries, is as much tavern as it is museum. It has a renowned collection of eclectic items, such as flagons that commemorate each Amsterdam mayor since 1648. Wash down a plate of meatballs and salami with some genever or Dutch liqueur.
What to Drink: Boswandeling (jonge genever, triple sec, Angostura Bitters)
These days, every city must have at least one speakeasy-style cocktail bar. Door74 (pictured above) has the requisite hidden door, antique barware, tin ceiling and sophisticated atmosphere, plus delicious and perfectly balanced creations from Timo Janse and his team. The current menu is inspired by Sin City, complete with cartoon illustrations, quotes and appropriately named tipples. I am looking forward to seeing what the next will be.
What to Drink: La Ninja (Japanese whisky, sesame syrup, lime, Angostura Bitters)
Named after a South American fruit, Feijoa features a floor-to-ceiling back bar, complete with a ladder to reach the tippy-top shelf of bottles. It has an industrial design and a balcony for a DJ, who is usually spinning electronic music. The menu is short and precise with many fruit-forward drinks and a few standards like the Blood & Sand and Paloma. This is one joint where you can spend some serious time.
What to Drink: Liv’s Blackberry (cognac, lavender, blackberries, ginger)
This restaurant and bar recently opened and overlooks a picturesque canal. It has a clever menu, whose sections include “drinks that separate the gentlemen from the boys” and “sexy and stylish drinks for Casanovas and femme fatales.” That’s not to mention a page that pays homage to New York with tipples from top bars like PDT.
What to Drink: Green with Envy (Green Chartreuse, velvet falernum, pineapple juice, lime juice, mint, nutmeg)
Right off the exclusive shopping street P.C. Hooftstraat is the brand-new Conservatorium Hotel. At its hip cocktail bar, Tunes, you’ll find a beautiful jet-set crowd sipping on classic and modern concoctions that highlight Dutch favorites Curaçao, genever and advocaat. There’s also a list with eight different Gin & Tonic variations.
What to Drink: Amsterdam Canal Breeze (Bols Jonge Genever, cinnamon syrup, cranberry juice, De Olmenhorst Apple Juice, lemon juice)
This Jordaan-district watering hole specializes in seasonal infusions and bottled punches. It also has a short but diverse cocktails list with everything from its namesake, the gin-and-vodka-based Vesper, to tiki favorites like the Zombie.
What to Drink: Moon Walk (Grand Marnier, house-made hibiscus syrup, grapefruit, prosecco)
Simon Ford is an award-winning bartender and director of trade outreach and brand education for Pernod Ricard USA. He is also a Liquor.com advisor.