Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Improved Holland Gin Cocktail

Improved Holland Gin Cocktail

Orange curaçao enlivens this 19th century classic

We love summer! Here at Kitchen Riffs, it signals the start of our annual Summer Sippin’ and Snarfin’ Series (more about that in the Notes).

We’re kicking off this season with the Improved Holland Gin Cocktail (sometimes called the Improved Gin Cocktail). What’s improved about it? The inclusion of orange curaçao, which adds just a hint of sweetness.

So kick back and get ready to sip your way through summer. Proost!



Improved Holland Gin Cocktail

Recipe: The Improved Holland Gin Cocktail

Back in the early days of American mixology, most bartenders made pretty simple drinks. Their most common method was to muddle a sugar cube with a bit of water, add a shot of booze, then a couple dashes of bitters. Mix it all together, add a lump of ice, and there’s your drink.

The booze of choice was usually whiskey, brandy, rum, or gin. The gin they used then tended to be Holland gin, not the London-style dry gin that we know today. Holland (genever) gin usually is flavored with juniper (like London gin) but has a malty quality (a bit like Scotch whisky, although the flavor profile is quite different). We discussed Holland Gin last month is our post on the Turf Cocktail.

Toward the end of the 19th century, the cocktail world began to change. The variety of drinks expanded rapidly. Their ingredients also became more varied and complex, so they began to resemble the cocktails we enjoy today.

The Improved Holland Gin Cocktail was part of this “newer” wave of drinks. We can date it back to 1876, when Jerry Thomas published an updated recipe for it in his Bartenders Guide (with an appendix that featured “improved” versions of several popular cocktails). Thomas started a craze for creative cocktails that continues to this day.

Most bartenders serve the Improved Holland Gin Cocktail “up” in a cocktail glass. But we prefer it on the rocks, so that’s how we’re presenting it.

This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves one.

Ingredients
  • 2 ounces Holland gin 
  • 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier (see Notes for substitutions)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon simple syrup (to taste)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters (orange bitters make a dandy substitute)
  • lemon twist for garnish (traditional, but we find it very optional)
Procedure
  1. Place all ingredients (except optional garnish) in a mixing glass half filled with ice. Stir with a long-handled spoon until well chilled (30 seconds or so).
  2. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass or a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist, if desired, and serve.
Improved Holland Gin Cocktail

Notes
  • We suggest stirring this drink because all the ingredients are clear. The cocktail “rule” says to stir clear ingredients because shaking introduces air bubbles (which can cloud a drink). But we’re rule breakers, so we often shake anyway.
  • Grand Marnier is premium orange curaçao (with a price to match). You could substitute a less expensive, generic variety of orange curaçao (but aim to buy something that costs at least $15 to $20 a bottle; anything cheaper won’t be very good).
  • Some bartenders use Maraschino liqueur instead of orange curaçao in this cocktail. Others like to substitute absinthe. If using either of those, we suggest adding only a couple of dashes instead of a full teaspoon.
  • Some drinkers prefer to use triple sec in place of orange curaçao (you could use a premium brand, like Cointreau, or a generic variety). Triple sec works, but we vote for Grand Marnier.
  • In theory, you could use a dry gin (like London gin) in this drink. But we’re not really enthusiastic about the taste of that substitution. So we make this drink only with Holland gin.
  • Over time, the earliest form of cocktail (sugar, booze, bitters) became known as “old-fashioned style” (as opposed to the newfangled ways that were becoming more popular). Today the whiskey-based Old-Fashioned Cocktail is still a popular drink. (Yup, the Old-Fashioned is an example of one of the earliest cocktails.) 
  • So, what’s the Summer Sippin’ and Snarfin’ Series? Well, every year during the summer months – from Memorial Day through Labor Day – all the posts on our blog are summer themed. Throughout most of the year, we post only one cocktail recipe a month (usually the first Wednesday). But in the summer, we do a cocktail post at least every other week (because summer is a thirsty time). And of course all our food recipes during this time are seasonally appropriate. So drink (and eat!) up.
Improved Holland Gin Cocktail

Mix It Again, Sam

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, you have to walk into mine,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, admiring her drink. “Not that I’m complaining.”

“This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” I said.

“I’m shocked that there is drinking in this establishment,” said Mrs K R. “Shall we have another?”

“I’ll round up the usual suspect ingredients,” I said. “Have to get this sippin’ series off to a sizzling start.”

“Summer is too short,” said Mrs K R. “But after one of these, our little problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

True. And besides, we’ll always have Holland.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Turf Cocktail
Old-Fashioned Cocktail
Negroni Cocktail
Pisco Sour Cocktail
Pimm's Cup
Rum Daisy Cocktail
Rum Shrub Cocktail
Sherry Cobbler Cocktail
Cocktail Basics
Or check out the index for more

66 comments:

  1. Yay more drinks summer time! So is De Kuyper Geneva a Holland gin? I have nasty memories of swiping sips from that as a kid in secret from my parent's bar lol. But would be happy now to try this cocktail. Love the Grand Marnier in it.

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  2. Hi Evelyne, don't know the De Kuyper's Geneva. Generally, though, I'm not a fan of that brand. In the US, at least, Bols is probably the most common brand of Holland gin. And yes, the Grand Marnier adds a LOT to this drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Hi Sue, we LOVE to sip and snarf at this time of the year. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  4. What an amazing shot! When I still drank cocktail, gin was my favourite!

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  5. Hi R, yup. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Hi Angie, we love all varieties of booze, but do have a soft spot for gin. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Hi Pam, it's very tasty. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  8. But we'll always have Paris...

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  9. Gorgeous shot! I wish I could hold my liqueur because I'm loving all the citrus tones in this cocktail. But I will pass this on to my husband who loves his evening cocktail.

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  10. Hi Mae, yup, Paris, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. Hi Laura, maybe your husband will let you inhale the aroma. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. I love Grand Marnier it is delicious and decadent all in one sip. Your history lessons are always interesting and eye opening. I'm glad prohibition was abolished a long time ago 🙂

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  13. I live in La, where I usually say I can get just about anything. However, Holland gin (by either name) is surprisingly hard to find. I do have a source however and (just maybe) I'll drive across town to get some and try this drink! GREG

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  14. Kelsie | the itsy-bitsy kitchenJune 5, 2019 at 5:18 PM

    This sounds so refreshing for summer. I can't wait to see the rest of your sippin' and snarfin' series!

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  15. I don't think I've ever tasted Holland gin---and this beautiful cocktail is the perfect excuse to buy a bottle!

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  16. Hi Merryn, we're glad prohibition was abolished long ago, too! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Hi Greg, Holland gin is really hard to find here, too — most liquor stores don't stock it. Luckily, there's a liquor store that does about a 15 minute walk from my house. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  18. Hi Kelsie, we're looking forward to making the drinks for the rest of the series. Drinking them, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. Hi Liz, this is a wonderful drink! Really great flavor. Looks pretty nice, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  20. This sounds absolutely wonderful, John! A great way to begin summer celebrations. And, by the way, that photo is stunning!

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  21. Hi David, we LOVE summer celebrations. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  22. So far I haven't had much of a summer and not sure that I will. However I can find any excuse to celebrate so I'll take one and then another, please!

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  23. Hi Abbe, one of this will make it summer for you. At least for today. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. hi KR
    this sounds like a tasty drink. i love a bit of curacao. we used to make those drinks called Golden Dreams which were soooo strong. ah the good old days when we could drink like that .....

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  25. Looking forward to your delightfully named "Summer Sippin’ and Snarfin’ Series" - and, btw, this is one stellar sounding "sip" - gorgeous photos too!

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  26. Let the Summer games begin! :) This cocktail looks too pretty to drink. I don't know if I've ever had curaco.

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  27. This is one of these slow and easy sipping cocktails. Beautiful deep golden color and clear beautiful ice cubes makes for a perfect after dinner on the balcony- watch the sunset cocktail. Wishing you and Mrs. Riff a super week. Take care

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  28. Sippin' and snarfin'...it is going to be a fun summer. :D Cheers.

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  29. Hi Sherry, we know the Golden Dream! In fact we have it on the blog. Well the Giallano version -- there are probably other versions, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  30. Hi Shashi, we're looking forward to it, too! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  31. Hi Lea Ann, summer games -- like that idea. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Hi Bobbi, this is barely dry enough to be a before dinner drink, but it's a superb after dinner one -- perfect flavor for that. Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Hi Karen, yup, we'll be sippin and snarfin' the summer away. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Your photos are always stunning, love alk those captures☺

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  35. Hi Natalia, aw, shucks, thanks for that very kind comment! :-)

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  36. Hi Debra, you NEED some Holland gin! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. John, thanks for another great cocktail lesson. I've never had an opportunity to try Holland gin, though I am reminded of it ever once in a while. Now I really must get some.

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  38. Hi Jean, Holland gin is great. If you get the aged stuff, it's pretty good to sip all by itself (unlike dry gin). Thanks for the comment.

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  39. I just made myself an Old Fashioned cocktail, so I already have the bitters in stock. Holland Gin, here I come!

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  40. Hi Fran, the Old-Fashioned is a really good drink! So is this one. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  41. John, if you're using absinthe, you could also just rinse the serving glass with it, putting a little in the glass, swirling it around and pouring it out. We've seen enough bartenders do this that we're ready to break down and buy some absinthe. A delicious sounding cocktail—think we may have to track down some Holland gin.

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  42. I've never tasted Holland Gin. This cocktail sound excellent and looks gorgeous in the photos (LOVE the glass). I'm ready to have one in hand, relax and enjoy the summer. :-) ~Valentina

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  43. Hi Terry, "rinsing" the glass with absinthe really works well. About the same as adding a couple of dashes. And yes, you do need to track down some Holland gin. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  44. Hi Valentina, that glass is OLD -- well over 100 years. And perfect for this drink! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  45. I'm watching a game of tennis from the Roland Garros just now. This would be the perfect finishing touch. I think it could work with Wimbledon as well :-)
    Amalia
    xo

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  46. Hi Amalia, this would be nice for watching tennis. Although a Pimm's Cup is probably the classic Wimbledon drink -- definitely worth a try. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  47. Your photo makes this cocktail so inviting! It's history adds to the intrigue. A fabulous post John!

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  48. Hi Deb, thanks for that very kind comment! :-)

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  49. Thanks John for sharing another gin cocktail...gin is one of my favorite in mixing cocktails...it sure sounds and looks delicious!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

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  50. I love gin and have to check out Holland Gin. Sounds like a great cocktail to me. And perfect for warm weather imbibing! Thanks for sharing!

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  51. Hi Juliana, this is a wonderful drink -- definitely worth a try. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  52. Hi Pam, Holland gin is a fun ingredient -- fabulous flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  53. A very interesting read indeed. I don't believe I've had this particular cocktail, but now plan to try it. In looking on our government liquor monopoly I don't see Hollan gin. We do have a number of gins from Holland and a couple that is specifically labeled "Geneva gin". Do you know if this would be like Holland gin? “…Here’s looking at you, John.”

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  54. Hi Ron, Geneva would Holland gin. And it's really worth trying. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  55. Sounds really nice, John! My niece once brought me back a bottle of genever from the Netherlands, where she was living at the time. It was delicious. The first gin I thought was worth sipping on its own. Hard to find around these parts...

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  56. Hi Frank, we like gin, but it has to be mixed with something -- not a spirit we like all by itself. But Holland gin is really good as a sippin' spirit. Good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  57. Any cocktail with orange and bitters in it is a friend of mine! ;)

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  58. Hi Carolyn, we love bitters -- and go through an astonishing quantity of them. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  59. I love learning new things about cocktail making! What a great way to start the summer series. I'm ready for a drink.

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  60. Hi Lisa, isn't this great? Love its flavor! Thanks for the comment.

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  61. This is my kind of drick - a perfect cocktail!

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  62. Hi Amy, it's really good. Really, really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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