Let Bols Genever Introduce You to a John Collins


The Tom Collins might be what you grandmother likes to drink, but that’s no excuse to knock it. Especially when the gin-and-hard lemonade cocktail might originally have been made with the Dutch version of gin: genever. Only you’re not supposed to call it that.

Bols Genever, which launched last year, is based on the company’s original 1820 recipe for genever, a spirit distilled in Holland for centuries and made popular by Lucas Bols in the 17th century. The brand has been working with cocktail historians like Wayne Collins (no relation to Tom) from England and New York’s own David Wondrich to discover the true roots of the Tom Collins, which may lie in genever rather than English gin.

“I love being able to tell people about the difference between genever and gin,” says Katie Darling, the New York brand ambassador for Bols Genever, and a bartender at Sasha Petraske’s White Star, which may be known for its absinthe drinks but stocks Bols, too. In fact, one of the house cocktails is a Holland Razor Blade, which is something like a Tom Collins made with Bols and a dash of cayenne pepper.

So, what is the difference between genever and gin?

“Gin is basically un-aged whiskey with botanicals added in,” says Darling. “Genever is 50 percent malt wine that undergoes a five-day fermentation process. It has a texture and mouthfeel that you just don’t get from gin.”

Until it can be proven that the Tom Collins was originally made with genever, the safe way to go is to simply rename the drink. So, they’re calling it a John Collins. For now.

John Collins

2 oz Bols Genever
1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz rich simple syrup (one part sugar to two parts water)

Combine the ingredients in a shaker or mixing glass with ice. Shake vigorously and strain over crushed ice in a Collins glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.