The Van Gogh Museum houses (the largest collection of) the artist’s drawings and paintings. The Rijksmuseum (translation: Statemuseum) exhibits historical artifacts owned by… you guessed it, the City of Amsterdam. So what would you expect to find in The House Of Bols? I’ll tell you. An amazing, informative, interactive and pretty damn fun way to spend a rainy afternoon! So, I’m sure you’ve heard of Bols liqueurs. Or at least sampled them. Here is their distinctive bottle (apparently designed to be 33% more “efficient” for the bartender)!
So, the tour involves moving through a number of different rooms, each designed to teach you about Bols. In the first room we learned that The House Of Bols was founded in 1575!!! That’s 200 years BEFORE Cook discovered Australia!!! In the second room we saw the complete collection of mini-Delft Dutch houses (filled with Genever – more on that later) that KLM have been giving out to their First (and more recently Business) Class passengers since 1957. Each house is a replica of an actual Amsterdam dwelling!!
The next room contained a row of atomiser bottles, each containing a sample of the 36 flavours of Bols liqueur. You sprayed the atomiser, sniffed what came out and tried to guess what flavour it was. We got to about 12 of the 36 before we started feeling a little lightheaded and decided to sample only the ones that we liked the sound of. It was here that we were also to note down our two favourite essences.
The next room was dedicated to Genever, the signature Bols tipple. The one they’ve been making since 1575. Genever is actually the pre-cursor to Gin (the Brits invented Gin when they got jealous of Genever’s wild success in the 17th century). The room had several Genever atomisers along with boxes full of some of the ingredients used to make it. What I really liked is that these ingredients weren’t behind a glass barrier. You could stick your head right into it, if that’s what you wanted. We satisfied ourselves by grabbing handfuls of the stuff.
Also in the Genever room was the actual notebook that Lucas Bols used to write down his notes and formulae way back in the 1600’s. This actually was behind a glass barrier. Fair enough.
The final part of the tour was the least informative but the most fun. A computer helped us choose a cocktail (check out some of the recipes here) which two lovely bartenders made up for us to drink at the bar!! In addition to this, we got two shot glasses full of our favourite liqueurs (remember way back at the beginning of the tour when we had to choose?). I had elderflower and butterscotch. David had coconut and Kirsch cherry. Yum!! Oh, and when we asked the bartender how the shape of the bottle increased his efficiency by 33% he simply held up two bottles in one hand and smiled.
Now so far, this was one of the best tours I’ve ever done. But then, just to put the cherry on top, David noticed a little room to the side of the bar. Inside the room were four colourful, plastic, Bols Flairbottles, four padded walls and a video camera. What is a Flairbottle? Ever seen the movie Cocktail? I shall leave it at that.