When I was old enough to start visiting bars (18, as I was in Australia), my eye was immediately drawn to those shiny, pretty-colored bottles gleaming on the shelves behind the bar. They were the colors of precious jewels, much brighter than the rainbow. I confess, for a while I drank only things that matched my outfit–again, I was 18. So, it was inevitable that when I got to Amsterdam, I had to seek out the place that made these magical – and frankly sickly sweet – alcoholic tints.
The House of Bols is located at Museumplein in the center of Amsterdam, very close to the Van Gogh Museum (another house of wonderful colors). It has won a Dutch Design Award for Best Exhibition and Experience.
The brand was started by the Bols family in 1575 and during the Dutch Golden Age. In the following century, Lucas Bols used all those fabulous spices to perfect the range of flavors; they’ve had a few centuries to get this right. Inside the House of Bols, you take a self-guided tour through the Hall of Taste, the World of Cocktails and the Genever Room.
The World of Cocktails hits you like a nightclub complete with electro-house music, and you’ll also be hit by ‘puffers’–intense aromatics that give you an idea of the flavors of Bols–very effective, given that 95% of taste is actually linked to smell. Being very up to date, the museum offers smartphone visitors links to movies, applications, and websites, all connected through free Wifi of course.
The tour ends in the fabulous Mirror Bar, where you can tell the talented barman your favorite flavors and he or she will make you a cocktail to remember. Film yourself mixing your own in the Flair Room, enroll in a bartending course, take one of their cocktail cruises, or hold your bridal shower or cocktail party here. Now I know how to use these liqueurs properly and they are once again simply delicious.