Juniper as a spirit
Juniper as a spirit

All about Juniper >Juniper as a spirit

In the Netherlands and Flanders - grain-growing regions with no grape vines - beer and grain liquors supplanted wine, cider and fruit liquors. These countries became famous for their Schiedam and Genièvre.

Gin consumption, already significant in Artois and Flanders in the 16th century, increased steadily until the early 20th century. Today there are only three distilleries producing top end genièvre, two of which are located around the city of Lille.

Genièvre, or Hollands as it is sometimes called in English, contains 46% alcohol and is essentially made from grain (wheat, malt, oats) and contains only a small quantity of juniper berries (a few kilograms per 6 tonnes of grain), added at the end of production. The production method of this gin is similar to that of whisky.

At the Houlle distillery near St. Omer in the Pas de Calais region, genièvre is still made in the traditional way from a malted barley and rye mash that is heated three successive times.

The Café Era
In the nineteenth-century cafés so memorably described by Zola, "bistouille" - hot coffee and eau-de-vie - was the drink of the working man. Today, genièvre is a high-end product drunk iced by connoisseurs, but in the old days the café owner would set out shots of gin beside the saucers. At five in the morning, when the first shift arrived, all he had to do was add the cups of steaming coffee.

There were three different opinions on how bistouille should be drunk: you could knock back your glass after the coffee to ease its heat; you could drink half your cup of coffee before filling it up with genièvre; you could drink your coffee and then pour the gin into the cup.

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