What's Old is New Again at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

The San Antonio Cocktail Conference, which runs through the weekend at the Convention Center, has become a good event for the introduction of new spirits to American drinkers, but News Radio 1200 WOAI reports a Dutch distillery is using the conference to reintroduce a drink that was very popular in the 19th Century, but is little known today in the United States.

While its hard to imaging John Wayne striding up to the barkeep in a western movie and asking for a Genever, Joep Stassen, who represents the Netherlands distilling industry and is in town for the conference, says the juniper-berry based liquor, which remains popular in the Low Countries, was among the most popular drinks in America during the 'cocktail craze' of the late 1800s.

He says Genever is recognized as the world's first distilled spirit.

"It dates back to the 16th Century, I think it was about 1550 when they first found recipes for Genever," he said.

A combination of damage to Dutch distilleries during World War One and the subsequent introduction of prohibition in the U.S. prompted Genever to fade from the U.S. bar and nightclub scene, where it was replaced by its descendant, gin, as well as by Scottish Whiskies, Russian Vodka, and Kentucky bourbon.

"150 years ago it was introduced in the U.S. where it became a widely introduced and consumed product."

He says he is meeting with bartenders, nightclub owners and hotel beverage managers at the cocktail conference to convince them to stock Genever and help it return to the prominence it once had in the United States.

Stassen says today, when people are more concerned about the health value of what they drink, Genever is fit for the time.

"One of the main ingredients is malt distillates, and there should always be juniper earries and botanicals in it."

There is a unique style to drinking Genever, which is usually the base of mixed cocktails.  The glass is poured to the brim, and the drinker takes the first few sips with the glass on the table, bending over to suck the first few sips out of the glass before picking it up and drinking it the old fashioned way.

IMAGE: A bartender in the Netherlands pours Genever for customers.  PHOTO: Getty Images

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