Tom Collins’ Funky Uncle John

Tom Collins’ Funky Uncle John

A little earlier this year, the Liquor Fairy dropped off a bottle of Bols Genever. A lot of you may ask, what the heck is genever? At least, that is what I asked myself when I opened the box, while I admired the gorgeous bottle. I’ve had this bottle for a while now, and I’ve gone from excitement, to disillusionment, to satisfaction with the spirit.
I’m not going to go into great detail of how genever is made, or its history. Others have already done a better job of that than I could. But I will go over a few things that bear on how to use it.
First off, you pronounce genever, jin-EE-ver.
While genever is often referred to as Dutch Gin, that is as misleading as calling pisco, Peruvian Brandy or Cachaça, Brazillian Rum. It you really were striving for accuracy with this sort of linguistic construction, you should probably call gin, London Genever anyway. The important thing here is that if you pick up a bottle of Bols’ tasty spirit and think its going to be a gin, there are going to be problems.
To illustrate, the first thing I did when confronted with this bottle of Dutch Gin was to go mix up a Pegu.
Do. Not. Do. This. You are welcome.
So I got a good lesson in the fact that Bols’ most famous premium liquor is not a gin. After another try or two with recipes I can’t remember, I gave up on the stuff. But I left the bottle out on my display shelf because it looks so good. And it nagged at me.
The flavor of genever is much deeper and more pungent than gin. And it is interesting. Even the drinks I made that didn’t work, were interesting. Finally, I pulled the bottle off the shelf and went back to work.
Until recently, I avoided tall drinks, preferring my cocktails up. But I decided to give the John Collins a try.
The John Collins is simply a Tom Collins, made with genever instead of Old Tom.


  • 3-4 oz. Bols Genever
  • Juice of 1 smallish lemon
  • 0.5 oz. simple sugar

Build ingredients in a collins (i.e. a large highball glass) glass with large ice cubes. Stir to chill, then top with chilled Perrier or soda water. Stir again briefly. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

And there we go! I never was much of a fan of the Tom Collins. To me, it’s just a bit bland and uninteresting. But funky Uncle John has a lot of character. Those pungent, deep flavors that overwhelm other classic gin cocktails really work here. This drink (it’s not a cocktail!) is not only delicious, refreshing, and interesting, but it softens the flavors and complexity of the genever that I found initially so confusing. It is a great drink to enjoy while you get used to what genever can offer.
But once I had a few of these, and started to enjoy these different flavors, I did want to find a good cocktail-style drink to employ once Fall arrives and the weather gets colder.
I recently picked up a copy of Gary Regan’s new book, the bartender’s Gin compendium, and found the recipe below. I asked Gaz for permission to reprint it here, and he graciously said yes. He also said something to comfort me, and anyone else who has trouble wrapping themselves around genever:

I had a hard time with genever, but eventually I “got it,” and haven’t looked back since.



  • 3 parts Bols Genever
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1 part pineapple juice
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake thoroughly with ice and strain into cocktail glass, garnish with a good long curl of lemon zest.

In the book, Gary describes this as a kind, gentle cocktail. Gaz obviously like strong drinks. Kind, yes. Delicious, yes. A good showcase for genever, yes. Gentle, not so much.
If you want to dive into the mysteries of Bols’ challenging bottle, try Uncle John first, unless you are very bold, bright, and fearless.

The-Liquor-Fairy-ThumbThe Liquor Fairy Was Here!
The following product, Bols Genever, was recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss its use.
For a complete disclosure of my policies regarding promotional items and all other financial interests, please click this link, or follow the Liquor Fairy link in the header of this page.


  1. Nick F

    2 September

    I visited the House of Bols in Amsterdam this summer and fell in love with Genever. Now its just a matter of being able to find it in the States. I’ve heard its in NYC and SF but I don’t live in either of those places… :-\

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  2. Rick

    4 September


    I made one of these, and there’s something too simple out it for me. Perhaps it’s that TDN Tiki was last night 🙂

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  3. Doug

    4 September

    I blush to say that it took me so long to try this just because it is so simple.

    But when I am not in TIKI-mode, I tend to love the simple stuff.

    I’ve got another genever drink that works pretty damn well, too. I’ll post it soon.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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