I’ve been in Holland for a few days for meetings with our client Canei wine and next week with the folks from deKuyper.

Jean Erickson and I did some busman’s holiday work and checked out a bunch of retail wine and spirits stores as well as on premise accounts for a sense of what’s going on here.
Door 74 looks like it would be at home on the lower East Side, 
Door 74.  We were directed (actually got a great cocktail bar recco sheet from the Bols Experience, see below) to one of the top cocktail bars in the world, right here in Amsterdam.  Door 74 was a finalist in last year’s TOTC best international bar competition, and now that I’ve been there…I’d have voted for them. It’s got a PDT-like vibe in that the entrance is an unpreposessing door, with no signage to indicate what’s there.
We met mixologists Remco Babay and Bas Verhoeven and partner in crime Frederico Fusco
Simon Difford doppelganger Bas Verhoeven
and had a couple of wonderful evenings talking bidness.  First item was my request for somethign special with Mandarine Napoleon.  Remco did great, but for the life of me, I can’t remember the recipe.
Bas explained a drink concept he came up with for one competition that involved real smoke, wood chips and shaved chocolate in a two layer glass…it takes molecular mixology to a whole new level.  He also treated me to his signature drink, the Martila:  
½ shot Reposado Tequila
1 Barspoon of lemon rind scrapings (not a zest, but scrapings with a serrated knife)
2.5 Barspoons of Maraschino Liquor
1 shot of dry white vermouth.
Stir, garnish with lemon twist and voila…
We talked at length about Pisco which they were somewhat familiar with.  I gave the 5 minute version of  Pisco 101, told them all about Pisco Portón and the mosto verde process, and promised to get them the first bottled that exports to the Netherlands. (Johnny and Andrea…you’ll have to help me with delivering on that promise)
The Wine Side
I’ve seen more presence of Chilean and Argentinian wines than I had anticipated.  I expected to see French/Italian and Spanish wines, which I did, but there is surprisingly noticeable distribution of New World wines, according to my unscientific retail review in Amsterdam, Delft and The Hague.  Pricing seems to be a bit lower than the U.S. and in fact I saw a bunch of entry level wines at the 6.99 /7.99 level…translated into dollars that’s still below the $10 price point.  Valdivieso from Chile was especially noted as having good floor stacks in stores that had very limited real estate allocated for displays.  Canei was pretty well distributed by commonly on the bottom shelf with just one or two facings.
We had stopped by the Bols Experience, a mini-exhibit that was very well done.  The location can’t be beat…right across the street from the Van Gogh museum.  There were some good displays of atomizers with flavors used in their liqueurs and real samples of the various botanicals used as well.  They end the exhibit in a real bar (albeit stocked only with their products), but you can design a drink or choose one of their cocktails and have it hand-made and served with a flourish by bartenders trained upstairs at the Bols Bartending Academy.