Need Spirits/Bar Recommendations for Amsterdam and Stockholm
- davis_sq_pro Oct 10, 2013 06:26 AM
In a few weeks I'll be taking a business trip with stops in Amsterdam and Stockholm. I've never visited either city, and am looking forward to enjoying cocktails in the evenings as well as bringing back some bottles.
Any recommendations for either city?
For cocktail bars I'm interested in upscale places that can cater to my inner cocktail geek. On the spirits side I'm mainly hoping to find unique bitters (potable or not) and eaux de vie that I can't find in the US.
(Mods: I am posting here instead of the Europe board as there has been nothing on this topic on that board and I suspect that the experts on this topic hang out here, not there.)
I have been to both in the past year and had awesome (and different) cocktail experiences in each -
Door-74 in Amsterdam is amazing - it is upscale and speakeasy style open at 8pm daily - same day reservations possible - phone is 06.3404.5122 - easier to book and find if you have someone speaking Dutch with them - best umami cocktail ever made with oyster mushroom-infused whiskey - and coolest housemade graphic art menu as well. The actual bar is very small, so table service is most likely, even if you're solo.
The Wynand Fockink distillery at Pijlsteeg 31 in an alley in the heart of the city is an awesome, longstanding distillery that makes their own genever and derivatives (eg "corn wine") along with liqueurs (which I did not like so much) - they supposedly have a tour at 1230p on Saturdays but no one showed up to guide it the day I went, so I came back later to the tasting room and it was unique and great.
In Stockholm, the MUST visit is Little Quarter in the Sodermalm district - which is a 15 minute subway ride from the center of town - Michael and Bjorn run a world class cocktail operation in the back corner of Marie Laveau, a kind of cheesy New Orleans style restaurant. Cocktails are REALLY expensive everywhere in Sweden so invest the time to find this spot and chat with these guys behind the bar - they are the real deal. The street address is Hornsgatan 66 on the subway line that terminates at Fruangen. Also within a long walk in the Sodermalm area is a bar called Ten Lines that was bigger, busier, and also very high quality - but not special like I thought of Little Quarter (I went twice in three nights there - think a more casual version of Backbar run a couple of energetic, creative Swedes - they have their cocktail recipe book for sale as well).
Closer to the center of the city, the bar and restaurant at Nybrogatan 38 are top notch for drinks and / or food - the name of the place is the address of it. It is a couple of blocks from Ostermalmshallen - Stockholm's version of Harrod's food court - a great spot for lunch or happy hour (LOVED the "wild stew" at a butcher-related spot in the back on the right side as you enter).
I also really liked the Absolut art collection at the Vin & Spirits museum near the Vasa ship attraction as well (and picked up some nice schnapps glasses there as well. My best classic Swedish meal was lunch nearby at Ulla Winblad in the park.
I would have eaten at Frantzen if I could have gotten a reservation - a world class food destination - which I believe now has a slightly more accessible pub connected with it - maybe Flying Elk?
Thank you so much for the reply and the great recommendations! Especially useful I'm betting will be the Ostermalmshallen. I always enjoy a visit to Harrod's when I'm in London so that should be perfect for lunch the one day I have free.
Did you make it to the Tiki Room in Stockholm? That's on my list of places I'm interested in. I'll definitely add Little Quarter. Already have a reservation at Frantzen, in the kitchen -- very excited :-)
For Amsterdam I will try to get one of my Dutch hosts to book Door 74. Unfortunately I suspect they're beer in the Red Light District kind of guys. We shall see...
This the first I have heard of Tiki Room - now I will have to do some researching for the next trip there. If they have the smoked reindeer heart appetizer special at Nybrogatan 38, it's worth a detour and schedule change!
I hope to see your report back on Frantzen - jealous...
I went to Door 74 this past January and I didn't have any trouble booking a reservation, despite speaking no Dutch; the only difficult part for me was finding the entrance (I'm still confused by the existence of a speakeasy-style bar in Amsterdam. Like...they never actually had speakeasies outside the US, did they?). It's a great cocktail bar, though, so I'll third the recommendation.
I'll also second Wynand Fockink; I've done the Saturday tour (it's more of a lecture/extended tasting, really, since there isn't much of a space to tour), and it was definitely worth it. I'm definitely not a fan of genever, but they also have a whole bunch of liqueurs they make, so there's a pretty big variety of things to sample.
I don't consider any of those to be "speakeasy." Those are "just" bars -- they don't make any special attempt to celebrate the prohibition era.
PDT would be a better example of what I'm referring to. A "hidden" place where you need to be (or pretend to be) in the know. PDT is probably the BEST example, because some of the others I've been to have been absolutely terrible places, regardless of my having had to enter through a "secret" door.
Thanks for the reminder - I feel like should put a totally separate post up about Frantzen on the food board - short story is that is one of the three most memorable (and expensive...totally worth EVERY kroner) meals of my life - the other two were Le Bernardin in the 1990s and Chez Panisse about 10 years ago. I enjoyed the "avant garde wine pairings - generous and interesting, but not as stellar as the food.
They also have a cocktail bar that opened six months ago (Corner Club) - pretty good and right across the street - worth arriving early or staying late if you can't get to Little Quarter (where the cocktails and vibe are better IMHO).
I ended up spending two glorious and very late night / early mornings (didn't want to switch time zones for a 3-day trip) at Little Quarter - these guys are at the top of their game and it was terrific - and they introduced me to the lead sommelier from the Frantzen wine bar (Gaston) which made for awesome and insightful company.
Going here really is a must (it was only a 15 minute walk across the bridge from the Sheraton or a few subway stops - Mariatorget is closest, but Slussen is near on a different line)
Note that Little Quarter is only open Wednesday -Sunday and a (short) line with cover charge forms after 10p on Fri and Sat. (there is guest list potential to miss the cover charge and possibly even reserve the tiny table right behind the bar) -- there is one main entrance for the entire Marie Leveau emporium - just keep walking all the way to the back right corner upstairs for Little Quarter.
Enjoy your trip!
+1 Wynand Fockink - I would have loved to do the tour / organized tasting but you can go in there and taste anything, get a beer back, it is really cool there - would have loved to spend more time there - Certainly bring something to bring a few bottles home, they have a ton of good stuff, and the cordials are simply amazing - you can order them to the US now - interesting gin's as well
Da Kas for a restaurant is great (go here if able) - also went to Blue Pepper which is an indonesian tasting menu - which was good but a bit pricey for what you got IMO but unique if you have not experienced that type of food
Heineken musuem is very fun - make sure you raise your hand for the trivia for extra beers :)
One thing to try in Amsterdam that is rarely available anywhere outside Holland is corenwyn (aka korenwein), a strong (often >50% ABV) cask-aged spirit that is similar in character to 18th century genever, the predecessor (and namesake) to what today is known as gin. It's usually drunk straight up in well-chilled shots.
It's available in most good bars, and also at duty-free on your way home, typically (though not always) in a ceramic brownish-orange flask. I have a bottle of the generally-available Bols brand stashed in my freezer that I bring out on special occasions.
If you want to try some interesting jenevers, go to Arendsnest.
It's a beer bar with ONLY Dutch craft beers but they also have a great selection of Dutch jenevers. Zuidam is my personal favorite. Try their 15 year single barrel Korenwijn or 5 year old single barrel Jenever. These, by the way, are never served chilled.
Just saw this post, so don't know if you have been to Stockholm yet, but if not here are some of the best bars in the city for cocktails.
French Quarter - already covered well and probably the best place.
Tweed - part of the "Djuret" empire. Has an excellent negoni-bar and very nice chesterfields to relax in. Two minutes walk from Frantzen. Also in the same building is "The Burgundy" in case you feel like drinking some nice wines with (for Sweden) reasonably mark ups.
Bar Rouge - French bordello style atmosphere, but good cocktails.
Verandan - at Grand hotel. Classic and good drinks.
Gondolen - at Slussen (between Franzen and French Quarter/Marie Laveau). Also classics with stunning view.
I haven't been to the Tiki bar yet. It is recently opened, in a restaurant called Grill which is part of the F-12 group, that also includes Bar Rouge I mentioned. Haven't had drinks at Nybrogatan 38 either, but I think it is a very good place for causal dining.
Those are the ones on top of my mind, hope it helps.
Just wanted to thank everyone again for all of the recommendations on this thread. Returned home last night from an awesome trip.
Various highlights, in no particular order, both on topic of this thread and slightly off topic (I'll mention restaurants and a couple of food shops as well as drinks and drink-specific things):
This was simply an amazing meal in every respect. My colleague and I were shown to the counter overlooking the kitchen, upon which chef Frantzen and a few members of his staff immediately came over and started chatting with us. I've never experienced such a friendly atmosphere in an upscale restaurant, and it continued throughout the entire meal. (16 courses, I think? I lost count at some point. We opted for the wine pairing. Luckily, we have some photo evidence!) We were given deep and detailed explanations of every dish, and when we had questions about specific ingredients the staff readily willing to present us with little samples to try on their own.
Highlights of this meal included a lamb tartare, which was torched in front of us using some Japanese charcoal, a beautiful scallop dish presented three ways, a "bread" course of fermented rye soup, a composed salad of various vegetables from the restaurant's farm that was topped at the last minute with fresh butter mixed with herbs (the best vegetable dish I've ever had), and a broth that accompanied one of the courses, which tasted like excellent beef stock but which chef Frantzen said was in fact prepared using cabbage that they "cooked the hell out of." (I should add that this broth was so amazing that we asked for a second serving -- something I would never consider doing when having a tasting menu anywhere else -- and they happily obliged.)
At the end of the meal, we were asking some questions about Stockholm attractions and chef Frantzen wrote us a list of his favorite places to eat and drink. How many chefs would take the time to do that for a customer, in the middle of service? And then the bill came... I was too happy at the time to mind the fact that I'd just had what I believe to be the most expensive meal of my life. (Certainly the most expensive on my own dime!) The next morning, looking back at my credit card bill, I had a moment of slight remorse. But then I decided that it was worth every penny. An amazing experience and I hope to return some day.
After dinner at Frantzen we decided to walk across the street to the bar associated with the restaurant. We sat at the bar in front of a bartender named Oscar, who was both equally as congenial as the restaurant staff and was also an excellent barman. During our three hours or so at his bar Oscar made us several drinks (a few too many, perhaps), including a flight of test Negroni variations, culminating in a Negroni punch, when I mentioned that it is my favorite cocktail. (Oscar shares a love for all things Campari.)
Much like the restaurant, we were made to feel quite at home, in a way that I previously rarely have at any eating or drinking establishment. These guys have service completely nailed down -- not to mention great cocktails -- and if I ever get the chance I will return to Corner Club without a moment's hesitation.
I tried to go to Little Quarter the next night (Sunday), but unfortunately as it turns out that bar is only open Wednesday through Saturday. It was raining and we had a couple of hours to kill prior to dinner, so we opted to stay and drink at the main bar.
Service was, at first, quite slow and dismissive. After our first round both of the bartenders disappeared, and it was almost 45 minutes before we were able to order again. I was about to write off the whole place as a failure, when our bartender reappared and I asked him what kinds of vermouth he had available for a Negroni. (Can you see a trend here?)
This completely changed the attitude, and suddenly my friend and I found ourselves presented with tastings of various vermouths, including a very interesting 100 year anniversary edition of Martini, which I've never seen before and which is far superior to the brand's usual offering. (It reminds me of Carpano, but with an interesting final note I couldn't quite place but that reminded me somehow of grains of paradise.)
We drank a couple of Negronis, chatted with the bartender -- whose name I cannot recall -- about the bar scene both in Stockholm and abroad, and would up having a very nice time. This place certainly doesn't have the service standard of Corner Club, and I'm sorry to have missed out on Little Quarter, but if you know the secret code there are great experiences to be had here. (The fact that I needed the "secret code" is, by the way, a huge minus in my book.)
I'd read about this Stockholm restaurant somewhere, and it was recommended as a great place to get traditional Swedish fare. I tried only a couple of dishes -- toasts with mushrooms and roe to start, and a roast leg of lamb with black rice as a main course. Both were very well prepared, especially the lamb, which had crispy skin and succulent meat. Service was a bit on the slow side; we got to the restaurant around 20:00 and left at almost midnight!
Alas, the remainder of my time in Stockholm was spent at a conference in a hotel at the airport. So that brings us to...
Ever since seeing a travel show about Amsterdam four or five years ago, I've wanted to try an Indonesian rijstaffel. After searching this board I narrowed my list to a couple of places, and a friend from Holland recommended Blauw as a place with more focus on quality than portion size.
I believe that this was my first Indonesian meal, so I have little basis for comparison. We were served around 16 dishes of vegetable, meat, and seafood, most of which were very tasty. There was unfortunately a lot of repetition of flavors. Meat with a sweet and spicy red sauce, shrimp with the same sauce. Meat with soya; fried fish with soya. And so on. It was a nice meal, but I'm not sure I'd run back.
I had some spare time one day and spent an hour or two walking around this market and sampling various foods. This was time very well spent! I tried a herring sandwich, which I thoroughly enjoyed. (All of the Dutch people I talked to about it afterward told me they think it's disgusting, which I find to be equally sad and humorous.) Another vendor had a tasty smoked chicken sandwich. I was not in the mood for frites, although in retrospect I wish I'd tried them -- there were at least three vendors selling them and they smelled excellent. I finished off with a freshly made stroopwafel -- very nice, if a tiny bit sweet -- and a slice of appeltaart from one of the coffee shops bordering the market area.
De Jopenkerk (Haarlem):
One of my Dutch colleagues drove a couple of us to Haarlem one evening (about a 25 minute trip) and we visited a brewpub called Jopenkerk. This pub is in a converted church, and the space is massive and imposing with extremely high ceilings and very nice woodwork. We tried several of the brewery's offerings and found them all to be of high quality. Definitely worth a visit.
My expectations were set very high by this thread, and were then significantly reduced when the reservation person told me that my party of four could come at 21:00 but that we'd have to leave at 22:30 sharp. None the less, since this was one of the top places on my list for Amsterdam, I decided to go ahead with the visit.
The place is a bit difficult to find -- at least for me -- with a sign in Dutch at the street address #74 with some instructions, which I was somehow able to decypher well enough to find the proper entrance. (The place should perhaps be called "Door a Few to the Right of 74".) The place was mobbed, and we were shown to a table and given cocktail menus. The drinks were well made and very interestingly presented. (Garnish for one of mine was a piece of twig flavored with liquorice, which apparently is supposed to be some sort of treat. I don't get the allure of biting a piece of wood, but your mileage may vary.)
We kept ordering drinks. 22:30 came and went, and no one showed up to kick us out. And in the end it was a very nice time. Although the waitress was quite knowledgeable and very helpful as we went further and further off-menu, I would much rather sit at the bar and interact directly with the bartender; for me the experience felt a bit disconnected.
This is a place I'd seen highly recommended here. I wanted to sample a proper Dutch pancake, so I visited. I noticed that most of the customers seemed to be speaking English, and it seemed like the majority of them were US college students. So I'm not sure how "authentic" the fare was, but I can say that what I tried -- a pancake topped with smoked salmon, creme freche, and guacamole (that's probably not Dutch!) -- was very good. The pancake had crispy edges, a soft but dense texture, and was slightly sweet. The salmon wasn't too salty and the guacamole tasted very fresh. Pretty good coffee, too. All in all a very nice breakfast, especially helpful after the late prior night at Door 74. By the way, the place is quite popular; I had to wait around 15 minutes to get in, and just after I showed up a large queue started forming behind me.
This is a chocolate store near to Pancakes!. It has an extensive selection of 70%+ bars from all over Europe. It deserves special mention here due to the staff being extremely friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. I mentioned my preferences and was given a variety of small samples to help narrow my search. I was quite impressed by how familiar the woman helping me was with the flavor profiles of the various chocolates.
House of Bols:
I was hoping to visit Wynard Fockink, but due to poor planning (and, perhaps, too much drinking), I found myself in a different part of town late in the afternoon on my final day in Amsterdam. I noticed that I was near to the House of Bols, so I stopped in. For 14 EUR you get to tour the "museum," followed by a cocktail and a shot each of two Bols liqueurs or spirits. The "museum" part -- notice the quotes -- is not surprisingly an advertisement for the brand, but with a few interesting taste and smell exhibits. It took me around 20 minutes to walk through. After that I stopped at the bar and was able to sample an aged corenwyn and a new "21st century" young genever formula, as well as a genever Old Fashioned. The bar has no seats, and as a result isn't the most comfortable or welcoming of places. The entire thing is designed to compell you to purchase something in the store -- which of course I did. (6 year aged corenwyn and a bottle of the 21st century genever.) Not the absolute BEST use of my time, perhaps, but a decent way of killing an hour.
This is another one I found in this thread. A beer bar with a fairly extensive tap list from all around the Netherlands and (I believe) a bit of Belgium. Service is efficient but dismissive. (I think on purpose; they're trying to leave you alone. If you want help, wave a bartender over and they're happy to assist. This took me a few minutes to figure out.) I was unfamiliar with most of the beers so I ordered by asking for specific flavor profiles, and for the most part everything worked out very well. This is a place that takes its beer seriously, and it shows. We accompanied our beer with a selection of goudas and some sausage, a nice touch. This is a proper beer pub and I will definitely return next time I visit Amsterdam.
Great report, thanks! It's always nice to see feedback like this.
"Garnish for one of mine was a piece of twig flavored with liquorice, which apparently is supposed to be some sort of treat."
What you had was almost certainly not a flavored twig but an actual piece of licorice root, the source of the candy flavoring. The Dutch have an absolute passion for licorice, usually in stronger (and often saltier) versions than what's commonly found in the States, and chewing the root itself is not uncommon.
"What you had was almost certainly not a flavored twig but an actual piece of licorice root, the source of the candy flavoring."
You might be correct. The waitress told us it was wood, but she might not have been 100% fluent in English. I tried gnawing on it, as did another person in my group who got the same garnish on his drink. Both of us thought that we would much sooner break a tooth than taste anything remotely nice...
Great report - thanks - my recent experience at Frantzen was very similar and also super memorable, including the price.
Really sorry I led you astray on Little Quarter on a Sunday night (in the rain, no less!) - glad it kind of turned around a little bit.
Now I am REALLY eager to get back to Amsterdam soon and follow some of your notes on it -- and I totally agree about Door 74 - being AT the very small bar is far preferable to the table service in spite of the tasty cocktails.
Thanks for the report! I'm glad you Liked Arendsnest, it's one my favorites. There, too, it's always better to sit at the bar, makes communication with staff easier and I've always found them to be very helpful when I wanted advice on what to order.
Oh and btw I'm Dutch and I love herring, and most Dutch people I know do :)