Over 430 years of history. That’s what the name Bols brings with it. But when I first came across it, I admit I had no idea, about facts, like it is from Amsterdam, legendary by dint of its super liqueurs, is the world’s oldest distilled brand, etc. A few years ago, my thirsty eyes were searching for a bottle of Harvey’s sherry, which I just love, at the Delhi Duty Free. Only to find a Bols sherry. Quite unenthusiastically, not knowing what I was to get from this long necked, slim, rimmed cylindrical bottle, I picked it up. Must say, Bols was a discovery, pleasantly bolstered by many after dinner conversations of my friends and family, and me too! One of them was a rather informative monologue by a friend about Eighty Years War between the Netherlands and Spain because of which the founders of Bols brand fled to Germany. Good to have such sources of information as friends because I learnt that on returning to Amsterdam after the War, the industrious family started the distillery, around 1575, and became pretty popular locally.
Later, thanks to Wikipedia, I also learnt that Lucas Bols, by which name the brand is known today, was a major shareholder of the Dutch East India Company through which he brought to Amsterdam many exotic herbs, spices, fruits, etc. to make the liqueurs. Who knows, some may have gone from India itself.
Of course, like in so many business houses, Bols also changed hands, moved through two business families – Vant Wout and Motzers keeping the Bols surname intact even though Bols long ceased to be a part of it. In 1954, after the last of the Moltzer’s went away, it became a limited company.
Today, Lucas Bols produces a line of 38 flavours, some of them by using centuries old recipes. In India though, there are only four types of Bols liqueurs available. Brought by Kyndal India, you can get Bols Cacao, Amaretto, Blue and Triple Sec. The yummy flavours like Bols Peach and Coconut are not available here yet. However, Bols brandy seems pretty popular in India. According to Pushpanjali Banerji, Brand Director, Bols Kyndal India, BOLS X.O. Excellence Brandy is the market leader in the premium brandy segment in the country. Banerji also quickly hands me out two cocktail recipes that you can make from its brandy. One of course is brandy soda. You can get it by pouring 1.5 to 1.7 parts of Bols brandy into a high ball, add dollops of ice and fill it up with soda water. The other one is brandy Dutch touch, a shaken drink. In a cocktail shaker, add 1.5 parts of Bols brandy, 0.5 parts Bols Cacao Brown, give it a good shake before pouring it into a shot glass. Top it up with iced coke. “Ideal for summer”, is her selling point.
A lot of simple yet refreshing cocktails can be made from Bols liqueurs but more on that later. Business first. Rather selfish interest because I ask Banerji why other flavours have not been brought to India yet and just the usual suspects. Her reply is a fact, “The cocktail culture in India is at its nascent stage compared globally. People here prefer straight drinks to complex cocktails. Liqueur is a very niche category. So we want to first broaden the awareness about the trend and the ingredients which contribute to a good cocktail.” Good to know it has plans to bring the exotic flavours “but before that we first want to develop the trend of cocktail making with existing Bols liqueurs such as Bols triple sec, Bols Blue and Amaretto,” she says. The company though sees “a huge potential in the segment “as people are becoming more and more receptive towards the trend.”
“Especially in metros, this trend is growing among the youth and women. The demand for great cocktails needs to be created. Customer awareness for great ingredients will drive the cocktail culture.” Keeping this in mind, Bols, she says, has undertaken many initiatives to build the cocktail trend. “For example, earlier this year we had an event called Bols Flairstyle wherein we invited two Polish flairtenders to popularise the art of flairtending with the help of cocktail making.”
Point noted. And now to some easy ways of lighting up your weekend: If you get hold of a bottle of Bols usual suspects — blue, triple sec, etc. — go for the usual cocktails, say Blue Lagoon, Margerita, etc. But if you get hold of a Bols exotic flavours, say passion fruit or peach, think simpler and allow the flavours to rule. Though there are some interesting brews like Orient Express (made with Bols coconut) or Pegu Club (made with Bols dry orange, first made in Pegu Club in Rangoon ) I suggest, go simple. Just add icy cola to the passion fruit one, ice tea to the peach one, loads of ice to the coconut one and enjoy.