When my roomie told me that there was a cocktail museum in Amsterdam where they give you a shot and it changes flavour in your mouth, I was weirded out to say the least. Little did I know it would be an experience of a lifetime...
When we found ourselves with a free day in Amsterdam, my roomie was set on finding the legendary cocktail museum. I was apprehensive, but agreed to go along so as not to break the sacred roomie bond and wander the city alone. That’s how I found myself at the House of Bols.
The museum is located in a prime position, just near Park Museumplein, which is the large green expanse in the middle of the ‘museum district’ of Amsterdam. Close by is the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (just to name a few of the sights), so you really could spend a whole day in the area and museum hop from one place to the other.
Close to the museum is also the Amsterdam sign, which is unmissable due to the flock of tourists scrabbling to take a photo. Because, really, have you even been to Amsterdam if you haven't sat on the sign?
We found the museum, located in a cute old building, and stepped inside. It opens at 1pm daily and we were right on time, so we entered as the first guests of the day. We paid for our tickets (regular ticket for €16,00) and were handed an audio guide, a little vial of bright pink liquid and a token to use at the bar at the end of the museum. Then we walked down a small staircase and into the first room, the History Room, which showed us exactly what genever and gin are, and the history of Lucas Bols, who manufactured genever (and founded House of Bols).
After this, we were invited to step into a small room/cubicle and close the door (I swear it’s not as scary as it sounds) and drink the liquid in the vial. What followed was the awesome Art of Flavour experience, which I won’t ruin by describing in detail. This was the crazy taste-changing part of the experience which my roomie had mentioned, and though it sounds bizarre, it really makes this museum experience unique. What happens in the little room makes evident to visitors the effect of external factors on how one experiences alcohol, and it’s super eye-opening.
The Hall of Taste was next, where we were led to a rainbow-coloured wall and a series of different smells to ‘taste’. Again, this room challenged our perception of the senses and made us rethink how we experience flavour. We then pushed on to the Ingredient Room, in which a range of different ingredients are on display for visitors to smell and consider. Finally, the Genever Room provided us with a history of the iconic alcohol, including a video presentation. This section is dimly lit and complete with old-fashioned couches, giving the sense of being in a classy historic bar.
Once we’d finished perusing the various rooms and sensory experiences, we were invited upstairs to the Mirror Bar, where we created our own unique cocktail. If only all museums ended that way eh…
The whole premise of the House of Bols Museum is brilliant. It’s a fun, colourful and interactive experience that has us totally immersed. The museum really does achieve its goal in encouraging visitors to rethink alcohol – it’s not only a drink, but an experience. My verdict? An absolute Amsterdam must do.
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