In egalitarian Holland, where even the prime minister's ride is often two-wheeled, cocktails are one of the few ways to stand out from the vaasje-swilling crowd.
As if literally setting themselves apart, Amsterdam's cocktail bars are generally hard to find. Speakeasy-style Door74 is concealed behind a windowless frontage; urbane Vesper, named after the only woman James Bond ever loved, is tucked away on a side street in the Jordaan; and the newest cocktail bar in Amsterdam, Hiding in Plain Sight, could be mistaken for a house were it not for the wall of bottles behind the bar.
These can be seen through the high windows that run the length of the building. This makes the ‘hiding’ part of the bar’s name something of a joke, explained co-owner Guillermo Gonzalez as we sank into one of the black leather sofas.
Looking sharp in a black waistcoat, a garment few people can pull off, Guillermo handed us menus printed on paper so heavy I kept thinking I’d skipped a page. The compact selection of cocktails (€8-€16) is divided into 'moods' (although ‘aspirations’ might be a better description) such as romantic, sexy and stylish, and drinks that separate the gentlemen from the boys.
I ordered the Flying Dutchman, a modern version of a drink that allegedly appeared in a Dutch cocktail guide from 1950. I usually avoid cocktails containing pineapple juice - too many memories of bad piña coladas on package holidays in Greece - but I was intrigued to find out how the other ingredients (which Guillermo described in encyclopaedic detail) could possibly go together: Bols genever, plum brandy, crème de violette, Maraschino cherry liqueur and lemon juice.
Served in a martini glass and almost colourless, the cocktail had the faintest hint of violets, an aroma that can quickly reek of granny’s hankie draw if overused. The liqueur softened the drink’s edges without diminishing its power: like a guided missile, the genever exploded at the back of my throat a second or two after swallowing. As the best ones are, it was the kind of cocktail I could have drunk all night.
Although not very well concealed, Hiding in Plain Sight is largely undiscovered. With cocktails like these it won’t stay that way. Go soon while there’s still space on one of those leather sofas.
daily 18.00-01.00; Fri-Sat until 03.00
Telephone: 020 737 1890
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