Travel Buzz: Door 74, Amsterdam
Spring Has Sprung Behind Door 74
While much of Northern Europe remains shrouded in grey skies and chilly temperatures, the sun is spilling out into a small street from behind a nondescript entryway, in Amsterdam. Door 74, one of the continent’s newest – and one of its most notable – cocktailian watering holes has just unveiled its new spring menu.
The worldwide trend of intimate, dimly-lit, “reservations-only-please,” speak easy-style drinking establishments has made its way from London and New York (ie: Milk & Honey) to Washington DC (PX) to San Francisco (Bourbon & Branch) to Chicago (Violet Hour) to Amsterdam (Door 74) to Los Angeles (The Varnish), just to name a handful. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting nearly all of the venues mentioned above – with Door 74 being the latest notch on my belt.
Irish-born Philip Duff, a dapper globe-trotter with a reputation for enjoying fine liquor - and all the perks that come with it - has teamed with Sergej Fokke of Feijoa fame, to establish the newest spot on the ‘style-and-substance’ driven drinking map. Duff has maintained residence in Amsterdam over the last several years, and has an arsenal of bartender training and consulting gigs behind him. He has also won awards in Flair Bartending and led seminars on Molecular Mixology.
Admittedly, I do find the whole “make reservations to pop in for a drink” a bit of an inconvenience, in any city in the world. (Do I really have to structure my leisure time that much?) However, if it is a hoop one must jump through to sample a fine tipple, it is worth playing along, from time to time.
The cocktails at Door 74 are worth that extra step in merrymaking, if you are a person who appreciates a fine drink. There is not a bottled juice to be found and the elegant spectacle happening while each cocktail is created is a sight to behold. Timeless bartending techniques, by friendly (yes, friendly) bar staff make the extra 30 seconds or so per drink well worth the wait. The all-stars behind the bar include Timo Janse, Anthony Pullen and Andrew Nicholls. These boys know their stuff and serve it with a smile.
My timing in Amsterdam was impeccable, as it turns out, because our own lovely LeNell Smothers has been exploring her inner-mixologist in Amsterdam. Not only is she under the tutelage of Mr. Duff, himself, but she has been educating the crowds on whiskey. Who better than a cool-as-heck chick from the Southern US to do such a thing? LeNell had run her immensely popular bar store, “LeNells” in New York until recently … but don’t despair NYC, I have a feeling she will be back and better than ever before too long.
A few other cocktailians also happened to be in the neighborhood, during my visit: John Lermayer, (fresh from his Domaine de Canton cocktail contest win); Christian (another Miami-based bartender/ mixologist) and Angus Winchester. Although I apparently traumatized Angus and Philip with my view on revisiting the vodka ban in many high-end cocktail bars, we were a happy crew of traveling sipsters. Most happy because Door 74’s new spring cocktails launched that very night – and we got to try them first!
Door 74 prides itself on “classic cocktails, champagne and proper late night drinking.” It also lists ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ in the very menu, so no one is confused as to the comportment expected in such an establishment. Gentlemanly behaviour (with a ‘u,’ of course) is encouraged as are “high heels” and a mouthwatering array of spirits and drinks. Things banned include: “non-alcoholic cocktails, cocktails with childish names, “bar chefs,” talking on the cell phone, or being overly nerdy about cocktails.” Nevermind that the people behind Door 74 can be as nerdy as they come with regard to cocktail snobbery. Not in a bad way, mind you. I quite enjoy a passionate professional in our field.
I also got a special, pirvate tour of the back room by Mr. Duff. (Minds out of the gutters, folks, it was all ice-related!) Like a proud papa, Philip showed off the amazingly crystal clear cubes (ie: top quality) coming out of his state of the art machine and the plastic molds in which the staff makes the spherical rocks glass ice. (A great drink is but the sum of its parts, after all!)
On the topic of drinks, if you make it to Amsterdam’s upcoming bar show, here are a few of my recommendations off the spring menu at the Door:
Jack Sees Stars: This wonderful concoction, created by Timo, features calvados, dry vermouth, violette, pomegranate and lemon is fantastic. (I had 2 of them.)
William & Mary: This tribute to Prince William of Orange to Princess Mary Stuart is one of Philip’s creations using genever, elderflower (syrup – NOT St. Germain), mint, lemon and “oranjebitter”
The Heavenly Daisy: Created by Andrew, this drink sneaks a little yellow chartreuse in with Rittenhouse Rye whiskey, citrus, sugar and soda.
There are many more fantabulous drinks on the menu and I truly hate to make you green-as-absinthe-fairies with envy, so I encourage you to hustle on over to Door 74 for yourselves. Amid the trendy speak-easy pomp-and-circumstance, the drinks are enlightening, the service sublime and set in happy Amsterdam, the experience is a breath of fresh Spring air.