Episode 088 - Sangfroid Distilling

Sangfroid Distilling Genever.jpg

What’s shakin, cocktail fans?

Welcome back to another episode of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast!

This time around, we chat with craft distiller Nate Groenendyk, who, along with his brother-in-law and business partner Jeff Harner, created Sangfroid Distilling in Hyattsville, Maryland, just outside of DC. You can follow them on Instagram (@sangfroiddistilling), on Facebook, and on Twitter (@sangfroidbrandy).

Distiller Nate Groenendyk ( Photo Credit: Sangfroid Distilling )

Distiller Nate Groenendyk (Photo Credit: Sangfroid Distilling)

Sangfroid (or, if you want to Germanicize it, “Sang-Froid”) is a French term for keeping your cool under pressure - literally translated, it means cold-blooded. During the interview, we’ll hear the full story of how the company got its name, as well as why they chose to focus on traditional Dutch and French spirits.

In this craft spirits conversation and tasting with distiller Nate Groenendyk, some of the topics we discuss include:

  • How a duo of spirits enthusiasts converted their love for craft spirits into an agricultural and distilling operation that’s pumping out delicious apple brandy and dutch style gin.

  • A comparison of Dutch-style gin and London Dry gin, specifically looking at differences in production methods, flavor profiles, and cocktail applications.

  • We also really dig deep into all the little choices that each craft distiller must make regarding ingredient sourcing, fermentation, distillation, and maturation that all build upon one another to create the unique fingerprint of each distillery.

  • Nate fantasizes about traveling back in time to let his great grandfather in the Netherlands taste his version of Genever.

  • Eric asks some typical probing questions about barrels and mash bills.

  • And we both sample a little bit of Sangfroid’s delicious Hollands Style gin.

Featured Cocktail: Improved Hollands Gin Cocktail

Because we talk about and taste some delicious genever in this episode, our featured cocktail is the Improved Hollands Gin cocktail. This is a classic from legendary bartender Jerry Thomas (AKA “The Professor”), who published one of the first official cocktail recipes books back in the late 1800s.

Now, if we take the term “cocktail” to mean a drink comprised of a spirit, sugar, and bitters, then what the heck is an “improved” cocktail?

Well, in general, when you come across this term in the cocktail world, it usually refers to a drink that adds a little something else besides sugar and bitters to the base spirit. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of conflicting recipes out there on the internet for the Improved Hollands Gin Cocktail, so I’m going to try and synthesize them into one recipe template that you can tweak to your own personal flavor preferences.

To make this drink, you’ll need:

  • 2 oz Genever (that’s the Hollands Gin)

  • ¼ oz Maraschino Liqueur OR Grand Marnier

  • ¼ oz simple syrup

  • Several Dashes of Aromatic Bitters (we like to use our Embitterment Aromatic Bitters)

  • ½ bar spoon of absinthe

Combine all these ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir until chilled and well integrated, and then strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

A few notes on your ingredients here. The decision between Maraschino Liqueur and Grand Marnier is a pretty simple one. If you’re looking for an end result that’s soft and nutty go with the Maraschino, but if you’d like to play up the citrus notes, opt for the Grand Marnier. Either way, it’ll come out pretty nice.

The more divisive ingredient here, though, is the absinthe. This is something you want to add in a very very small amount, so if you have an atomizer at your disposal, that’s a great way to incrementally ramp up the absinthe in very minute quantities until you’ve got the drink perfectly tuned for your palate.

Lightning Round

Favorite Cocktail

Sangfroid Distilling’s two types of stills. ( Photo Credit: Sangfroid Distilling )

Sangfroid Distilling’s two types of stills. (Photo Credit: Sangfroid Distilling)

I love Manhattans. I’ve tried to learn how to make different types of Manhattans, and so when I discovered that our gin could be used in a Manhattan, I was thrilled.

If You Were a Cocktail Tool or Ingredient, What Would You Be?

A shot glass.

Cocktail with Anyone, Past or Present

I’d like to go back to the Netherlands, maybe about 150-175 years ago, to meet my great grandfather at a cafe and sip my genever with him and talk to him about what it’s going to be like to get on that boat and come to America.

Influential Books

Advice for People Who Want to Use Traditional Spirits in Cocktails

Go talk to your local bartender. It’s their job to know about different types of spirits, and they’ll give you great ideas on how to use them. Also, read spirit labels and learn what they (and distillers themselves) can tell you about the process used to make a spirit.