Move over, game birds, big-antlered stags, coats of arms, fleurs-de-lis, and all that other usual liquor-bottle iconography. There’s a new booze in town, and the label says it all: Patricia, a 22.7 percent ABV liqueur made with coffee from Lot Sixty One. At Amsterdam cocktail bars, where Patricia debuted earlier this year, the bottle is easy to spot—its logo is a pinball-machine maze of lines on a backdrop the color of persimmon.
Patricia’s alcohol base is jenever, the 16th-century Dutch invention traditionally distilled with juniper berries that begat what the English called “gin.” Its coffee component is FIVR, a Brazilian espresso from Amsterdam’s most venerable Australian-run roaster. And not coincidentally, the person behind Patricia is also Australian.
Peter Ong is best known in the Dutch capital for heading handmade sweets supplier Baked in Amsterdam. Nowadays, that company and Patricia are headquartered in the city’s culinary startup incubator Kitchen Republic. A few years ago, however, Ong—as a newcomer needing an oven—began baking his famous banana bread at Lot Sixty One.
More recently, its Kinkerstraat cafe served as his liqueur laboratory and its co-founder, Adam Craig, as his test subject. “Adam was sitting there tasting it and he was saying, ‘This is a really good idea. You should go for it,’” says Ong.
The choice was for a young (rather than old) jenever because it was more neutral, allowing the espresso’s chocolate and orange notes to come through. Unlike other popular coffee liqueurs, Patricia is vanilla-free, which is intentional: Ong says that keeps it from being “unfailingly restricted to the dessert side.”
At Lotti’s in the Hoxton hotel, head bartender Paolo Banfi recommends Patricia as an apéritif or a digestif. For a cocktail, he mixes it with Sipsmith gin, Cocchi vermouth, Merlet Lune D’Abricot liqueur, and dashes of orange bitters. “Boozy,” Banfi says.
“It’s lovely,” says Ray Luca, Lotti’s head barista, who also works at Lot Sixty One. “Compared with Kahlúa, [Patricia] is really more flexible.”
Flexible is an appropriate word to describe Ong as well. Back in his native Melbourne, he was an employment lawyer before realizing that wasn’t the best job for him. He pursued that career partly to appease his Asian parents, though he explains (more seriously) that his parents moved to Australia as refugees after the Vietnam War. Ong eventually emigrated to study pastry in Paris. His on-the-job training as a chef at Emperor Norton was formidable—clearly influencing his approach to Patricia today as well.
“I really, really want to focus on getting the pros in the cocktail world, giving them a new ingredient to get excited about,” he says. “The best butter in the world is butter from Jean-Yves Bordier, from Brittany in France. If someone gives me butter like that, I’m like, ‘Oh, goodie goodie!’ ”
Living in France also helped Ong to understand how many regions in and around the country have a signature alcohol: an Alpine offering proved particularly memorable.
“After a day of hiking, they pour you a shot of génépi,” he recalls. “This is really exciting: It’s so local, it has so much of the character of the place. And so when I think about it, as a description of a spirit, it’s not just ‘spirit’ in terms of strong alcohol, but it’s also the spirit of the place. So I wanted to do something similar here.”
As for Patricia’s neon-inspired bottle label, Ong explains: “I am a kid of the ’80s.” The name of the product came from a woman with whom he shared a couple days. When speaking of Patricia the person rather than the beverage, his usual precision gives way to poetics.
“When you’re traveling and you meet someone, it’s magic,” he says. “You sort of preserve a really perfect memory and a bit of a perfect mystique.”
After cracking himself up, he says: “I actually also do think that if I meet her again and I’m like, ‘By the way, I named a business after you,’ she might be like, ‘Ah, excuse me, what? Get away from me, you creep!’ ”
His John Hughes-ian self-awareness is bittersweet though encouraging—to be here and now, taking in what Patricia’s cork seal identifies as “Amsterdam coffee” and “Amsterdam spirit.”
Karina Hof is a Sprudge staff writer based in Amsterdam. Read more Karina Hof on Sprudge