My husband and I have lost count of how many times we’ve been to Amsterdam. Since it’s a major hub connecting Canada and Europe, we often fly through Amsterdam to get to our final destination. KLM offers free stopovers in Amsterdam, so we’ve often taken advantage of this: sometimes it’s only for an overnighter; other times we’ll stay for a week. And over time, we found a handful of favourite places to stop for a drink or two. Eventually, we developed a bit of a routine as to which watering holes we’d hit and in what order.
So, without further ado, here are our 5 favourite places to grab a drink in Amsterdam:
5. The House of Bols – the Cocktail & Genever Experience
If you like gin or flavoured liqueurs, you’ll probably enjoy a visit to the House of Bols. I feel like it should be more popular, but it’s never too busy when we go, which is just fine with us. It’s not a huge venue, so I think it could feel crowded very quickly. I wrote about our experience at the House of Bols previously, which you can read here:
The House of Bols is a self-guided tour through the history of the Bols company and its creation of genever, the precursor to gin. It has interactive elements, where you can sniff, touch, and sample the ingredients that go into making genever.
Once you walk through all the rooms of exhibits, you end your tour in the Mirror Bar. This is where you get to choose a cocktail from their repertoire.
The bartenders in the Mirror Bar mix the drinks with a ton of flair and personality. Occasionally they would even use a blowtorch – in the case of one cocktail I ordered, the bartender used one to singe a sprig of rosemary before plopping it into my drink.
And if you want additional drinks, they have vending machines which dispense drink tokens. You can end up spending an hour or two in the Mirror Bar getting a little hammered on sugary-sweet cocktails. It’s hard to stop at just one when they make so many delicious flavoured liqueurs. A few of my favourites include Parfait Amour, Elderflower, and Pineapple Chipotle.
We used to visit the House of Bols every time we went to Amsterdam, but I think we will go less often now. Why don’t we enjoy it as much as we used to? They changed out some of the exhibits and modernized others over the years, which is all well and good. But originally, your entrance ticket covered the museum visit as well as a mixed cocktail, plus two shots of whichever liqueurs or genevers you wanted to try.
But since all of the renovations, the ticket price doesn’t cover what it used to. Gone are the two free shots of liqueur – a huge draw for us considering they have over 40 liqueur flavours to choose from. Now, they’re an extra €5 for two.
Oh, and they got rid of the blowtorch. The bartenders are still really fun to watch though, and if it’s not busy you can quiz them a bit on cocktail ingredients, bartender training, etc.
Also, you can’t skip the museum portion to head straight to the Mirror Bar. Even if you’ve been here a hundred times, you still have to pay the full entrance fee. At €16, that makes that first cocktail pretty expensive. But if you’ve never been to Amsterdam or the House of Bols before, it’s worth the admission price. You’ll learn a lot about the history of Amsterdam and how genever originated.
The House of Bols also closes early, so if you want to visit, you have to be willing to do a bit of day drinking. They close at 6:30 pm Sunday to Thursday, and at 9:00 pm Fridays and Saturdays.
For newbies, I would recommend checking out the House of Bols at least once. It is pretty interesting and well designed, although you can go through the museum section pretty quickly if you don’t want to play with the interactive components. If you love to entertain and mix cocktails for friends, you will love all of their cocktail-making souvenirs in the gift shop. Or, if you want a more hands-on experience, you can take their cocktail workshop, or even a more intensive bartender course.
Paulus Potterstraat 14, 1071 CZ Amsterdam, Netherlands
4. In de Wildeman
If you’re not a fan of gin and you just want a great pub with a lengthy beer menu, In de Wildeman is the place for you.
This bar is located in an old genever distillery, and the dark decor adds to the ambiance. They serve 18 beers on tap and approximately 250 kinds of bottled beer, so there’s something for every taste. Their focus is on Dutch and Belgian beers, but you’ll find options from Germany, Great Britain, and more.
They also have their updated beer list available on Facebook.
My husband and I had heard of In de Wildeman before, but we never tried it out until a couple of friends from Maastricht met up with us in Amsterdam and took us there. This pub is about as straightforward and unpretentious as a pub can be. They don’t even play music here. Which is actually great, if you just want a place where you can chat amongst your friends without yelling over top of loud music. It will satisfy both serious beer connoisseurs and those who are still searching for that perfect pint.
They also have a very small snack menu consisting mainly of cheese and sausage. The food isn’t a selling point, it’s just there to give you something to nibble on while contemplating your next beer order.
Don’t forget to check out the wooden wildeman statue. I know nothing about its history, other than it’s just a really great addition to the decor.
There isn’t much more to say about this pub. Show up. Order beer. Drink. Repeat. If you can’t decide what to order, just ask the staff for their recommendations.
In de Wildeman is open from 12:00 pm to 1:00 am Monday to Thursday, and 12:00 pm to 2:00 am Fridays and Saturdays.
1012 PT Amsterdam
Tel: 020-638 23 48
3. Mossel en Gin
Now, on those days when we prefer to have a proper meal with our alcohol, we head to Mossel en Gin.
We first discovered this restaurant a few years ago, and we instantly fell in love. Mossel en Gin is an inviting combination of hipster-trendy-casual-with-a-bit-of-an-edge. Just take note of the decor – rustic flaking plastered walls, metal and wood chairs that look like they came out of a 1960’s high school classroom, and heavy brocade curtains covering the entrance. This is the epitome of industrial chic.
Located centrally in Westerpark, a lovely green park punctuated with repurposed brick industrial buildings, it’s far enough away from Central Amsterdam that it’s not overly touristy. Or at least, it feels like it’s mostly locals that come here. Mossel is mussels in Dutch, and gin is…well, gin. So Mossel and Gin is basically a seafood restaurant that also happens to serve incredible, unusual, mouth-watering gin-based cocktails. They use a stunning array of fresh ingredients in their cocktails, including ginger, orange slices, cloves, roses, lavender, even red pepper!
This is a great place to bring friends, but also cosy enough to feel romantic – in a laid back, warehouse-y kind of way.
And although I’m not a big seafood fan, I do like my fish & chips, and theirs is really excellent.
It’s not a huge restaurant, so if you really want to make sure you’re guaranteed a seat, I would highly recommend making a reservation. But they’re very good at trying their best to accommodate walk-in clientele whenever possible. They’re open Tuesdays – Sundays, closed on Mondays.
The last time we visited Amsterdam, it was just for one night, which happened to be a Monday. So we missed our chance to go to Mossel en Gin as they were closed. When we went to the airport the next morning to catch our flight back home, we got put on standby and had to wait a few hours to find out if we were even going to be catching a flight out that day or not.
As we stared out the windows of Schiphol airport watching the planes arriving and departing, Mark and I compared notes. If we had to stay in Amsterdam one more night, what would we do with the extra time? “We’d go to Mossel en Gin for supper!” we said practically in unison. Followed with drinks at one of the next two establishments on the list!
(Side note: if you happen to walk by a shop in Amsterdam selling tubes of Gin Mayo (that’s right, that’s mayonnaise with gin added) – these are the guys that created that creamy little miracle. Why would you want gin mixed with mayo, you ask? Why wouldn’t you? is the right answer!)
1014 DC Amsterdam
Reservations: Call 020 486 5869 or make reservations online
2. Wynand Fockink Proeflokaal
Oh how we love Wynand Fockink! This bar is stupendous, incredible, amazing, and a whole host of other adjectives. I’ve actually written about it twice before – once just to talk about the bar, and again after we took their distillery tour and did a tasting. You can read more about it here:
Wynand Fockink’s history goes back to 1679, and may even be Amsterdam’s oldest tasting room. This is a Dutch ‘proeflokaal’ (Dutch for tasting room) at its finest. The lacquered brown shelves are bowed with the weight of all their liqueurs. The walls are covered in vintage advertisements for various alcoholic libations. And the bar is so small it doesn’t even bother with tables and chairs – it’s quite literally standing room only, especially once it starts getting busy.
They have a few tables outside as well, which is welcome because it gets very warm inside with all the bodies crammed in trying to order a drink. They serve genevers as well as many flavoured liqueurs, and a few beers.
This place is dangerous. A few tulip glasses of sugary liqueurs followed by a beer chaser and before you know it, your whole world is rocking back and forth like a boat on the canal. But man, what a ride.
Funny story with this picture. True story. Mark bought that beer in the background with the intention of giving it to another Canadian that we met at the bar. I’d already had a few tulip glasses of liqueur by this point, and completely assumed it was meant for me. So I took the tulip glass and beer outside and swiftly finished them both myself. Oops.
There’s a certain camaraderie that happens here that’s unlike other Amsterdam bars we’ve been to. Maybe it’s because with no tables or chairs, it feels more communal. Maybe it’s because with so many liqueurs to choose from, it’s easy to strike up a conversation with the person next to you to ask what they’re drinking – and they’ll often offer to let you try a sip. All I know is that every time we’ve come here, we’ve had great chats with total strangers.
If you don’t know what to order, just ask the staff to recommend something. They’ll probably ask you a few questions – do you like sweet, sour, floral, herbal, creamy, etc. And in no time flat, you’ll be on a journey to a whole new world of incredible, locally made liqueurs beyond your wildest dreams.
It’s a little bit hard to find (it’s basically down an alley just off of Dam Square) but once you find it, you’ll have a hard time leaving.
If you have the time, I highly recommend doing the tour and tasting as well as hitting the bar.
Very important tip: Do NOT pick up the tulip glass before you take a sip. The glass is filled up to the top until it creates a dome on purpose. You have to bend down and slurp the liqueur without using your hands, and only then can you pick up the glass and move away from the bar. If you try to move it before then, the bartender will chastise you. It’s tradition. And you don’t mess with tradition.
Wynand Fockink Tasting room & Liquor store
Pijlsteeg 31, 1012 HH Amsterdam
+31 (0) 20 639 2695 daily 14:00 – 21:00 hrs.
1. Schaakcafe Het Hok
This, my friends, is our very favourite place to drink in Amsterdam.
This is our “local” – the bar we have to hit every single time we visit Amsterdam, whether we’re there for one week or one night. Schaakcafe Het Hok is located in a really lively, fun restaurant district in central Amsterdam, and just a quick 5-minute walk from the Rijksmuseum. (They do have a website, but at the time of this writing it doesn’t seem to be working.)
So how did this bar become our number one favourite bar in all of Amsterdam? Schaakcafe Het Hok is a sports bar, although we’ve never been here during a game so we can’t confirm the “sports” aspect. But we like it because it’s not trendy, upscale or snooty. It just feels like a cosy, neighborhood pub. It’s become a bit of a tradition to come here on our first and last nights in Amsterdam.
It also doesn’t hurt that it has a wonderful selection of Belgian and Dutch beers at decent prices.
And I swear that the food menu was specifically designed as a hangover menu.
Don’t believe me? Well, on top of the standard burgers and fries, they also make cheesy paninis, carb-filled pasta dishes, and hearty pancakes. The last time we were in Amsterdam, we made the unfortunate decision to hit numbers 5, 2 and 1 all in one night. When we ended the night at Het Hok, I ended up ordering chicken and vegetable soup as my “this-is-going-to-hurt-in-the-morning” late supper meal. I mean, how many places even have chicken and vegetable soup on their menus nowadays? This is the best place to get that post-alcohol regret meal. The food is warm and soothing, the beers cold, and the wait staff is wonderful. They’re also open for breakfast which is a post-drinking bonus.
They also have live music occasionally (I believe on Friday nights). Also, point of note, they seem to have added a mascot since we were there last. Here, kitty kitty!
Our personal menu recommendation: get the party platter. It’s a great mixed plate of bitterballen – Dutch deep-fried meat-stew-filled balls, plus deep-fried cheese balls, chicken bites, etc. with mix-n-match dips (typically sweet chili sauce, mustard, and mayo). It’s a great introduction to Dutch bar food.
We’ve been to Het Hok so many times now that my internal GPS can find it without a map. And in Amsterdam that’s saying a lot.
When we went to Amsterdam with friends a few years ago, we brought them here to introduce them to our favourite bar. They all liked it so much, that they came here a few more times – without us!
Lange Leidsedwarsstraat 134, 1017 NN
So, what are your recommendations for favourite bars or pubs in Amsterdam? Any hidden gems out there that need some love? Comment your suggestions below. Next time we’re in Amsterdam we’ll try them out!