A hotel in Amsterdam is partnering with the irreverent perfume maker to create some truly unusual drinks.
What does your favorite perfume taste like? If that's a question you've ever actually asked, you probably—like most sensible people—ended up just making an educated guess and leaving it at that.
When guests at Amsterdam's recently renovated Hotel Pulitzer wouldn't stop asking after the new house scent, enterprising bartender Andrei Talapanescu had an idea—why not deconstruct the fragrance and create a cocktail menu?
The scent people couldn't get enough of was Le Labo's Santal 33, with strong notes of cardamom, violet and leather. Santal 33 is an unusual scent even for irreverent Le Labo, currently one of the world's most fashionable perfume makers. When the hotel emerged from its refit in 2016, management was looking to make a bold statement—they commissioned Le Labo to create something befitting the rather unique luxury hotel, set within 25 interlinked canal houses that each date back to the 17th and 18th century. A statement they got, in the form of this quirky, unisex fragrance. The guests are loving it.
"You can smell Santal 33 everywhere you go in the hotel, it’s truly a scent that envelopes Pulitzer," says Talapanescu, the head bartender at Pulitzer's Bar, one of Amsterdam's most civilized cocktail lounges. "It felt only right to develop this partnership further."
Starting this week and running until January 31, the bar will offer an unusual tasting experience, where interested guests will be invited to touch and smell the perfume's raw ingredients, in order to awaken the senses, before selecting a drink. The drinks are simply named—Cardamom, Violet and Leather. Delve into how they're made, though, and you'll see that they're anything but simple.
The Cardamom is perhaps the most expected of the bunch, made with Opihr spiced gin, which packs a cardamom-fueled punch; rosemary syrup and grapefruit juice add layers, with cardamom bitters bringing everything full circle. The Violet is every bit a preview of spring, based around a floral gin mixed with mandarin & calamansi shrub, violet liquor, frothed egg white and soda. It's the quirkiness of the Leather, however, that really feels closest to the mildly-crazed Le Labo ethic. It also happened to be the most challenging to create.
"There are aroma notes of leather in different alcoholic beverages such as wine and whiskey, but when it comes to a cocktail, by definition—spirit, water, bitters and sweetener, drifting away from the leather characteristics is almost inevitable," Talapanescu admits.
In the end, he chose bourbon, Amontillado sherry, and Disaronno, with a dash of aromatic leaf bitters, topped off with edible (you guessed it) leather, made with cherries, green olives, lavender and sugar. You may need to ease into that one—Talapanescu recommends that anyone looking to try all three should begin with Violet, the most accessible one, then moving on to Cardamom and Leather. Each cocktail goes for about $21.
You needn't be in a terribly experimental mood to appreciate Pulitzer's—everything about this intimate venue makes it the perfect spot for a smart cocktail after a long day of pounding the pavement in Amsterdam—sink into one of the antique leather chairs, or take a seat at the art deco bar and dive into the drinks menu, which features time-tested classics alongside some interesting new inventions.