12.19.17 / Amsterdam / Netherlands

At The Pulitzer Amsterdam, Le Labo’s Santal 33 Is Captured Through Cocktails

Fragrant drinks to match the fragrant hotel

Le-labo-Pulitzersbar CARDAMOM-6

In recent years the cocktail scene in a city like New York has gone in every direction, to the point that there is ‘menu fatigue.’ With the dizzying array of options people have when ordering drinks, mixology has lost a little bit of its charm and replaced it with more of a burden, for bartenders and drinkers alike. What’s been missing is a sense of fun to go alongside creativity, and that’s something a city with a still-burgeoning cocktail scene like Amsterdam is tapping into.

At the Pulitzer Amsterdam, mixologist Andrei Talapanescu brings something new to the cocktail world, and he didn’t have to look far to find inspiration. Throughout the boutique hotel, the woody scent of Le Labo’s Santal 33 is ever-present; lotions and shampoos are stocked in every room, so the delicate aroma is always wafting about. That itself prompted the idea for a collaboration on three unique cocktails, each designed to capture the long lasting notes of the fragrance. Collaboration is the key word, and while special events have always featured half-hearted, pre-batched cocktails ‘inspired’ by the brands involved (usually in title only), menus are lacking the spark that comes from adding new perspectives to the mix. It’s the kind of thing that gets us excited about ordering anything other than a whiskey neat, so we spoke to Talapanescu about the new cocktails and the scene in Amsterdam.

In NYC it feels like bartenders are tired of mixology because it became so popular in the last 5 years. What’s the cocktail scene like in Amsterdam?

NYC (along with London) has been one of the leading cities in this industry, setting new trends and giving us some of the best bars in the world. The competition became fierce as mixologists worked to create craft cocktails with a unique approach or ingredient. I can understand how bartenders in NYC may be a bit tired of “mixology” and want to move towards creating simplified cocktails that are easier to execute; however, Amsterdam has not yet reached the level of competition that New York has. There are new cocktail bars opening every season in Amsterdam, and we are seeing a big influx of foreign bartenders coming to work here. The scene itself is expanding at a fast pace and has not reached its peak point. There is still room for improvement and development as consumers and guests become more educated drinkers and start asking for more elaborate cocktails. That is when the fun begins!


This collaboration seems like the perfect way to do something new while still having fun with cocktails. Do you think that these types of collaborations are necessary to keep things interesting in the cocktail world?

I do believe that collaborations in general, being between brands, venues or just people, can elevate an overall experience. And yes, these collaborations are necessary in order to keep menus interesting in the cocktail world. It also keeps us bartenders on our toes and makes us step into that creative hub we love to be in. Imagine creating a cocktail inspired by a Ford Mustang. How challenging with that be?

I think the most interesting thing is that unlike many fragrance ingredients based on spices or florals, Santal 33 is very woody – something not normally associated with taste. How did you capture that essence into something drinkable?

Woody is not something unusual in spirits or cocktails, it’s an aroma rather than a taste. You basically smell it and not taste it.

Our taste buds can only detect five main tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. When you add smell in this equation, the possibilities sky rocket. But yes, some aromas highlighted in perfumes are rather difficult to incorporate into cocktails. You just have to trick the brain into thinking that what you smell is actually what you are tasting. Try looking at photos of cherries and tasting a strawberry candy. See how your brain reacts to that. Same way, if you smell leather and taste Sherry, I guarantee you that your brain will be wrapped around leather.

Le Labo x Pulitzer cocktails are available at the Pulitzer Amsterdam through January 31st

Le-labo-Pulitzersbar-4 LEATHER
Bourbon, Amontillado Sherry, Disaronno Amaretto, aromatic leaf bitters and edible leather (cherries, green olives, lavender, sugar)

Le-labo-Pulitzersbar-3 VIOLET
Floral gin, mandarin & calamansi shrub, violet liquor, egg white, soda

Le-labo-Pulitzersbar-1 CARDAMOM
Ophir spiced gin, rosemary syrup, grapefruit juice, cardamom bitters

Bar - Bar interior 1

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