“One of those pink drinks, please, a vodka tonic and two… Dam Mules?”. At the bar of the Numéro Vip Deck, a young woman passes the orders for her and her friends. Beer and wine are served in the main hall of the NockNock Art Fair. Upstairs, in the industrial building in the centre of Amsterdam, there are cocktails for the lucky few with a gold band: one with grapefruit, one with tonic and a variation on the Moscow Mule, with SirDam vodka, lime and ginger beer. The mixes are popular, although most of those present seem to have to get used to their names. “That Mule is so fresh”, the woman laughs when she is handed her four glasses and puts one to her lips. The founders of SirDam, Johannes and Laurens Han, look at her from a distance with a big smile on their faces. ‘Isn’t it great,’ they chuckle during a short interview, ‘to see how people enjoy something you’ve made!’

SirDam is one of Numéro’s most loyal partners: the Han brothers’ brand was also present at earlier events and presentations. The vodka may not be one of the biggest on the market yet, but it stands out for taste and quality. And that fits well with the positioning of this magazine and the expectations of international guests at the parties. SirDam is un-Dutch and at the same time truly Amsterdam. And it’s not just us who say so. Since beginning of last year, the brand has been internationally recognized as one of the very best on the market: in April the best bartenders and cocktail mixers in the world chose SirDam in a blind test from hundreds of spirits as their preferred one. At the same lavish event, the brand also received the highest accolade from the European Tasting Alliance as the best-produced vodka on the continent.

Things have gone fast. Especially when you consider that Johannes and Laurens only signed the founding documents of their company in 2019, with the intention of launching a premium vodka in the Netherlands.’There was no such vodka at that time,’ they say, ‘everything here is produced on a big industrial scale for the masses.’ Determined to do things differently, the two set up a smaller craft distillery in town. Where other brands are all about numbers and speed, their drink takes time to make; SirDam is distilled no less than five times to avoid the aftertaste of residual products and produce the purest possible drink. Its ingredients are sourced from nearby suppliers: the grain for the distillate comes from a farmer in the province, water is extracted in Amsterdam.

‘Everything revolves around uniqueness and quality,’ they say. It seems to be a winning approach. After two years of corona crisis when nearly everything was closed, sales in the Netherlands have almost doubled in just 12 months. SirDam is available here at about 400 liquor stores and a growing number of hotels and restaurants. Demand from abroad is also soaring, especially since the brand received the international awards. The Han brothers have applications from Sweden, China and the US. The packaging –with golden contours of the world-famous Amsterdam canal belt– helps. ‘Amsterdam has become a brand. The city is a symbol of freedom and luxury,’ the brothers say, ‘With our vodka you get a piece of that in your home, wherever you live.’

We ourselves tend not just to look at vodka, or keep it as a collector’s item, but to taste it, to drink it. And so we get in line at the art fair for a tasty cocktail. ‘What was that fresh one again?’

words by FLORIS MÜLLER