Holiday Head-Butting at Honor Kitchen & Cocktails

Reconnect with your friends by undertaking a Dutch tradition, kopstoootje at Honor in Emeryville.


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Bar manager Eric Grenier looks on as patrons at Honor experiment with the Dutch treat kopstootje.

Photo by Lori Eanes

If you like drinking games, and if you love the taste and fragrance of juniper berries, you’ll love kopstootje.

This centuries-old Dutch tradition—whose name is pronounced “cop-stew-cheh” and basically means “little head-butt”—requires oral athleticism along with beer, a few friends, and that beloved Lowlands spirit (and alleged progenitor of gin) known as genever. Meant to be executed not alone but in jolly company, here’s the basic procedure:

Fill a tulip glass very full, as close to the rim as possible, with Bols Genever. Then pour a small glass of beer. Place both side by side on the bar in front of you. With both hands behind your back, lean over and slurp-suck as much of the genever from the glass as you are able, being careful not to spill it. Head-butt refers to the motion of your head during the ritual: The head “butts” down toward the glass, then up again after that first big slurp. Release your hands. Down some beer.

This double-action—genever and beer—sets the mouth a-tingle with a strong, spunky, botanical burn, which the beer smoothly cools. Sip the rest of the kopstootje alternating with beer. Kopstootje is rare hereabouts, but bar manager Eric Grenier gladly established it at Emeryville’s Honor Kitchen & Cocktails.

“I got behind the kopstootje,” because it’s a liquid version of “breaking bread with your neighbor,” Grenier said. “To me, this is why the neighborhood bar/tavern exists: to meet and share a drink with friends, make new acquaintances, reconnect with old ones, or to decompress from a hectic day at work.”

In our digitally driven era, “unlimited access to email and texts is blurring the lines between workplaces and social settings,” Grenier said. “Too often, I have seen bar patrons more interested in their laptops and smartphones than in their neighbors or in the very people they came here to meet.

“I want to get back, if only for a short while, to the time and place where conversations between strangers were the norm, where friends reconnect after a long, hard work week, where servers remember your name and bartenders introduce new patrons to their regulars,” Grenier said. “For me, the kopstootje is a step in that direction. It’s a tool, steeped in tradition, that works toward that end.”

 

Honor Kitchen & Cocktails

1411 Powell St., Emeryville, 510-653-8667, www.HonorEmeryville.com.

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