It was end of 2019, when he shared his 'secret' recipe with us. Eros Poli. Legend.
He told us, that it was his grandfather who had teached him to take a cocktail of caffein, quick sugars and alcohol at the end of a race. The idea behind it? A little something to get you going, a bit of energy and a little bit of painkiller. The recipe: two egg yokes, two shots of espresso, a spoon of brown sugar and a shot of grappa.
Eros calles it: La Bomba.
We figured it would be the perfect name for our hipflask, an accessory every gravel cowboy takes with him on adventure. To get the ambiance going, to lift up the moral and to kill the pain.
The question is though: what to put in La Bomba except for the traditional recipe? We don't know about you, but two egg yokes can be a bit rough on the stomach. About time we did some research, or better: fieldwork. We asked around and we were amazed. It seemed like everybody knew somebody who had a distillery in their shed - every village in Holland seemed to be known for its liquor or special brew.
We were on to something. Something bigger than we expected.
And so we packed our bags for a little tour of Holland. The Bomba Tour. We tried to visit as many (underground) breweries as we could in a couple of days. A trip that brought us to the moonshine industry of Holland, passing local liquor stores, amateur distilleries and muddy roads that took us to backyards of people's houses. Check out our route here.
We rode where we had never ridden, we made new friends and we were welcomed with open arms at 6 feet distance. We learned about first en second distillery. But also about the love for fruit and the full use of anything nature produces.
And yes, we had a taste. Every now and then, we had a taste ourselves.
The Holystook from Holysloot - we kid you not - was the place where we started our tour. In an old shed, in a village with no more than 12 inhabitants, the owner proudly shared with us his stories about herb-mixing and the taste of alcohol. Off course we tried this local moonshine, but we couldn't leave without also having a taste of his Pommeau (calvados with applejuice) and Y Bitter (a liquor made of heavy herbs from Waterland mixed with apple juice).
What a way to start the day. Enough fuel to get us going to the next stop.
Weesp it is, known for its Weesper Sinnige, served in a traditional stone bottle. The local liquor store was closed unfortunately, which speeded things up. Just outside Weesp, already on our way to the next village, we took the off-road section, which soon turned out to be a mudmasters course. Covered in reed and waterplants, we continued this path, to finally discover a light at the end of the tunnel. There she was, holding a high pressure cleaner and not afraid to use it.
Thanks to Rita, we rode on brand new bikes again, into the fading light. The meandering route took us to a little village on a dike, next to the Linge. Spijk. We were prepared for the worst case scenario. Maybe sleep outside in the drizzling rain, or, if lucky, in a cow barn. But first: the good stuff. The moonshiner at service gave us a full tour of the distillery. The classic copper kettles, the bubbling fruit skins in barrels, waiting for the first brew. Boiling liquids in glass vases; Breaking Bad all over the place. Warmed up after we had a taste of the final result, we started unpacking our bags for the night. Not in a barn, but in the comfortable warm guest room. The tabel was set with white linnen and the contrast could not have been bigger with our smudgy faces. We had a great night and slept like babies.
As we say in Dutch: the stook was real.
If it were up to us, we could have gone doing this for days. But things went differently. A new lockdown was declared. And so we had to go home, too soon. We took a last little detour to see the distillery of Guus. Apparently, he and the nice people in Spijk are related so the moonshine thing runs in the family. The professional distillery was our last visit and with our stomachs full, we left homebound.
But even on our way back, we enjoyed every little moment. The neverending dikes, the flooded meadows, the muddy paths through the forest. With 80 kilometers to go, we passed the city centre of Utrecht, lighted up by Christmas decorations. Pizza and wine gave us the energy to do the final stretch, through the thick polder mist.
There is something about these trips. They just never seem to disappoint. The bike brings you to places, you would never have visited and introduces you to people you otherwise would never have met. But we are not done yet. We are not yet letting this go. We opened the little door to this subculture, and there is a whole world yet to discover. And although we had to go back home, we did not pull the door. Because that Bomba needs to be (re)filled.
We are leaving with the door ajar.