Whisky Man in Amsterdam | Daniel Watts

I present you ‘Whisky Man in Amsterdam’. Enjoy!

Daniel Watts

Written by Lazy Penguin
From the first time my Lazy Pig and I met Daniel Watts, we couldn’t get his story and the bar out of our heads. There was something special about his journey from Taiwanese-born, adopted child in New York State, to a whiskey bar owner in Amsterdam. This is the story of Daniel Watts.

Daniel was born in Taiwan and adopted by American parents. He grew up in Upstate New York in the United States. After completing university at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh he decided to go Taiwan to discover his past roots.  Unfortunately due to some political uncertainties he instead went to Japan. He worked there as an English teacher and later as a music and sports journalist. After Japan he moved to Seattle and then to San Francisco where he met his wife, Michelle. During this time he worked in the advertising business and in nightlife as a DJ. He started his own record label called Bounce House Recordings and it is still releasing music today. When Daniel’s wife had the opportunity to work in Amsterdam in 2009, they took it. In 2015 he opened J.D. William’s Whisky Bar.

A coincidental meeting

We went to JD Williams on recommendation by a bartender from beer cafĂ© In de Wildeman. When I was at the bar, I could feel Daniel’s passion for his bar and the drinks he served there. However, we had to hurry for our reservation at sushi restaurant Kaiko, meaning we couldn’t actually try any drinks or food there. We left the place thirsty (and hungry) for more.

A few months past, and still Lazy pig and I were talking about whiskey-cocktails and Asian fusion food. It was time to do something with this insatiable curiosity. We brainstormed some ideas and decided to make a short documentary about Daniel’s story. We contacted him, packed our cameras and microphones, and brought our friend Lazy Sloth along to help with filming.

Whisky lover

Daniel’s family has a history of making their own whisky and bourbon at home, also known as moonshine. He grew up surrounded by many whisky drinkers in his extended household. As a student, he worked in a spirits shop, where he learned a lot about whisky and wine. During his time in Japan he discovered Japanese whisky and sake. Much of his past inspired him to start a whisky bar.

Several months after filming Daniel’s video Lazy Pig was struggling with finding time to edit the footage. A vacation came in between, work was busy and she got several paid freelance projects. This all was great, but it also made the job of finishing this video more daunting. There was a lot of material to sift through and Lazy Pig did not yet know what story she wanted to tell with this movie. The full story of this process will be told in another blogpost.

Asian Fusion food

The food that is served at J.D. William’s is a mixture of Asian and California-cuisine.  Using local Dutch ingredients, Daniel wanted to bring a piece of San Francisco and Asia to Amsterdam.  He does that with dishes such as sweet potato fries, Korean style beef tacos and bourbon glazed pork ribs.  He stresses that you shouldn’t forget to cook with whisky or bourbon! Check out their website for the food menu.

The food we tried at JD William’s was really good. I have never ever had a taco that was that delicious. The lightly fried taco was crisp yet still soft, like a weird combination of a nacho chip and a Turkish durum. The filling was meaty and hearty, with a fresh, fruity zing. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back to have another serving. You should absolutely give this one a try. The sweet potato fries had a nice texture, somewhere in between crunchy and soft. The seasoning and sauces completed the package. And lastly the dumplings were like dumplings should be. Plump and tasteful with a filling of meat and vegetables. Or, as my girlfriend Lazy Kitten likes to call them: “Little bites of heaven”.

Besides the Asian fusion food, we tried two cocktails: The Amsterdam Sour and Mister Robinson. The Amsterdam Sour is Daniel’s own creation and uses a syrup with ingredients that people in the area like in their drinks: Hibiscus, sage and juniper berries. This is combined with bourbon. Mister Robinson consists out of bourbon, walnut liqueur and a few drops of orange bitter.

It’s easy to describe Daniel’s life and the drinks and the food that he serves. But what’s difficult to convey, is the passion with which he does it. Of course, it’s impressive that he was able to do so many different things, all before the age of fifty. He is truly what we Dutch call a ‘duizendpoot’, a centipede. But what is more admirable to me, is the focus with which he does those things and the energy with which he tells about it. His eyes gleam, the corners of his mouth curls up and his enthusiasm infects me. It makes me want to do more and try harder. You only have this one life. How do you want to look back on it?

Visit them!

J.D. William’s Whisky Bar
Prinsenstraat 5, 1015 DA Amsterdam
Mon – Thu 17:00 – 01:00
Fri – Sat 15:00 – 02:00
Sun 17:00 – 00:00

For more drinking tips in Amsterdam, check out the ‘Beer and Whisky‘ video.

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