Queen of mixology with Hannah van Ongevalle

13 Apr 2018
3 min read
Hannah van Ongevalle divulges how she became a world-acclaimed mixologist and launched her bar, The Pharmacy in Belgium…
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

While I was living in Amsterdam with a high-end job in fashion, I had an epiphany. Working 12 hours a day with 40 women, we would go out for company drinks and everyone would drink prosecco, apart from me: I would have a whisky. I knew I was no longer in the right place and I returned to Belgium, my home country to look for a different challenge. To give me time to realise my future endeavours, my dad suggested that I spend a few months working at the bar that he managed. It was not my dream job but I was happy with the change.

Three weeks later, disaster struck: my boyfriend had been in a huge accident in France and the ground under my feet began the tremble. The future had never been so unsure. After a year of living in survival mode I realised that the most challenging experience of my life was behind me, and my time at the bar had given me peace of mind and heart. Creating drinks was beginning to look like a future.

So, when my father offered to open a bar together I didn’t think twice about saying yes. When we got the keys to The Pharmacy—based in a white villa close to the sea, 20km from Bruges—I knew that I had made a choice that I would never regret. As they say, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

We call ourselves purveyors of joy and fine spirits at The Pharmacy. ‘Joy’ because we are not only a team, we are family. Behind the bar you will find my father, my brother, my sister-in-law and myself. A ‘speakeasy’ bar in every sense, it is filled with antiques and rare items we have found all over the world, candles, soft jazz music and the bar is made of the floor from an old hotel.

We work with over 500 spirit references so we have a spirit to match every palate. Our cocktails always offer a daring twist on classics or signature cocktails. We have an enormous network of Michelin-starred chefs, artists and influential people that inspire and motivate us every day.

Each menu changes every week according to a different them and is a product of months of work. We get our inspiration for menu themes from everywhere. When the season final of Game of Thrones was aired, we had a whole menu dedicated to all the mayor events of the season. Or we once matched the menu to iconic bowties, superheroes, great love stories, national treasures or black and white movies. Every cocktail has a story and we are great storytellers.

It was evident that with every challenge, our creativity thrives. So, in July 2015 we opened a new bar called The Greenery in addition to our beloved Pharmacy and The Antique Shop where we offer consultancy, training and workshops and can be hired for private events. The Greenery is a hidden treasure and a new home away from home. Every two months we change the bar, decoration and menu to fit with a new theme. Our first theme was inspired on Jules Verne and featured a huge safari tent filled with animal noises, while the staff dressed as mid-century explorers served jungle-inspired drinks.

The whole family is soon going on an inspirational retreat to the mountains to come up with new themes, cocktails and menus. I am blessed to be part of such a talented family. I could never have imagined all these beautiful things happening and after a long road to reach the place where I belong, I have found it: behind the bar.



The Pharmacy

Elizabetlaan 178

8300 Knokke-Heist


+32 (0)468 20 54 59