Can Jägermeister Shed Its Brotastic Reputation?

Bartenders like Bronwyn's Billy Weston say yes. Here, how he's trying to change your mind about the world's most polarizing liqueur.


Photo provided

If you’re like me, you probably associate Jägermeister with a certain dude-bro demographic that listens to Nickelback, subsists on protein powder shakes, and communicates in fist bumps. But here’s the dirty truth: Jäger—yes, that brand that now markets home “Shotmeister” machines—isn’t so different from the Italian amaros and digestifs that now dominate the craft cocktail world. The near-century-old recipe, distilled from over 50 herbs and spices (including citrus peel, licorice, anise, poppy seeds, saffron, ginger, juniper berries, and ginseng), has some redeeming qualities, and area bartenders are now pushing the envelope with the once maligned spirit.

“We’re browbeating Jäger into the realm of respectability,” says Bronwyn bar manager, Billy Weston. “Jäger is what you see at terrible dive bars, upside down in the cooler for chilled shots. It’s certainly got that college allure to it where people get terribly, terribly wasted off of Jägermeister when they’re 18, and then despise it forever. But it can add this really interesting dimension to your cocktails because it does contain different sweet, herbal, and medicinal elements, which aren’t normally found together.”

To pair with chef Tim Weichmann’s modern German fare—such as Bavarian pretzels, schnitzel, and a two-pound haxe—the Bronwyn bar team uses all manner of Central and Eastern European ingredients: Jelinek Czech Fernet, Polmos Wisniowka Cherry Cordial from Poland, diminutive bottles of Underberg, and even sauerkraut juice. But Jägermeister has become a regular component in Weston’s esoteric arsenal, such as his “haus cocktails,” Neun (Monkey Shoulder scotch, grapefruit juice, Jäger, and Luxardo Maraschino liqueur) and the Elf (Lunazul Reposado Tequila, Jägermeister, St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram, grapefruit, salt).

“Honestly, we’re treating it like any other tool in our repertoire,” Weston says. “It’s a polarizing thing for people. When I hand someone a menu I can see on their faces a look that says, ‘Dear God, why would this ever happen?’ But they’re automatically intrigued. Those are also the same people who are often surprised by how well Jäger works in a drink.”

So, what are the rules for taming the stag? Compared to other German Kräuterlikörs (herbal liqueurs) like Underberg and Killepitsch, Jägermeister is the sweetest. Weston says to:

  • “Round out the rough edges” with other dominant spirits such as Scotch, mezcal, and tequila.
  • Balance the residual sugar with fresh juices, savory components, or vinegary shrubs.
  • “Don’t consume an entire liter! That’s not a good move. Using it in moderation is really what you’re trying to do, because it is  in the realm of darker, richer-toned, amaro-style spirits”

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