Some spirits have a bad reputation. Often, it’s deserved and occasionally it’s more of a guilt-by-association situation. Jägermeister is certainly one of those “bad reputation” spirits, and I think in their case, they fall in to both camps.
First, an origin story. Jäger is an 80-year-old German brand, creators of an herbal liquor that’s a bit like an Italian amaro, a blend of 56 macerated herbs, spices and flavors. Jäger is aged a year as part of its production, then bottled and shipped out.
Now for the uncouth side of Jäger. Remember scantily-clad cocktail waitresses with trays of ice-cold Jäger shots prancing around your local bar? Seen frozen Jäger-branded “shot machines”? How about “Jägerbombs” or “Liquid Heroin”? There’s the fact that they’ve virtually ignored craft cocktail bars, craft cocktail makers, and craft cocktail enthusiasts, too.So you’ve made a ton of money on the brand itself, you have a good product on your hands, but you have found yourself primarily associated with college bros and spring break benders. See the problem? Your brand is now affiliated with the immature, the broke, and the excessive, and the people you want to target are older, richer, and more versed in classic cocktails. They’re the very people you’ve ignored for 20 years.
Jägermeister is making some moves to change that. At Tales of the Cocktail this year, they had a Jäger cocktail pairing event with some of the biggest names in the business. Their master distiller told us “we realize that we’ve ignored bartenders for a long time. We were just happy to be selling Jäger by the cases. We’re sorry.” Look at the label on the bottle pictured above….do you notice they’ve recently removed the huge text on it that said SERVE COLD – KEEP ON ICE? It reflects the moves they’re making to establish a value in their product outside of frozen shots.
Jäger sent Simple Cocktails a little package: Jägermeister, Jäger Spice, and some pewter deer shot glasses (pictured). It has given us an opportunity to taste their product again, outside of the bro-heavy reputation. As a fan of amaros, I like the herbal/bitter Jägermeister. I could see it substituted for Campari in a Negroni (gasp!). The Spice version is very vanilla-heavy, and it tasted vaguely like mulling spices to me. I plan to try it out in one of my stovetop cocktails this winter.
So the question is: can you separate the product Jägermeister from the reputation of Jägermeister the brand? Maybe you can…maybe not. I imagine it’ll be several years before craft bars are proudly including it in their signature drinks, but I think with some hard work, Jäger can establish itself as a good cocktail ingredient that can be featured at even the nicest craft bars.
What do you think? Does Jäger have a chance?