Jägermeister was first created in 1934 by a German named Curt Mast in Wolfenbüttel, Germany. The name translates as “Master Hunter” and was an official government title in Germany. Mast took over a vinegar factory founded by his father Wilhelm in the early 20th century. Both Masts had been connoisseurs of wine and initially Curt dealt in fine wines, but at some point, Curt decided to try his hand at making a unique liqueur. After much trial and error, he finally found the right combination of herbs, spices, and fruits that would become Jägermeister.
The bottle design was just as premeditated as the liqueur within it. Mast used his kitchen floor to test the durability of hundreds of different bottle designs by dropping them onto it. Only the design we see today survived the drop-test.
Mast’s passion for hunting inspired not just the name of the liqueur, but also its logo. It’s based on the legend of St. Hubertus. Hubertus was a nobleman living in the 7th and 8th centuries. He was a passionate hunter and, according to legend, went out hunting one Good Friday instead of attending religious services. While pursuing a stag, the animal turned to him and Hubertus saw a vision of the crucifix between the stag’s horns. From that day on, Hubertus led a life of piety and would become the patron saint of hunters.
How it’s made
Jägermeister gets its flavor from 56 different ingredients. Not all the ingredients are known, but the licorice flavor of star anise is most prominent in its flavor. Other known ingredients include orange peel, poppy seeds, juniper berries, and ginger. The various ingredients are macerated (soaked) in a mixture of alcohol and water for several weeks to extract the flavor. Next, the macerates are mixed together to create the base before it is refined by filtration and aging.
The base is stored in massive oak barrels for at least a year. Unlike whiskey, the aging process of Jägermeister seeks to avoid the flavor of the wood being transferred to the liqueur. The barrels are scrubbed with alcohol and water to remove the tannins and resins that would otherwise taint the flavor of the final product. After aging, the base is filtered again, mixed with caramel, alcohol, and water, and filtered a final time before being bottled. Throughout this process, over 300 quality checks are made on the product.
For most of its life, Jägermeister has been an after-dinner digestive. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a liquor importer named Sydney Frank began pushing the drink to the college crowd in the United States. When Frank began selling Jägermeister, it only sold around 600 cases a year. In 2015 over 2.8 million cases were sold in the United States. Frank was also the man behind the Jägerettes: women who went to bars to give out free shots and boost brand awareness.
Today, Jägermeister is sold in over 100 countries and reported world-wide sales of 6.9 million cases in 2015. Also in 2015, they bought Sydney Frank’s importing company to manage its U.S. business operations. They have also released a seasonal special edition called Jägermeister Spice which adds cinnamon and vanilla to its classic recipe.
Jägerbomb – Jägermeister and Red Bull
Red-Headed Slut – Jägermeister, peach schnapps, and cranberry juice
Bob Dylan – Jägermeister and Surge or Mountain Dew
Surfer on Acid – Jägermeister, coconut rum, and pineapple juice
Killer Bee – Jägermeister and Bärenjäger
Third Reich – Jägermeister, Rumpleminze, and Goldschläger
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