He did not want the drink I had offered him. I got that. On some level, it made sense. After all, I had been making custom shots from a multitude of ingredients for everyone else, and I simply poured him a long pull of Jågermeister. Was it a bit lazy on my part? Sure. To be fair, he had been talking about doing bombs in college, while waiting in line, just moments before in a way that seemed a fond remembrance. What to do now, as we found ourselves in a bit of a stand off. I did not want to argue, but I was making the shots, so I got to call them. I just locked eyes and waited. After a pause, he opened, “it’s just that, well, in college, umm, well…” then I got it. He’d been poorly treated by this spirit. No wanting to prolong his discomfort, I poured an apple whiskey, topped it with blueberry schnapps and pushed it across the bar to him, before slowly and deliberately picking up that Jåger shot for a silent toast, before slowly drinking it down. As he walked away, I thought, it was a shame that he wasn’t willing to give it a chance. There are lots of things that hurt when done to excess that can be heavenly, in moderation. So, with a nod to the ghosts of college parties past, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Count Mast.
This is a riff on the equal parts classic Negroni, simply swapping out the Campari for Jagermeister. Of course, that drink got its name when Count Camillo Negroni requested something “like a Milano-Torino, only stronger” way back in 1920. This one is a tribute to to Wilhelm and Curt Mast, brothers who held no title, but who did develop Jagermeister in 1934. The drink that now bears their name was actually created by Nils Boese, a brand ambassador for Jågermeister as a way to show the versatility of this product.
After my monsoon bar encounter, I thought to myself, I need to make something featuring Jågermeister. This spirit gets a bad rap sometimes, almost certainly tied to drinking way too much of this herbal, sweet liqueur. There have been all kinds of rumors attributed to it over the years. When I first heard of it back in the 1980’s it was rumored to contain codeine, for extra kick and that it was made with deer or elk blood and would increase virility in the drinker. Two of those statements are definitely false and the third is till undetermined, mostly because heavy consumption makes it difficult for the test subjects to perform. The spirit is a unique combination of 56, definitely not codeine or elk blood, herbal ingredients with strong notes of anise and licorice. Interestingly, this “super strong” German liqueur comes in at an underwhelming 70 proof. So, you have to drink a lot of it, for it to really affect you and people mostly do exactly that. So, how did it get a reputation as a bottle of liquid knockout? Well, it has been paired with an amazing array of other stronger alcohols in “I dare you” style bar shots and, honestly, the placebo effect goes a long way. If you expect a strong drink, your body will often help you along. It’s a shame that this lovely liqueur has been so long relegated to the shots bar, since it has a really interesting, complex flavor that works so well in cocktails.
This one is super simple, so grab your mixing pitcher and toss in equal parts of rye whiskey, I Chose Corsair Ryemageddon; Jågermeister and sweet vermouth, 1 ounce each is a good place to start. Add some artisanal ice cubes and stir to the beat of Kraftwerk’s “The Model“. When well chilled and properly diluted strain into a rocks glass over a single king cube and garnish with an expressed orange peel.
I want to like Negronis, I really do. They were Anthony Bourdain’s favorite drink and I want to experience the joy he described when talking about them, but I just don’t. The Campari aftertaste just ruins things for me. However, this version hits all the right notes. The Jågermeister brings a delightfully complex, herbal thing that I really love. It’ is surprising just how much this resembles a standard Negroni, just without that total kick in the uvula of a bitter aftertaste. Honestly, I wish this one were just a touch more bitter. When I make it again, I am going to add a couple of stabs of Bogart’s Bitters to bring some of that depth back to the drink. That said, there is nothing wrong with this one at all and it’s a nice easy to order variation at the bar.
It is good to revisit things. Honestly, I had not bought a bottle of Jåger in years. When I took that shot and drank it down, I was genuinely surprised at the complexity of the flavor. That always got lost in the race to get as much of that cough syrup into our bodies as quickly as possible in college. What can I say, we weren’t exactly connoisseurs. I am glad that one fella’s unwillingness to experiment, led me to rediscover this much maligned digestif. I may play with it some more and swap it in for Underberg in a Kråuter Sauer or Ice-Berg, that should be fun. So, thank you random monsoon bar patron, your intransigence was a gift. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.