Posted on August 19th, 2011
Jägermeister is the Eliza Doolittle of the digestif family. While ordering drinks containing Cynar and Fernet Branca somehow turns you into a dashing, daring connoisseur, asking for something with Jäger imparts a kind of scuzzy feeling. Like you just realized you forgot to brush your teeth this morning, and now you’re asking for Jäger. Because most drinks with Jägermeister involve fire, Red Bull, and Bad Choices, it’s hard to take this spirit seriously. If Jägermeister were a person, it would be a man who cuts the sleeves off his t-shirts to make tank tops.
When I heard the bartenders at Clyde Common talking about hosting a Jäger night during the upcoming Portland Cocktail Week, I asked if they planned to class it up. “Class up Jäger? No way!” was the overwhelming response. Admittedly, I probably hadn’t even thought about Jägermeister in years until they mentioned it– and when I did think of it I remembered a depraved friend who, still drunk the morning after, began swigging warm Jäger straight from a bottle he’d been carrying with him. I can imagine him slurring “The rain in Spain…” and I understand why it might not be worth the effort to force Jäger through a double straining and into a chilled coupe.
But I can’t help feeling a little indignant on Jäger ‘s behalf when Fernet, once used as a cure for Cholera, is seeing the inside of so many $12 cocktail glasses these days. I think Jägermeister can do better than Liquid Cocaine and Red-Headed Sluts. I went and got a cautious amount at the liquor store and, running my tongue over my scuzzy-feeling teeth, wondered where I should start.
I poured a shot over a single ice cube in an aperitif glass and sipped it at my patio table. It attracted several wasps, but was pleasant enough. Less sweet than I remembered, and nicely balanced between the spices and the more medicinal herbs. While I sipped, I checked the Internet to see what clever costumes others had designed for Jäger. Given my feelings about Fernet, I was happy to see the recipe for a modified Hanky Panky– but a trashy-sounding shooter caught my eye: the Oatmeal Cookie. It contains Jäger, Kahlua, Bailey’s, and butterscotch schnapps. Oh dear.
No time to waste, ‘enry ‘iggins! I decided to make a batch of oat and honey infused vodka to use in my own take on the Oatmeal Cookie. A flip seemed like the appropriate upgrade, so I cracked an egg into 1.5oz oat and honey vodka, 1oz bourbon, and 0.75oz Jägermeister. The result was a smooth nog-like drink that was rich without being syrupy, and wore an attractive little collar of white foam– which the Jäger was not struggling to tear off. In fact, I might cut down on the sweet oat and honey vodka to make room for the plucky digestif to stick its neck out a bit more.
I also ended up adding Jäger to a Gin Gin Mule and a Perro Salado, and in both cases the spicy anise extended the drinks to a pleasing new dimension. Let’s face it– liqueurs like Hpnotiq and Green Apple Pucker are the ones for which there is truly no hope. Jägermeister has just fallen in with the wrong crowd, but its essence really wants to do good. Er, do well.