When you think of German alcohol, beer is the first drink to come to mind. But when you reach for the darker stuff, the herbaceous digestif of Jägermeister is the most popular German liquor - especially abroad. Frat boys might know it as just one element of a Jägerbomb, but it is actually perfectly fine to drink on its own. Preferable, actually.
Read up on the very German liquor of Jägermeister and take a factory tour in Wolfenbüttel outside of Berlin. Here is everything you need to know to plan a visit and get a taste of Jägermeister.
Brief History of Jägermeister
The drink is the result of a man and his son and their ability to transform raw ingredients into one of the world's favorite drinks.
Wilhelm Mast founded Jägermeister in 1878 as a wine wholesaler and vinegar factory. His son, Curt, had a different idea. Taking his dad's company, he developed what has become the delicious drink known as Jägermeister in 1934. It was publicly released in 1935, sometimes under the name Göring-Schnaps.
Today, Jägermeister is Germany’s leading herbal digestif and a major export. Not limited to Germany, it has fans around the world.
Jägermeister in Germany
The name of Jägermeister translates to "Hunting Master". It registers a respectable 35% alcohol by volume and is marked with a now iconic logo of a glowing cross between the antlers of a stag. This is a reference to the patron saint of hunters, Saint Hubertus, who had this very vision while out hunting. This symbol is so popular it adorns almost anything you can think of from glassware to home decor to even tattoos for the most devoted of fans.
The label also includes a verse from Weidmannsheil by Oskar von Riesenthal,
Das ist des Jägers Ehrenschild,
daß er beschützt und hegt sein Wild,
wie sich’s gehört,
den Schöpfer im Geschöpfe ehrt.
(It is the hunter’s honor that he
Protects and preserves his game,
Hunts sportsmanlike, honors the
Creator in His creatures.)
The drink itself is thick and almost black in color. Those unfamiliar with the drink may think this isn't something you should put in your mouth. But the flavorful concoction is actually quite drinkable. Made with a secret blend of 56 natural herbs and spices, it is a Kräuterlikör (herbal liqueur). Some of its components have been identified as citrus peel, licorice, saffron, ginger and juniper berries, but the rest are kept confidential. Despite persistent rumors, one of those ingredients is not deer's blood.
These mystery ingredients are finely ground, steeped in water and alcohol for 2 to 3 days then filtered and stored in oak barrels for around a year. After this quiet time, the liqueur is again filtered and mixed with sugar, caramel and water. It is then filtered and bottled. To serve, this drink should be cold as ice - ideally at 0 °F.
Traditionally in German culture, a digestif is an essential element to good health. After stuffing yourself with meat and potatoes (aka good German food) a digestif is drunk to aid in digestion. Tiny shots of digestif are still available in a bullet-type belt in some bars and old-school restaurants. Just watch the old ladies signal for a digestif. Who knew alcohol could be used to make you feel better? The Germans.
Jägermeister Factory Tour
Visitors can tour the place where Jägermeister is headquartered in Wolfenbuttel, Germany, which is about 200 km west of Berlin. Tours may be a 4.5 hour version that include a look at the town and lunch (arranged by the Wolfenbuttel tourist information center) or simply involve a 1.5 hour tour of the Jägermeister factory. While you won't find out all the secret ingredients, English or German guides take visitors through production, into the herb cellar, and through a tasting.
Tickets are 19.50 euro for groups of 10 to 30 people. Individual tours can also be arranged on the first of the month starting at 10:30 from Monday to Friday. Minimum age is 18.
There are also Jägermeister shops in the Altstadt to bring a bit of Germany home. And if you can't make it to Wolfenbuttel, the legendary liquor can be purchased at any grocery store.