Of all the stories of foreign liquors hitting it big in the U.S., Jägermeister’s might be the greatest—and the most unlikely. It certainly had its fair share of disadvantages: It’s a liqueur, which, back in the ‘80s when Jägermeister first hit American soil, was an unpopular spirit category among beer- and- whiskey-loving Americans. Its name, which translates to “hunting master,” doesn’t exactly roll off the English-speaking tongue. And it’s from Germany, a country Americans know more for beer than liqueurs. And yet, the German digestif somehow became pure party fuel and a beloved spirit in college bars across the country. Here’s how Jägermeister went from obscure to extreme.
Really Dough's Mark & Scott Take a Bunch of Shots, Do Blind Pizza Taste Test, Argue a Lot
It Tried, and It Tried, and It Tried (and It Happened To Have a Marketing Genius Behind It)
If you think Jäger came out of the gate with the amped up image that made it popular today, you couldn’t be more wrong. Sidney Frank, the businessman and marketing guru responsible for popularizing Jäger—as well as Grey Goose—tried to sell the German liqueur through multiple lenses. And, as you can see, not all of them were great. Who wants to drink like their grandmother?
In hindsight, showcasing the brand with the help of attractive women seems like a no-brainer, but if you really think about it, it’s odd to associate a German digestif with sex. Because in Germany, that’s really all Jäger was—a digestif you sipped after a hefty dinner, which rarely involved scantily clad ladies in fishnets with test tube shots.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, more and more people started going to college, which meant more and more people were throwing college parties. The marketing folks at Jäger jumped on this, using these ragers to push its product as not a digestif but a shot. Jäger’s unique taste, easy shootability (especially when served ice cold or poured down an ice luge) and reasonable price point made it an unlikely, but instant hit amongst the college crowd. Suddenly, Jäger was synonymous not with hunting, but with partying.
It’s unclear exactly how the Jäger Bomb came to be. Some speculate that it was the doings of a Jäger representative, while others claim to be the real inventors. Though originally designed to be bombed into a glass of beer, the Jäger Bomb is now popularly dropped into a glass of Red Bull, joining the likes of the Red Bull-Vodka as a drink piggybacking off the energy drink’s massive success. Regardless of how Jäger and Red Bull shacked up, the Jäger Bomb is clearly here to stay and will be reinvigorating 2 a.m. partiers for years to come.
It Found a Seriously Loyal Audience
Once Jäger firmly secured its antlers in the college crowd, late-night partiers and Nascar-lovers (yep), it was in there for good. The brand maintained its loyal following by refraining from coming out with crazy new looks or changing up its OG formula. While it may come out with the occasional new flavor, Jäger is always Jäger. And that has inspired some seriously dedicated fans who continue to push shots on their friends and rage with their favorite spirit, which helps maintain Jäger’s party animal reputation.
Even if you’ve never tasted a drop of Jäger in your life, chances are you’ve seen the spirit’s iconic Buck logo on a keychain, or a shirt, or a chair, or dice, or a car, or a plane, and so on. Jäger stamped (and continues to stamp) its orange-and-black logo on anything it can (including, of course, the ever-present shot dispenser), and its fans are more than happy to sport their gear and become walking, talking Jägermeister billboards.
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It Got in With the Cocktail Crowd
Jägermeister not only found love in a shot glass, it also cozied up to the cocktailing crowd. From tiki drinks, to boozy root beer floats, today’s bartenders have found the bittersweet spirit to be a perfect fit in craft cocktails. And if a bartender approves, the world approves. Because no one wields more influence when it comes to booze than a bartender (except maybe those scantily clad girls from earlier).