You bought a spirit or liqueur because a cocktail recipe called for a very minute amount. Now you’re stuck with the remaining 9/10ths of the bottle and what to do with it. No worries. Bartenders weigh in with tips and recipes for getting every last drop out of an underutilized ingredient so it doesn’t gather dust on your bar shelf.
Successive pours of Jägermeister are an American rite of passage to mark reaching the legal drinking age (or sometimes well before), and a bottle stashed in a basement bar freezer is a staple at many a fraternity house. But the German amaro has far more going for it than merely being a bracing shot.
Jägermeister is produced by steeping 56 herbs and spices including ginger, anise, citrus peel and juniper in alcohol and water for a few days before storing it in oak for a year and sweetening it. It was created in 1934 by Curt Mast, the son of a vinegar maker and wine trader, an avid hunter who chose a name for his elixir that translates to “master hunter” and adorned the label with a drawing of a stag. American importer Sidney Frank is credited with its popularity in the United States, positioning it in the 1980s as a party drink.
The inclusion of all those botanicals also makes it incredibly useful behind the bar as either a base spirit or modifier, according to Joe Zakowski, a bartender at Mother’s Ruin and No. 308 in Nashville. He likens the liqueur to an old friend. “It just sits right with me,” he says. “When I’m not in the mood for anything else, I can still drink Jägermeister; it’s like mother’s milk.”
Though some people carry an aversion to Jäger because of a bad experience years ago, Zakowski argues against using it as a scapegoat for any youthful indiscretions. He recommends a reintroduction as a solo sipper or in a simple cocktail, perhaps mixed with seltzer over ice and garnished with citrus or herbs. “Most anti-Jäger drinkers will come around and realize it’s a delicious, herbaceous spirit for grown-ups,” he says.
Without negating its reputation as a shot brand, Willy Shine, the “brandmeister” for Mast-Jägermeister U.S., likes to point out that the product is basically a German amaro with a ton of heritage behind it. “Jägermeister is a very versatile liquid to work within the realm of cocktails,” he says. “It truly runs the gamut very well and tastes harmonious.” He’s particularly fond of playing off its ginger, citrus and bitter elements in drinks such as a Berlin Mule (yes, that’s a Moscow Mule with Jäger) and a riff on an Old Fashioned.
“It’s at once herbal, a little bitter and a little sweet, which all together means that the uses you can find for it are endless,” says Veronica Correa, a San Diego bartender. She likes to use Jäger as a bittering agent for stirred drinks such as a Negroni and to mix up twists on the Mai Tai and other tropical and summery cocktails. Her crushable Waterfront Cooler is a mashup of a Pimm’s Cup and an Arnold Palmer, with Earl Grey tea, muddled fruit and mint, and ginger beer, garnished with fruit and more mint.
Jägermeister actually has quite an affinity for mint, says Evan Wolf, a bartender at Sidecar Patio & Oyster Bar in New Orleans. “I like to win skeptics over by giving Jäger split duty with whiskey in a Mint Julep or as the base spirit in a Stinger with crème de menthe.” In his drink A Day at the (Crawfish) Races, he infuses it with mint tea, then shakes it with lemon juice and blackberry jam and serves the drink in an Old Fashioned glass filled with crushed ice and garnished with a mint sprig. “The obvious challenge is that people sometimes let its reputation precede it, so I try and make sure that the cocktails I use Jägermeister in are super ‘round,’ well-balanced and easy to enjoy,” he says.
Shine believes the two base spirits in this riff on the classic whiskey drink match perfectly, while maple syrup lends a sweetness that’s earthier than that of white sugar or simple syrup. “Jägermeister and rye whiskey pair together harmoniously, so it was only natural to create a Jägermeister version” of an Old Fashioned, he says. “I love the spicy notes in this cocktail, as well as the layers of flavor upon every sip.”
If a Pimm’s Cup and an Arnold Palmer had a love child, it would be this irresistible patio pounder created by Correa. “The only added sugar in the cocktail comes from the fresh muddled fruit,” she says. “There's no wrong way to do it; you can customize it however you like.”
“We all know—or in some cases, remember—that Jägermeister is great as an ice-cold shot, but it’s nice as a sipper, in a Hot Toddy or as a modifier in twists on classic cocktails,” says Wolf. For this mashup of a Mint Julep and Cobbler, he uses blackberry jam and fresh blackberries, but you can play around with any seasonal or preferred fruit.