Jägermeister and Fernet: Country Mouse and City Mouse

From Wikipedia: Vanilla Ice serving Jager to a fan whilst performing his one hit song.

Jägermeister often gets a bad rap. Whether consumed in shots or the abomination known as the “Jäger bomb,” it is often associated with idiot frat boys who get into bar fights. At 70 proof, Jäger’s reputation for being a “manly man” drink is undeserved, but their own advertising perpetuates this image, which is sad. Very sad. When you try it with an open mind next to Italian amari and French apertifs, Jägermeister is not all that different. It has a sweet, herbal flavor with hints of menthol that can be used to enhance craft cocktails.


From Wikipedia. Seems more civilized already, doesn’t it?

Fernet Branca is a very bitter Italian amaro, which some bartenders have characterized as “Jägermeister’s older, more sophisticated brother.” It is very popular among people who work in the service industry, which is why it is also known as the “bartender’s handshake.” Fernet is great for digestion and has many curative properties. Some people will have a shot of Fernet at the end of a long night of drinking to help ward off a hangover the next day.

The purpose of this post is two-fold:

  1. We would hate to see Fernet abused in the same way that Jägermeister often is today. We have seen the beginnings of such a trend already, and it is disturbing to see this happen to such a fine product.
  2. We would love to see more bartenders use Jägermeister to its potential in craft cocktails.

Here are some cocktails we’ve made at home using Jägermeister. We love to add a splash of just about any amaro or herbal liquor to a Manhattan to help round it out, so our first offering uses Jägermeister to a similar effect. The other two take advantage of the distinctive menthol flavor in the Jägermeister, first complementing it with sweetness and then with smoke.

The Martin Heidegger

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Jägermeister

Stir and strain into a coupe glass.

Birmingham on Ice

  • 2 oz tequila
  • 1/2 oz Jägermeister
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 1/4 oz St. Germain

Stir and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice

The Newport

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • 1/2 oz Jägermeister
  • 1/2 oz mezcal
  • 1/2 oz ruby port

Stir and strain into a chilled coupe glass

Although we enjoy a shot of Fernet on its own as much as anyone else, it can be used to good effect in cocktails as well. The Toronto is a simple but elegant classic that adds a quarter ounce of Fernet and an equal amount of simple syrup to two ounces of rye. The Beatnik is a Manhattan variation that uses two ounces of rye, an ounce of tawny port, and a quarter ounce of Fernet. You’ll notice most recipes that use Fernet include only a quarter ounce or a dash. A little bit goes a long way.

If you really want to emphasize the bitters (and possibly tear a hole in the time/space continuum), try this one invented at Chicago’s famous Violet Hour:

Eeyore’s Requiem

  • 1 1/2 oz Campari
  • 1/2 oz dry gin
  • 1/4 oz Cynar
  • 1/4 oz Fernet Branca
  • 1 oz Dolin Bianco Vermouth
  • 15 drops orange bitters
  • 3 orange twists

Stir and strain all liquids into a cocktail glass. Express the oil from the orange peels into the drink and then discard.