January 28, 2007
In his 10 years in the bar industry, Phil Anderson has never seen a phenomenon like Jagermeister.
"A year ago, we would have been lucky to get through one bottle a month," said the owner of Bond Lounge in Melbourne's CBD. "Now we go through 12 bottles a week."
A hefty increase, considering one bottle holds up to 23 serves. So how did Jagermeister, meaning master of the hunt, become the hottest drink in town?
It's all thanks to a concoction known as the "Jager bomb". Customers mix it themselves by dropping a shot of the liqueur — glass and all — into a tumbler of Red Bull energy drink.
"Everyone loves it because the caffeine in the Red Bull gives you a kick," said 22-year-old Jacinta Gravina. "And the Jagermeister goes down really easily."
A Jager bomb is seldom savoured. "You drop the shot glass in and then skol it straight away," Ms Gravina said.
Her friend Cami James, 20, agrees. "You have it as a shot between other drinks. It's fun because you do it at the bar with your mates."
The cocktail has also become the subject of drinking games. "It becomes a race," said Sam Kitch, 20.
Anton Winter, owner of Rust Cocktail Lounge, in Fitzroy, believes the popularity of energy drinks such as Red Bull is behind the Jager bomb's swift rise.
"It's 100 per cent riding on the coat-tails of the energy drinks," he said. "People used to mix them with vodka; now they do it with Jagermeister." Mr Winter said his bar typically served more than 100 Jager bombs on a busy night, making it the third-most-popular drink behind beer and vodka.
But not everyone considers Jagermeister a fad. Gerald Kircher, bar manager of German Club Tivoli, said it had always been popular with his customers — albeit served in the traditional fashion. "Ice-cold and straight," he said.
"Not this Jager bomb thing that the young people like." Jagermeister was first imported to Australia in 1990 — 55 years after its launch in Germany — but remained relatively unknown until the Jager bomb craze took off. Devotees describe the taste of the 35 per cent alcohol liqueur as "sweet" or "medicinal". The ingredients are a closely guarded secret, although its manufacturers say it contains "56 herbs, fruits, woods, barks and roots from all over the world".
Jagermeister's Australian distributor said sales had jumped 400 per cent during the past two years, making it one of the fastest-growing liqueurs in the country.
But the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre has warned that popular new drinks such as Jager bombs present unique health risks.
Spokesman Paul Dillon said the sweet taste encouraged excessively quick drinking, while the caffeine in the energy drinks created a false sense of alertness.
"The real issue is people slamming shots," he said. "It's a dangerous pattern of drinking."