In 2008, a gin company brought Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler over to London to learn about the brand. As part of the trip, he was asked to work an event that would be attended by the city’s top bartenders. Eventually, attendees started jumping behind the bar to make their own signature drinks. It was around this time that Morgenthaler heard a line he would never forget: “Hey, David, make the Jägerita.”
A standard Margarita with tequila swapped out in favor of the aughts’ most bro-tastic party shot, Jägermeister? Morgenthaler immediately had only one thought: “That sounds fucking disgusting.”
Yet David Cordoba certainly looked like he knew what he was doing. Morgenthaler recalls that Cordoba, then in his mid-30s and working as a global brand ambassador for Bacardí, was wearing an expensive suit, sporting a Rolex and possessing all the affectations of a world-class London barkeep.
Still, Morgenthaler remained leery. That is, until he finally tasted Cordoba’s drink. “Oh my god, that’s the best drink I’ve ever had in my life,” he recalls thinking. When he returned to Oregon, he wrote about the Jägerita on his popular eponymous cocktail blog, including the first published recipe for the drink and calling it a “guilty pleasure.” It’s been surprising leery drinkers ever since.
To a certain extent, it makes sense that the cocktail should work. Though it’s billed as a German digestif, Jägermeister is essentially an amaro flavored with 56 herbs and spices. The formula’s complex notes of anise, clove and ginger, along with a slightly higher proof, make it just as intriguing to use in mixed drinks as, say, Cynar or fernet. Today, it’s not uncommon to see the liqueur pop up in a variety of cocktails, but a decade ago, Jägermeister had not yet made its cocktail-world resurgence.
It helped that in 2014, when Morgenthaler opened Portland bar Pépé Le Moko, he put a Jägerita on the menu. That same year, Cordoba turned his Jägerita into a frozen cocktail for the menu at 28 HongKong Street in Singapore, which he helped open. The frozen approach mutes some of Jägermeister’s more pronounced herbal notes in the same way the brand’s Ice Kühl machines make shots of the liqueur easier to handle.
The cocktail’s reputation was beginning to spread. Morgenthaler wrote about it again in 2015 for his monthly Playboy column and, knowing the brand had a potential viral hit on its hands, Jägermeister began promoting the drink as well. Soon, it was appearing in greater numbers on cocktail menus across the globe. The drink could be found on Giuseppe González’s list at New York’s now-closed Suffolk Arms when the downtown bar opened in 2016. Over the next few years, it would appear at such far-flung places as Due Terraza Bar in Irapuato, Mexico; Sous Sol in Winnipeg, Canada; and Etiquette Chill&Co in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Perhaps because of the knee-jerk revulsion of the recipe on paper—and likely boosted by bored content creators stuck at home during the pandemic—over the past couple of years, the Jägerita has become a popular cocktail to make on social media platforms, particularly YouTube channels, with people often tasting it for the first time while on camera.
The host of Hey, Let’s Drink! titled his video “The Jägermeister Margarita, Gross?” before realizing it’s anything but. Bar Chaplain’s video is titled “The Jägerita... Yes, Really,” with the host claiming he made the drink “not by request, but by dare”; he, too, loves it. In David Edwards’ Booze On The Rocks channel, Edwards is likewise initially overwhelmed by the Jäger aroma, until he tries the drink. In Nick Fisher’s 2022 video, which he titles “The Legendary Jägerita,” he first does a Jäger bomb before shaking up a Jägerita and exclaiming, “My god! This drink is excellent.”
More than a decade and a half after Morgenthaler first tried it, the Jägerita has indeed become legendary, a rare cocktail that turns doubters into believers with just a single sip.