Most U.S.-based Jägermeister drinkers know it only as a chilled shot, a sweet, potent party-starter that’s easy to drink and is often associated with rock ‘n’ roll. In fact, this isn’t an ad, so let’s not mince words: Jäger’s about getting drunk, fast. Why else do you think so many bars have special Jäger-shot machines? Do your own research and ask the next person you see what their experiences with Jäger have been like. Chances are they involve a pretty wild party.
For its part, of course, Jäger doesn’t condone binge drinking, stating unequivocally that it "encourages responsible decision-making regarding the consumption of alcohol and discourages abusive consumption." That said, Jäger didn’t become the seventh largest selling premium spirit in the world from tweed-jacketed men sipping it out of brandy snifters in the study of some manor house. So it pretty much owns the woo-hoo! market, presenting it with a conundrum about how to grow further in an increasingly crowded field (Patrón shot, anyone?). Here’s what they came up with: using Jäger as a cooking ingredient to highlight its versatility. I recently tried a few Jäger-infused dishes at Stanton Social, courtesy of chef Chris Santos, and they tasted, well, woo-hoo!
Here’s why these recipes work: Regardless of the fact that Jägermeister is a favorite of fist-bumping bros and tanning-salon Traceys from LA to London, it’s actually quite a sophisticated spirit, with a history going back to 1934 Germany, when hunting enthusiast Kurt Mast first blended 56 different herbs, blossoms, roots and fruits into a bittersweet liqueur perfect for staying warm while tracking a herd of elk in the Alps. The next time you’re handed a Jäger shot, take your time and savor its complexity. There’s a lot going on in the glass.
That means there’s a lot going on in the recipes that feature Jäger as a component. I tried three different Santos-Jäger creations at Stanton Social (Santos also has the popular Beauty & Essex), each playing off a different component of the spirit.
The first, Jägermeister-kissed Chicken Skewers, really bring out the citrus notes, with a perfect mix of juiciness and crispness and a zingy flavor that penetrates the meat, thanks to its two-hour brining process and 24-hour marinade. It’s a perfect app for one-handed eating, saving the other for your shot glass. (Scroll down.)
The second dish was the Ultimate Charred Jägermeister Burger, a take on the classic burger. It uses Jägermeister in the burger blend, along with Worcestershire. It was tender, smooth, and very tasty. Santos served some onion rings on the side that featured no Jägermeister whatsoever, and were still good.
Santos must have been going from mild to wild in his presentation, because the third dish was the most decadent and delicious of them all: Black Cherry and Jägermeister Baby Back Ribs. With the ribs, Jägermeister makes an appearance in a sauce that also contains barbecue, mint, orange, and black cherry cola. I loved it, though I do have a penchant for barbecue.
The thing that makes Jägermeister fit so well in all these recipes is the same thing that makes it work in cocktails: its complexity and harmonious balance of flavors. Rather than just some dumb marinade that you slather on meat with a paintbrush, the Jägermeister brings out the best qualities of the base ingredients it’s used with, giving them a liveliness that adds depth to the food and makes it more fun to eat.
This is partly because Santos is a great chef, whose success in New York is now leading him to open a new restaurant in Las Vegas. Perhaps you’re a great chef too. If so, you may wish to enter a recipe into the Charred: Earn Your Place at the Pit barbecue contest that Santos is judging. Take a look at the recipes he created, try them out yourself, and then put your own spin on the cooking-with-Jägermeister idea.
Santos is also a cool guy to hang out and chat with, and we discussed everything from his heavy metal DJ sessions at a Brooklyn dive bar to the graceful aging of a rock ‘n’ roller, which involves ditching the cheap ripped jeans and ragged sneakers for, well, pricier, more stylish John Varvatos versions of the same things. Growing up doesn’t mean abandoning who you are.