Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Jäger Deer

This is from the Modern Drunkard Magazine On-Line in an article on the ten greatest alcohol icons of all time. My ex-roommate loved his Jägermeister so much so that he hung a giant wall sized flag of the Jager stag. I don't personally like the stuff, but it's a hell of an icon and has a pretty good story behind it. Can we say, Pagans?


Jager DeerThe Jäger Deer
Shoot Me, Shoot Jesus
Jägermeister Liqueur

There is something unsettling about the level gaze of the Jägermeister deer. While most animal icons demurely look askance, this beast stares you directly in the eye. It also appears to have Christ on its side, or at least on its mind.

Jägermeister is German for “expert hunter” and if you examine the edge of the label you’ll find a German poem by Otto von Riesenthal, which roughly translates into:

This is the hunter’s badge of honour
That he protect and nourish his game
Hunt sportingly, as is proper
And honor the Creator in creation.

So what's with all the religious stuff? you're probably thinking. The deer's got a neon cross stuck in its antlers and the label's got some goofy rhyme kissing up to the Creator--what gives?

Well, back around the 7th Century, a pagan sportsman named Hubert was about to bag a magnificent stag when a glowing crucifix appeared between its antlers. And if that wasn’t disconcerting enough, Christ himself gave a shout out, proclaiming in a very loud voice: “Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord and lead a holy life, you shall quickly fall into the abyss of Hell!”

Hubert didn't need to be told twice. He was soon ordained and spent the rest of his life putting the arm on the local pagans and idolaters and erecting monasteries. Then, long after he died, he became St. Hubert, patron saint of hunters. And opticians, but that's another story.

So, in 1935, Curt Mast, an avid hunter and inheritor of a venerable German distillery, adapted the legend and imagery of St. Hubert to his spanking new concoction. A combination of 56 herbs, roots and spices, Jägermeister was meant to be something you’d more likely keep in your medicine rather than liquor cabinet. Early advertising swore it was a cure for incessant coughs, digestive problems and other common ailments. It became somewhat popular in Germany, but that was about it.

The Jäger blitz, launched in 1970, targeted nearly every country on the planet, and was met with immediate success. Eschewing traditional advertising methods, the liqueur was introduced with a clever grassroots strategy of throwing bar parties (manned by squads of “Jägerettes”) and sponsoring hard-drinking metal bands, including Metallica, Pantera and Slayer. Its rapid expansion was also facilitated by false rumors suggesting the liqueur contained deer blood and/or heroin extract.

Evolution: The Jäger deer hasn’t changed a hair since it appeared 70 years ago, and isn’t likely to, so long as it maintains its stranglehold on the liqueur shot niche.

Dark Secret: Jäger creator Curt Mast was allegedly a member of the Nazi party and fast friends with Hermann Goering, commander of the Luftwaffe.

Claim to Fame: The de rigueur shot of frat boys and bikers alike, Jägermeister succeeded in capturing the highly-prized middle ground between girly and manly shots.


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