Food & Beverages

Michael Cleary: The Jägermeister Way

The iconic green liqueur has always been a rogue in the alcohol industry thanks to its distinctive taste, colour, and willingness to go it alone. Managing Director of Mast-Jägermeister UK Michael Cleary is making sure that the brand continues to innovate to stay one step ahead of the game. 

When Curt Mast, the son of a German vinegar manufacturer from the town of Wolfenbüttel, started tinkering with herbs in the early 1930s while working for his father, there was no guessing that his recipe would become one of the world’s most iconic liquers – Jägermeister.

Curt’s original concoction, made from 56 botanical ingredients, was born out of a desire to diversify his father’s vinegar business. The iconic square-shouldered green bottle he created remains today and is instantly recognisable in drinks cabinets, bars, and pubs the world over.

Fast-forward almost 90 years and Irishman Michael Cleary, appointed MD of Mast-Jägermeister UK in 2019, is keeping the dream alive in the region after a successful five-year stint as the company’s regional director of Western Europe. With a CV boasting international management roles at Pernod Ricard and Irish Distillers as well as Unilever (domestically) he knows a thing or two about branding. “Jägermeister is the ninth biggest premium spirit brand and the only one in the top ten that’s independently owned – we are still a family business,” Michael says. “The other big spirits are owned by large brand houses so we really benefit from the trust, focus and commitment that flourishes at Jägermeister.”

Rich history, secret recipe  

Every drop of Jägermeister comes from one of the 445 oak barrels that reside in the company’s specially built cellar in Wolfenbüttel. Deep underground, the macerates – made from the highest-grade herbs, blossoms, roots, and fruits – are left to blend and mature for up to a year until they become liquid German perfection. The full ingredient list is a closely guarded secret, Jägermeister’s master distillers won’t give it away for love nor money.

The striking logo on each and every green bottle takes inspiration from the tale of Saint Hubertus, a wild huntsman who once had a vision of a huge stag carrying a glowing cross between its antlers. This mystical sight transformed his outlook and from this point he championed a greater respect for nature, eventually becoming known as the patron saint of hunters. Curt thought this powerful story was a perfect match for his potent elixir and adopted the emblem of the stag in honour of Hubertus. As an outdoors kind of guy, Curt needed a heavy-duty bottle that would stand up to serious wear and tear, so as an experiment he dropped different shapes of bottles onto his oak floor from height, and only one survived. From pragmatic to iconic: more than 80 years on, his square-shouldered bottle is still the first drink that catches the eye.

The best way to drink Jägermeister? Well, Michael likes his “a cool -18°C and in a nice green branded shot glass. We’re all very proud of the fact you can drink it pure, it has an incredibly complex flavour thanks to the 56 herbs that go into it. Many Germans like to drink it with tonic water. I also like it with ginger beer, as a Mule, it’s incredibly refreshing.”

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