Flavors cycle in and out of vogue every season, and this winter honey is on the menu at restaurants and bars everywhere. It's perfect for what has turned out to be one of the coldest seasons the country has seen in years, too, adding a uniquely warm sweetness to cocktails without overpowering the other ingredients and throwing off the balance of the cocktail. And while many bartenders and mixologists infuse their liqueurs with honey themselves, or make complicated honey syrups to drizzle into the drinks they serve up every night, the average home bartender doesn't have quite that level of OCD. Luckily, there's an easy way to impart that perfect level of honeyed sweetness – Bärenjäger.
Bärenjäger is the commercialized version of Bärenfang, a German liqueur called a meschkinne, which is essentially the equivalent of moonshine. This liqueur, which was laced and infused with honey, was supposedly used by bear hunters in Prussian villages to lure bears into traps. It seems more likely the hunters used Bärenfang to help pass the time while tromping through the woods looking for a bear. Either way, it worked for the hunters.
In the 15th century The Teucke & Koenig company was the first to market a mass-produced version of Bärenfang. The company called it Bärenjäger, in honor of the burly men who bravely marched around the woods with honey on their breath loaded for bear. And to remind drinkers of just how manly this honey liqueur is, there's a picture of a hunter lying in wait for a bear on the wicker wrapped bottle.
The liqueur itself is, unsurprisingly, a rich honeyed gold color. It's thick, syrupy, with an almost creamy texture that coats the tongue in almost exactly the same way that honey does. The similarities don't stop there, with an almost flowery smell wafting out as soon as the cap comes off. Even better, it tastes of rich clover honey almost like sipping directly from a plastic honey bear, but with a 70 proof alcohol tang that balances it out impressively.
Even though Bärenjäger works quite well as an after dinner drink alone, especially when poured over ice, it truly comes into its own when mixed. It's often used in hot drinks, like hot chocolate, coffee, and even tea. Best of all, it's a perfect ingredient to break out to impress a date after a day of skiing, ice skating, or any other cold weather sport – no matter how bad you looked doing it. Below are a few suggestions that ought to help warm things up this winter.
1 ounce Bärenjäger
1 ounce Hazelnut Kahlua
Half and half (or heavy cream)
Fill lowball glass (or juice glass, if you don't have a lowball) with ice and add Bärenjäger and Kahlua. Fill the glass the rest of the way with half and half or heavy cream and stir gently to combine. Top it off with a cherry.
2 ounces Bärenjäger
Apple Cider (or hard cider)
2 dashes orange bitters
This drink can be served hot or cold.
For a hot drink, heat approximately 1 cup apple cider to just short of boiling. Fill a mug with the Bärenjäger and pour the hot cider over it. Add the bitters, drop a cinnamon stick in the mug and enjoy the reactions.
For a cold drink that'll bring back fond memories of falling leaves and days when the mercury reached into double digits, fill a highball glass (any tall and thin glass will do) with ice and add the Bärenjäger. Fill the rest of the way with the hard cider – preferably a very dry and crisp one, otherwise the drink will be too sweet. Add the bitters and give a gentle stir.
1 ounce Bärenjäger
1 ounce Bourbon
1 ounce lemon juice
Combine ingredients with ice in shaker and shake vigorously to combine. Fill lowball glass with ice and strain ingredients from shaker into glass. Garnish with orange peel or slice. Sip in front of roaring fire and reminisce about the days when men hunted bears with pointy sticks.