There are two competing theories of the human condition. The first suggests we are rational beings acting on free will, while the second assumes the environment determines our actions. I tended to err on the side of free will – that was, until the invention of the Jägerbomb.
You don’t like Jägerbombs, do you? What sophisticate would? The mixture of a complex herbal liqueur with sickly sweet Red Bull is a revolting concoction. But due to the genius of modern marketing and our instinct to follow the crowd, these bombs have blown up in a way no rational person could have expected.
Despite the awfulness that is the Jägerbomb, its principal ingredient, Jägermeister, has hidden qualities. It’s certainly an acquired taste (acquired, that is, by ripping the soul out of your taste buds), but as a digestif sipped after a meal it can be quite pleasant.
Jägermeister isn’t the herbal liqueur most worthy of your attention though. For that you should turn to Italy. Strega is an Italian yellow liqueur made up of around 70 herbal ingredients. Then there’s Fernet Branca, a cosmopolitan beast containing 27 ingredients from across the world, including aloe from South Africa, rhubarb from China, gentian from France, galangal from India and chamomile from Argentina.
If you thought Jägermeister was a tough drink to swallow, try Fernet Branca; it is the Bhoot Jolokia (Ghost Pepper) of the alcohol world. Traditionally drunk mixed with soda water, these days the big markets are in Argentina and San Francisco. Argentinians drink it with coke, San Franciscans knock it back with ginger ale, but real men and women sip it neat. In comparison, whiskey is for wimps.
Nobody wakes up one morning with a sudden ability to lift 500lbs; equally, nobody goes to bed one evening being able to drink Fernet Branca. But with hard work and dedication you’ll get there.
A good way to start your training is with a Dr Henderson the Younger. The cocktail is served at Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch, where it was invented by bar manager Michael Cook. It’s not dissimilar to a Negroni, with a dash of Fernet Branca taking the role of the Negroni’s bitter Campari.
Man is born free but everywhere he is in bar chains downing Jägerbombs. We need to learn to start caring and ditch the bomb.
DR HENDERSON THE YOUNGER
■ 50ml of Monkey 47 gin
■ 20ml of Punt e Mes Vermouth (seasoned with 2.5ml Fernet Branca)
• Build over an old fashioned glass over ice
• Stir to dilute and blend
• Garnish with an orange twist