The Meister Behind Jägermeister: Meet Willy Shine

 In Features, Interviews

We all know Jägermeister. It is currently the #1 selling imported liqueur in the United States and one of the top shot brands in the entire world. Whether you were first introduced to Jägermeister as an icy cold shot or a “bomb” style, you have definitely heard of the brand. This iconic digestif liqueur was created by Curt Mast in 1934 in Wolfenbüttel, Germany. Clearly, Mast was a creative visionary who was fearless about tinkering around as Jägermeister (Jäger) is made up of 56 botanicals sourced from around the world.

Mast was not only a bit of a mad scientist, he was also an avid hunter, which is how the logo and name came about. The name literally translates to “Master Hunter” and while Jägermeister may have started out as a celebratory drink for the outdoor game community, nowadays, it is appealing to the passionate master hunter and seeker of life’s adventures. One of the current leaders of the new movement is Willy Shine, the Meister behind the brand. With the Jägermeister’s rising popularity and resurgence in the bar community, we chatted with Shine about the new direction of Jägermeister and his role as Brand Meister.

The Meister Behind Jägermeister – Meet Willy Shine

How did you get started with Jägermeister?

Before officially joining in the team, I did lot of consulting work with Sidney Frank brands, mostly Jägermeister. I produced multiple events for them and was their go-to cocktail consultant. During that time I got to know the brand very well. Of course, my first real introduction to the brand was when I started bartending in 1993. Back then, a shot of Jägermeister was considered the “bartender handshake” to the industry.

After consulting with them for several years, I had been approached about a full-time position but the timing wasn’t right for one reason or another. That changed after the Mast family took over and put a major focus on Jägermeister. They reached out to me to take a deep look at where the brand was going and what was happening with Jägermeister on a global landscape. I loved the idea of a ground up rebuild of the brand. My pedigree has always been as a foundation guy – building the bar, launching the hotel, hiring the staff, so this was right in my wheelhouse in terms of challenge. I really was excited about the opportunity to work with some amazing individuals and the timing was impeccable for me to come join the Jägermeister team full time.

The other thing that was very appetizing, was that they created a role for me where I was able to define it. It was uncharted and open territory with the ability for me to be me. With the new role and direction, I was able to bring all of my attributes, experience, knowledge and wisdom to Jägermeister.

What is the Brand Meister and what exactly do you do?

The beauty of the Brand Meister is that it encompasses a lot and I truly enjoy this because it is a role that I have made and built. The Brand Meister is Jägermeister’s expert in the brand, category, spirits at large, cocktails, education and trade advocacy. Whether I am dealing with industry or consumer, I speak to the brand on both educational & organic levels. Additionally, I serve as the face of the brand in terms of PR, press and social media. At the core level, I work very closely with our CMO and Director of Innovation across the country and globe to come up with brand direction, cocktail strategy, line extensions and so much more.

What was your First experience with Jägermeister?

Probably the ice cold shot as the “bartender handshake” back in 1993. At the time, I was working and cutting my teeth at bars in Boston. Back then, there really weren’t any other shots, it was just Jäger. No one was really shooting whiskey or tequila quite yet. Jägermeister was it, it was the one. I also remember buying a bottle of it before I went to a concert with some friends; I think it was the Black Crowes and we passed it around all night.

The Paradigm shift from Jägermeister Shots to a Cocktail Ingredient.

We continue to encourage people to drink Jagermeister at -18 degrees Celsius in shot form, but Jägermeister is more than just a shot brand; it is versatile because of the brand’s distinct and complex flavors and can be incorporated into multiple styles of cocktails. When I came on board the likes of Pamela Wiznitzer, Shawn Hoard, Ivy Mix and Sother Teague were already advocates of the brand so I reached out to more people in my network and began to educated them on Jägermeister’s flavor profile and encouraged them to give it a try.

Showing the real versatility, bartenders started playing with Jägermeister in tiki drinks. That may have begun with the Surfer on Acid cocktail – Jägermeister, Pineapple and Coconut Rum. When we saw Jeffrey Morgenthaler making the Jager-Rita, which was basically a Jäger sour, people really started opening up their eyes to how good Jägermeister is in cocktails. So you were seeing OG’s in the game using Jägermeister in interesting ways and inspiring other bartenders. There was also the powerful movement of classic cocktails and swapping out other ingredients to use Jägermeister alongside the rise in popularity of amari and bitters.

Nowadays, both the bartender and the consumer have such big, expanded, educated palates. So it is the perfect time for Jägermeister with its complexity (56 botanicals) and people to experience it and enjoy it. It really has been a true journey with Jägermeister. We also have a lot of strong advocates out there that genuinely speak to the brand.

What is The Hubertus Circle?

This is probably my favorite project out of everything I do with Jägermeister and really hits home for me. Hubertus Circle started in Germany in 2011 as a long-term play for a bartender advocacy platform. The idea is to give bartenders an opportunity to further their careers in any which way that they would like without us asking anything of them. We put a budget and structure towards educating bartenders and they are in charge of identifying exactly what they want to learn, what they want to do and what would help them.

Now in 2018, we are in 17 different countries, with close to 500 members- it is now truly a global community (HubertusCircle.com). We launched in the U.S. last year in San Diego, Chicago and New York with 5 members in each market. Nashville, Austin, Denver and Boston are the next markets to launch. Trend & Scene Managers look for the right personalities and individuals in their respective markets, who care wholeheartedly about their career path and what they want to accomplish- ultimately, the person looking to take their career to the next level.

Each HC member must bring something different to the table from a different bartending discipline – high volume, craft, flair, etc. In turn, we provide education, mentorship, networking opportunities, monthly meetings, master classes, and scholarship programs. This global program is Jägermeister’s way to give back to the bartending community. It is ongoing and we keep making it better and better.

Willy’s Three Essentials about Jägermeister

Heritage: We are a family owned brand, not publicly traded, and created in 1934 by the Mast family in Wolfenbüttel, Germany. It is still made there to this day and is very much a local brand.

Quality & Process: There is an incredible amount that goes into making Jägermeister. Blended from over 56 botanicals that are sourced from around the globe because Jägermeister selects regions where the very best of each ingredient is found. The botanical ingredients are extracted in their raw, unprocessed form through a gentle, week-long process of cold maceration to create the digestif’s base. The base then “breathes” for a year in German oak casks. There are over 383 quality checks that the liqueur has to undergo before the product can go to market.

Versatility: Its complexity is very approachable. From the celebratory ice cold shot to an ingredient in a refined Old Fashioned, Jägermeister can be enjoyed in endless ways for nearly every occasion.

For more information on Jagermeister, visit www.jagermeister.com, for details on Hubertus Circle, visit www.hubertuscircle.com. You can also follow Willy Shine’s Meister adventures on instagram at @shinedrinks.

Jägermeister Cocktail Recipes

Jägermeister Old Fashioned

  • 1 oz Jägermeister
  • 1 oz Rye Whiskey
  • 1 bar spoon maple syrup
  • Dash od Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters

Garnish: Orange Oil + Peel

Glass: Frozen 11-12oz Old Fashioned glass

Ice: 2×2 cube

Jägermeister Tiki Buck

  • 1 part Rum
  • 1 part Jãgermeister
  • ½ part fresh lime juice
  • ¾ part Ginger syrup (equal parts ginger juice and sugar)
  • 1 part fresh pineapple juice

Top with soda

Glass: 120z Collins

Ice: Cubes

Garnish: lime wheel + ginger candy + pineapple leaf

Method: Shaken + strained topped with soda garnish + serve

German Tailored Mai Tai

  • 2 parts Jãgermeister
  • ½ part orange liqueur
  • ¾ part orgeat syrup
  • ¾ part lime juice

Glass: Tiki/double old fashioned

Ice: Pebble

Garnish: mint sprig + orange ½ wheel

Method: Add ingredients into mixing tin dry shake/whip.  Strain into frozen glass, top with pebble ice, garnish with a large mint spring and orange half wheel.

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