I dipped into the cocktail lore’s bag of tricks and pulled out a fitting drink from one of the cocktail world’s true nerds, Robert Hess, a computer software guru at Microsoft, called the “Mahogany”. Back at the start of the new cocktail renaissance in the late nineties, Hess was there, talking source code with the bartenders who helped rewrite the script. He was one of the few “non-industry” folks who was truly a part of the scene, and kept massive drinks files which he would share with the professionals. He ultimately turned these into the trend setting website “Drinkboy” in 1998, which became the industry standard of the time.


A German acquaintance of his once challenged him to create a cocktail using the much maligned Jägermeister, a classic German amaro made with 56 herbs and spices and known for its bracing and strong flavors. Originally crafted as a digestive aid in 1934, a marketing genius brought it to the US in the eighties and turned it into a party drink. Despite the stigma it now holds for many, it remains true to its craft origins and can be appreciated as such. But crafting a cocktail with it is a true challenge, as the flavors tend to overpower anything else. Hess came up with a brilliant drink, which balances the Jager with another, sweeter herbal liqueur, Benedictine, and equilibrates them both with dry vermouth. There’s a little flourish in the glass as well, with a spritz of cinnamon tincture to tie things together. The story goes that Hess would keep this tincture in his pocket and bring it out when his bartending friends would not be able to complete the drink properly. I recreated the drink with an homage using Averna and Underberg amaros, which together bring out the best flavors from Jägermeister. This drink is like a multilayered, multistep puzzle box, with lots to discover and so many surprises. Cheers!

Mahogany by Robert Hess

¾ oz Jägermeister (or sub ½ oz Averna and ¼ oz Underberg)

¾ oz Benedictine

1 ½ oz dry vermouth

Dash of cinnamon tincture (or cinnamon schnapps)

Stir the ingredients with ice and strain into a glass which has been coated in the cinnamon tincture. No garnish, unless it is for the Green Eyed Lady.


For more about the incredible Box of Tricks see:

Boxes and Booze: Bag of Tricks