What Is Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur?

Production, Types, and Recipes

bottle barenjager honey liqueur

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Bärenjäger is a honey-flavored liqueur produced in Germany. It is a blend of neutral grain spirit and real honey, flavored with a proprietary blend of spices and other natural ingredients. The recipe dates back to the 18th century, and today Bärenjäger is a favorite honey liqueur for bartenders and drinkers worldwide. While it can be enjoyed on the rocks, Bärenjäger is best as a mixer in cocktails and shots, and it's a fantastic slightly-spiced drink sweetener.

Fast Facts

  • Ingredients: Neutral grain spirit, honey, natural flavorings
  • Proof: 70
  • ABV: 35%
  • Calories in a 1 1/2-ounce shot: 154
  • Origin: Germany
  • Taste: Sweet honey
  • Serve: straight-up, on the rocks, cocktails, shots

What Is Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur Made From?

Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur has a rich history. It's a style of liqueur called meschkinnes that developed as a mead-like moonshine among Bärenjägers (German for "bear hunter"). The story is that the sweet honey drink was used to lure bears, so it became known as bärenfang ("bear trap"). A popular homebrewed spirit in the 15th century, Tuecke & Koenig Bear Trap Company introduced the first commercially produced bärenfang, called Bärenjäger.

The current Bärenjäger recipe was refined in the 1700s. It has long been produced by Schwarze & Schlichte, a family-owned German company with over 300 years of distilling experience. Like many specialty liqueurs, the exact details of how Bärenjäger is made are kept secret.

While it is a proprietary recipe, Bärenjäger is similar to other European honey liqueurs, including the Polish krupnik. The base is a neutral grain spirit (such as vodka) and honey. In the early 2000s, the reported honey source was Mexico's Yucatan Penninsula. While it's unclear if that remains the case, the company states that each 750-milliliter bottle contains 225 grams of honey. The liqueur also includes a variety of "secret" all-natural ingredients. These are likely a series of herbs and spices that contribute to the liqueur's alluring flavor; notes of allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, and clove, are apparent in the taste.

Bärenjäger does not contain artificial sweeteners or coloring agents, and it is kosher. The liqueur is bottled at 35 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 70 proof), so it has a nice alcoholic kick but is not too tame to go unnoticed in drinks.

what is barenjager
Illustration: Lara Antal. © The Spruce, 2019

What Does Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur Taste Like?

Bärenjäger is sweet and thick but not cloying. A spectacular spice blend accents the rich honey aroma and flavor. The nose features wafts of clove and cinnamon, while the palate gets more complex with allspice, cardamom, gentian, and more spices with a slight bitterness. The finish is somewhat long with a moderate alcohol bite.

Types

Bärenjäger was a one-bottle brand until it released Honey & Bourbon in 2012. Designed to compete with the likes of Wild Turkey American Honey, Jack Daniel's Tennesse Honey, and others, it's a whiskey-based honey liqueur. Switching from a vodka base to Kentucky bourbon gives the spirit a darker foundation, though the honey-spice taste remains familiarly Bärenjäger.

The brand has also offered other flavored liqueurs, including Honey & Tea and Honey & Pear (released 2013). These did not prove as popular and have since been discontinued.

How to Drink Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur

The same company that handles Jägermeister also imports Bärenjäger. If you enjoy that herbal liqueur, you'll likely find Bärenjäger to be equally pleasant because both have a charming European-style spice blend.

You can drink Bärenjäger straight, though it can be a bit thick. To soften the palate and open up the bouquet of spices, serve it on the rocks or cut it with vodka or water. It also goes down smoothly when poured into a chilled shot glass. However, this liqueur is really at its best when used to sweeten drinks.

Though not numerous, Bärenjäger is an excellent choice when you come across a cocktail recipe that calls for honey liqueur. Use the Honey & Bourbon in recipes that typically use other honey whiskey liqueurs; substituting the original Bärenjäger will create a brighter, softer drink.

Without a dedicated honey liqueur recipe, Bärenjäger is an excellent sweetener. Pour it instead of simple syrup, honey, or similar ingredients to add a sweet, gently alcoholic touch to tea, coffee, and mixed drinks. Depending on the drink, you may have to adjust the amount in these substitutions, adding more or less honey liqueur to taste.

The honey liqueur is very versatile. The best liquor matches are whiskey and vodka, though it can work with others. It's also a nice accent to nearly any fruit—especially apples, citrus, and berries.

Cocktail Recipes

Bärenjäger works well in a variety of drinks, from hot toddies to spiked lemonade and martinis to shots. Experiment with the liqueur freely, and you'll soon discover many more options.

Where to Buy Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur

Bärenjäger enjoys wide distribution, though it's not going to be at every liquor store. The Honey & Bourbon expression might be even more challenging to find. The company's website has a store locator; check with the retailer to ensure it's currently in stock. If it's legal to ship or deliver liquor where you live, Bärenjäger is also available at several online shops. When you find it, know that this is a premium brand. While it's not one of the cheapest liqueurs available, the price remains reasonable.

Cooking With Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur

Bärenjäger is a fun addition to your cooking adventures as well. Simply use it in the same manner as either honey or wine; it makes a great barbecue sauce, for instance. Be sure to take into account the thickness of the liquid as well as the flavor.