How Did Jäger Bombs Explode Onto The Drinking Scene?

If you're partial to a big night out, you've probably seen or heard of a Jäger Bomb. This powerful mix of Jägermeister with Red Bull is a staple of college parties and bars across the world, although it's generally considered to be American in origin.

When it comes to specifics, there are no watertight sources linking one person or place to the creation of the Jäger Bomb. Red Bull arrived in America in 1996, nearly a decade after launching in its home country of Austria. It's fair to assume this drink is, at the very least, a Gen Z baby. Anecdotal evidence shared by mixologist Sideshow Pete supports this, with the combination being linked to Lake Tahoe in 1997.

Even within the confines of Lake Tahoe, there's something of a north-south divide when it comes to the Jäger Bomb. Two of the earliest adopters were Mulligan's bar in South Lake Tahoe and Humpty's in Tahoe City. Unfortunately, neither of the bars is around anymore and, therefore, cannot officially claim the drink. However, Sideshow Pete's "reliable source that [he has] personally known for many years" places the Jäger Bomb origin story firmly on the south side of the lake.

What was the first Jäger Bomb like?

The drink concocted in 1997 was slightly different to the one we're familiar with now. The story goes that bar manager Scott O'Neill was at Mulligan's with other bartenders, all hanging out and chugging Red Bulls together. Whether they were buzzed from the caffeine or were in the mood to experiment, the crew came up with the idea of combining the energy drink with Jägermeister.

Exactly why they chose Jägermeister is unclear, but perhaps easy access was a factor. The Jägermeister Tap Machine began to show up in American bars in the '90s, causing a boom in popularity for the drink. It seems possible that O'Neill and Co. saw a readily chilled option and capitalized on it.

In spite of the name, the first Jäger Bomb was not technically a bomb. It was made by pouring a can of Red Bull into a glass (no ice), adding two ounces of chilled Jägermeister, and then topping up with a splash of cranberry. It was more of a super simple cocktail than a bomb. The act of nestling the shot on top of the glass and tipping it came later, possibly coinciding with the popularity of the Irish Slammer in the '80s and '90s. The inclusion of cranberry juice seems to have been lost over time, which is unsurprising considering the drink's college party popularity. You already have the Red Bull and the Jäger, why would you want anything else?