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East Dundee tavern hears call for Jager more often than any other Illinois bar

BandiBarney's 10 N River Street East Dundee has been told by its sales rep thit is biggest-selling Jagermeister bar Illinois.

Bandito Barney's 10 N River Street, East Dundee has been told by its sales rep that it is the biggest-selling Jagermeister bar in Illinois. Jagermeister is the most popular spirits of its kind and has been one of the biggest selling shots among young people, particularly since they started mixing it with energy drinks - Jager Bombs, Monday, August 19, 2013. Lauren Schroeder pours a shot. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 22, 2013 6:10AM

EAST DUNDEE — Bandito Barney’s Beach Club & Bordello — the bar with a Mexican-meets-nerd sounding name that was formerly owned by an Irish-American who at one time was a model in Australia — is the biggest Illinois on-premise seller of Germany’s Jagermeister, one of the world’s leading brands of spirits.

To mark the success, the bar at 10 N. River St. will be offering retro, price rollback Jagermeister-related specials on Wednesdays, Aug. 21, Sept. 18 and Oct. 16.

According to Kevin Hagan of Sleepy Hollow, who is state manager for Sidney Frank Importing, the Fox Valley hotspot known for its expansive beer garden recently overtook Joe’s Brewery in the college town of Champaign for the honor.

For those who are unfamiliar with Jagermeister — which means master hunter in German — the potent potable is a blend of 56 herbs, roots, fruits and spices that is best served chilled. It comes in a green bottle with the stag and cross on the label that are a symbol of St. Hubertus, the patron of hunters. The 70-proof brand launched in 1935 and is still run by the founding Mast family. Legend has it Nazi Gestapo founder Hermann Goring was partial to it.

Hagan noted that the brand is among the top 10 sellers in Illinois and in the top seven liquor brands worldwide. The company sold about 90 million bottles across the globe last year. According to industry reports, 80 percent of sales are outside of Germany with the U.S. the biggest market for Jagermeister.

In Illinois alone, Hagan said, Jagermeister moved 115,000 cases (with 12 bottles in a case) in 2012. Hagan said Bandito’s has been averaging about 15 to 18 cases a of Jagermeister a month, and its rise to best-seller is not surprising.

“It’s always been in the top five for us. It’s always been their brand,” Hagan said, adding that Jagermeister is popular at other watering holes close to it, too, making East and West Dundee a big bar market for the brand.

Bandito’s history

According to Hagan, what helped build the brand at Bandito’s was that in the late 1980s, the late Thom McNamee (who passed away in 2009) got one of the area’s first machines to keep Jagermeister cold. It was a spare given to him by Gene Booker of Booker’s, which was then located in Elgin. Now, those machines are behind about 4,000 bars in Illinois, according to Hagan.

McNamee bought the spot in 1978 with his twin brother Tim and local restaurateur George Karas. Attorney Tim was murdered in 1987, and Thom, who at one time had been working as a model in Australia, returned to the area to attend to family matters and businesses. First called Wall Street, the spot was renamed Bandito’s in 1985.

Hagan noted that when Roger Shelton bought the business late last year, Shelton made it one of his goals to become the Illinois bar that sells the most Jagermeister.

Bandito’s manager Ben Mahler — who has been with the establishment since 1999 — said that Jagermeister has always been a big seller for the bar and is by far the most popular shot there in one form or another. What pushed it “over the edge,” according to Mahler, was the emergence about six years ago of energy drinks and the mixing of Jagermeister with Red Bull to make a Jager Bomb.

These days, Bombs account for about a third of Jager sales at Bandito’s, Mahler said. The traditional straight, cold shot of it and Jagermeister with root beer — the Jager Barrel — account for the other two-thirds.

The latter has been growing in popularity over the course of the last year or so, Mahler said.

Hagan noted that many bars didn’t stock root beer, so a partnering with IBC helped grow the popularity of the Jager Barrel.

The first emphasis for marketing Jagermeister now is shots, then barrels, then other mixed drinks, Hagan said. And a focus of its appeal is celebrations and bonding the company feels Jagermeister represents.

To that end, something that makes Jagermeister unique is that about 40 percent of its sales in Illinois are to bars, with other brands more typically selling 80 percent or so through retailers. Hagan also noted that about 38 percent of Jager’s Illinois sales are downstate.

“It sells everywhere,” Hagan said.

At Bandito’s, Mahler said Jager’s popularity is across the board.

“It has lots of stuff going for it,” Mahler said, noting that it is easier to drink than harder-tasting liquors, and there is the aforementioned Jager cooling machine.

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