The Hunter’s Spirits

By Andy Hahn
The idea for this gallery began fermenting during my red stag hunt in Argentina when a bottle of San Huberto Malbec appeared at the dinner table. Pointing out the chase scene (horsemen and hounds) on the label, our guide Carlos Martinez told us San Huberto is the patron saint of hunters. When I got home I began researching and learned that Bodegas San Huberto is located in La Rioja, Argentina. I also learned that San Huberto, in English, is known as St. Hubertus.
Saint Hubertus lived from 658 to 727 A.D., and is known as the Apostle of the Ardennes (a region of extensive forests, rolling hills and ridges, primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg). Hubertus is the patron saint of hunters, archers, dogs, forest workers, trappers, mathematicians, metal workers and smelters. Prior to his conversion, Hubertus was an avid hunter who spent more time in the woods than anywhere else. One Good Friday morning, when he skipped church to go hunting, he saw a glowing crucifix between a stag's antlers and heard God's voice instructing him to mend his ways and lead a holy life. Painting from
I once saw a bright cross above a deer's head. Instead of interpreting it as a mystic experience, however, I simply switched off the scope's illuminated reticle and adjusted my aim. St. Hubertus must have indulged in more than just hunting because I found his name and image on several other brands of alcoholic beverages. Artwork from
The St. Hubertus Estate Winery is located near Kelowna, British Columbia, in Canada's Okanagan Valley.
Hunters who want to Zwack 'em and stack 'em can try St. Hubertus, a popular drink in Hungary. Made by The Zwack House using a recipe they've kept secret for more than 100 years, the herbal liqueur contains 36 percent alcohol by volume and carries a light orange flavor.
I found this photo on the Internet. Li'l help here? Anybody read Hungarian?
I packed Jagermeister for my big-game hunts in Argentina because the label features a red stag. And now I've learned that glowing cross is a reference to whom? This German herbal liqueur's ingredients include 56 herbs, fruits, roots, and spices. Curt Mast, the inventor of Jagermeister, was an enthusiastic hunter; the term jagermeister referred to senior foresters and gamekeepers in the German civil service.
While other makers of adult beverages warn us to drink in moderation, Jagermeister reminds us to hunt responsibly. That script around the label's perimeter comes from the poem Weidmannsheil by the forester, hunter, and ornithologist Oskar von Riesenthal (1830-1898). Translation: "It is the hunter's honor that he protects and preserves his game, hunts sportsmanlike, honors the Creator in His creatures."
Located in the southern part of California's Napa Valley, the original Stags' Leap Winery was founded in 1893 by Horace and Minnie Chase. They named the winery after a Wappo legend that tells of a buck jumping off the rocky palisades to escape hunters. The label depicts a mule deer taking the plunge, so I give this vino bonus points for geographical accuracy. Stags' Leap Winery was the first to be established in the Stags Leap District, an area that grows some of the finest red wine grapes in all of California. The winery is famous for its refined and elegant Cabernet Sauvignons as well as its Petite Syrah, which comes from a handful of very old vines on the estate.
In 1972 Warren and Barbara Winiarski founded Stag's Leap Wine Cellars just down the road from their similarly named competitors. Notice two differences between the labels: placement of the apostrophe, and this one features a gnarly red stag with four hooves on the ground.
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars is best known for its estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignons–CASK 23, S.L.V., and FAY. Over the years, these have become some of the most highly regarded and collected wines worldwide.
Let's jump from the Napa Valley to the Scottish Highlands, where red deer roam and Meikles of Scotland produces Stag's Breath Liqueur. The beverage contains a blend of Speyside whiskies and fermented honey.
Serve this German liqueur, Barenjager ("Bear Hunter"), and your friends will say, "SWEET!" Medieval hunters lured bears with a honey-based hooch called meschkinnes; based on these recipes, East Prussia's Teucke & Konig Bear Trap Company introduced Barenjager in the 15th century. Now made by Schwarze & Schlicte, the label depicts a man enticing a bruin to step in a trap baited with a beehive. Try mixing Barenjager with hot tea to warm up after a cold day afield.
Yukon Jack–named after Leroy Napoleon "Jack" McQuesten (1836-1909), an explorer, trader and prospector who became known as "Father of the Yukon"–is a honey-based whiskey billed as the black sheep of Canadian liquors. The stuff sold in the USA (bottled in Hartford, Connecticut) rates 100 proof, while YJ sold in Canada is only 80 proof. Mix Yukon Jack and Wild Turkey in equal proportions and you have a drink called the Canadian Hunter. I seriously doubt that consuming it will improve your marksmanship or stalking skills.
From Black Sheep to the Dark Continent: The marula tree holds special importance in African folklore as a source of food and for the bark's medicinal properties. It defies cultivation, so the yellowish fruit must be harvested in the wild to provide the main ingredient for making Amarula Cream. Elephants sometimes get inebriated and stagger around after eating fermented marula fruit. Perhaps that's where the idea for the liqueur came from.
Recognize this constellation? Orion, The Hunter stalks the celestial equator and can be seen throughout the world. He should consider investing in some good camo to reduce that visibility.
Greek mythology tells us Orion once boasted that he could kill every animal on the planet. (He should have heeded that verse on the Jagermeister label.) This arrogance offended Mother Earth, so she sent a giant scorpion to kill him. Thanks to influential friends, Orion was awarded a place in the heavens after his death. The scorpion is up there too, just to keep him humble. What does this have to do with liqueur?
Any culture that immortalizes the figure of a hunter deserves mention here, and ouzo is Greece's national drink. The anise-flavored liqueur should be sipped slowly while snacking on finger foods. Serve chilled ouzo while sharing a tray of cheese, crackers and venison bologna with friends.
My wife, Ligia, offers Carlos a dose of Jagermeister to celebrate a successful red stag hunt in La Pampa. Cheers!

Toast the season and stay warm after a long day in the field by pouring wines and liqueurs with hunting themes.