Curious about the Underberg Bitters you’ve been using this month to set your Flaming Rosemary Gimlet on fire? Underberg is actually a 170-year-old herbal digestif made in Germany, though they famously source herbs from 43 different countries! Made with a secret Semper Idem production process followed by months maturing in casks made of Slovenian oak, it’s been well known in Europe for generations.
For many years on this side of the pond, Underberg has been slowly eking out its own share of the herbal digestive supplement market. And now, with the craft cocktail revival, we’re seeing more and more uses of Underberg in mixed drinks! Recently, the famous Violet Hour in Chicago even hosted an Underberg takeover event where cocktails weren’t just made with Underberg—rather, it was the base of all the drinks!
So you can use it to settle the stomach after a meal, add a dash or two of herbal bliss to your drinks, or even as a base to create some amazing herbal concoctions. Whatever you do, just don’t throw out those caps—they can be redeemed for PRIZES!
We’ve interviewed Hubertine Underberg-Ruder—the daughter of Emil Underberg, the current owner of the Underberg Group—to get her personal take on this iconic product.
S&S: How often do you personally drink Underberg, and why?
HUR: For its prompt and effective digestive function, especially when I have a good meal . . . which I have often.
S&S: Yum! Do you always drink it straight or do you ever mix it?
HUR: Always straight.
S&S: Underberg has recently celebrated 170 years. How have you noticed people’s perception of Underberg change over all this time?
HUR: The trust in the brand and in its digestive effect has always been the core perception. However, the elements creating the “Underberg moment” have certainly changed over the years. For example, 170 years ago, the idea of a BBQ was not relevant to consumers in Europe, whereas today BBQ events are one main occasion in the summer season for our natural herbal digestive. Underberg was always used together with beer . . . in the old days, the stomach warmer or beer chaser were the predominant moments of consumption. Today, the environment of the craft beer movement is very relevant for the brand.
S&S: Given its popularity in Europe, why would you say it’s less easy to find in the US?
HUR: Until a few years ago, developing the on-premise business was always a challenge for Underberg and its unique concept. However, it’s now growing in popularity and appreciation as the leading all-natural herbal digestive. A growing number of key on-premise accounts now carry it and it’s also available throughout the country in key liquor chains, natural food chains (such as Whole Foods), and online stores.
S&S: That’s great news! Underberg actually first caught our attention in Brad Thomas Parsons’s book Bitters—but it’s been growing in popularity for a few years as a cocktail ingredient and is used at some of the world’s most well-known bars. Is this something the company has consciously worked toward or has it come from the bartenders themselves?
HUR: From the bartenders. When talking to them, they tell us that they are interested in the special characteristics that the intense flavors are offering—and also the fact that Underberg contains no added sugar.
S&S: Those special flavors are definitely a main factor in what drew us to Underberg for inclusion in our Gincember Box. What, if anything, have you done to encourage the use of Underberg as a cocktail ingredient?
HUR: Nothing. It’s being used by mixologists across the country as part of their general demand and experimentation with cocktail bitters. Underberg is, in effect, part of the cocktail trend by default rather than any active participation from our side.
S&S: What’s your favorite feedback or comment anyone has ever made after trying Underberg?
HUR: That they trust the brand and rely on it for being the natural herbal digestive.
S&S: We also love that every Underberg cap is a potential prize! How did that rewards program first come about?
HUR: The program’s first steps go back to Italy in the 1970s and 1980s. The program was then revived in 2002—first in Germany, and today in more than 73 countries worldwide.
S&S: How many Underberg prizes have been given out since the start of the program?
HUR: We’ve send out over 600,000 redemptions based on the top 10 most popular awards.