Underberg is a specific kind of alcohol. It is not liquor, and it is not made with any sugar. It is sold in tiny bottles and despite its 44% alcohol content, the tiny bottles of Underberg can be sold in grocery stores and pharmacies as well as bars and liquor stores.
The taste of Underberg is best described as fire water. It has a relatively high alcohol content, so you can expect it to give your throat that unpleasant burning sensation. Its taste is intense and botanic, with hints of licorice.
What Is Underberg?
Underberg is more than an alcoholic drink. The FDA classifies it as “non potable bitters” meaning it is food, and you do not need to be 21 to purchase it. It has been used as a digestive aid in Germany for years, but can also be spotted in bars.
A bottle of Underberg reads: “Underberg is an herb bitters for digestion, it is not a beverage. Not to be quickly supped, but taken all at once and quickly because of its aromatic and strong taste. It is also used as a flavoring.”
Supposedly, some of the extracts used to create the bitterness in Underberg comes from Slovenian oak. This ingredient is somewhat common in other alcoholic drinks, like wine. Large barrels of Slovenian oak extract are sold because they age wonderfully.
Another known ingredient in Underberg is gentian root. The Gentiana plant is native to mountainous areas of central and southern Europe. It is known as the king of bitter herbs. The properties of the Gentiana plant that have health benefits are found exclusively in its roots.
Gentian root is microbial and anticarcinogenic. It is also found in teas and herbal extracts, and can help regulate the immune system. This is another part of why Underberg is known to be a sufficient digestive aid.
It is not recommended to use as a drink when the goal is inebriation, as it is a digestive aid. Results from trying to get drunk from Underberg will probably be more than you bargained for. The brand’s slogan is, “it cannot be explained; it must be experienced.”
History of Underberg
This brand was created by Hubert Underberg in Germany in 1846. He played around with the recipe for a few years, and eventually settled on a complex blend of herbs. He claims Underberg contains herbs from 43 different countries. Over a century later, the exact recipe is only known to five members of the Underberg family.
Underberg became incredibly successful once it was launched. It was presented at the first World Exhibition in 1851 in London. Soon after that, it made its way to America, first being sold in San Francisco in 1860.
Hubert Underberg’s grandson moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1933, and started selling his own version of the beverage. First it was called the Underberg of Brazil and is now known as Brasilberg. Paul Underberg (the grandson) claims that this version contains ingredients that have been sourced from the Amazon.
Even the prohibition in the 1920s didn’t stop Underberg being imported and sold, because it is not technically classified as alcohol. Underberg stopped being produced during the First and Second World Wars, though, because the family couldn’t obtain the herbs needed for the recipe.
The Purpose of Underberg
So, according to the FDA, it’s classified as a food. But it clearly is not food. The company says that it is “herb bitters.” The main purpose of Underberg is to help settle your stomach and aid digestion, which is why it can be sold in grocery stores and pharmacies that don’t typically sell alcohol.
Many compare it to Jagermeister, but they are not the same thing. Though, they both do have digestive health benefits. Perhaps the biggest difference is that Jagermeister is commonly drunk with the intention of intoxication. Underberg was originally marketed as a medicine.
Herbal bitters are particularly receptive to taste receptors that are in our gallbladder, pancreas, and stomach.One bottle of Underberg is 20ml, or barely half of one ounce. This is considerably smaller than most other well-known alcoholic beverages that are sold in cans. A ten-pack of Underberg costs around $50 in the US.
Once ingested, the bitter compounds in Underberg can help slow the appetite while increasing the absorption of glucose, helping you feel full for longer. Many like to eat it after a big meal to help settle their stomach and ease nausea.
Underberg is a complex beverage made from about 43 herbs, many of which are unknown to the general public. It is classified as “herb bitters” by the FDA, and is not intended to be drunk for inebriation purposes, despite its considerably high alcohol content.
It is sold in tiny 20ml bottles, and the flavor is described as intensely aromatic. Underberg is meant to be drunk all at once, and used as a digestive aid. The fiery burn of the alcohol combined with the herbs can help to settle your stomach.
Underberg has an extremely intense taste that is botanic with hints of licorice.