John Smeaton

John Smeaton

I love it when talking about a drink brings out a visceral reaction from people. Concepts of “good” and “bad” drinks aside, the best conversations start when someone gets all fired up about elements of their favorite thing or furious about the existence of something else. The latter is the case with the John Smeaton. When I polled some friends for their thoughts on the cocktail, answers ranged from “I avoided them as much as physically possible” to a simple “boke” (Scottish for vomit). There were no positive answers. When I explained the drink to my husband, his brain basically shut down and he went into a tirade for a full 5 minutes. Truly hilarious.

The John Smeaton appears to have been a short-lived cocktail in Scotland in late 2007, named for the Glasgow Airport baggage handler (not the 18th century civil engineer of the same name) credited with stopping a terror attack in June 2007. Reportedly, after two men in a jeep filled with explosives attempted to drive into the airport, Smeaton shouted “fuckin’ mon, then” and kicked one of the terrorists in the crotch before dragging one of his colleagues to safety. Smeaton was celebrated as a hero and iconic Glaswegian, eventually being honored with the Queen’s Gallantry Medal and this cocktail. The drink seems to be named in honor of Smeaton, rather than a creation of his; if anyone can send me info to the contrary or some contact details for Smeaton, that would be grand in clearing this up.

So how does a drink named for such a brave man become so vilified? Two words: Jäger bomb. While certainly there still are bars making various Jäger bombs, it’s 2019 and trendy drinking culture has shifted from the aggressive Jäger-fueled night out to a more crafted, “conscious” mode of drinking. Some might say that there are different image values involved in ordering a drink these days.

Or, I dunno, maybe I’m talking trash. Would you order a Jäger bomb today? In front of people? How old are you? Let me know honestly. (This is a zero judgment zone; I am genuinely interested)

My memories, though admittedly fuzzy, are positive regarding the John Smeaton. I’ve never been hugely into Jägermeister (it’s a divisive beverage, yes; I can take it or leave it), but combining it with the citrus/cream soda/bubble gum/ginger flavors of Irn-Bru has been the best method I’ve had of drinking it. However, in writing this, I was reminded that it’s been 12 years since I had a John Smeaton and also my usual drink of choice at that time was vodka with Dr. Pepper as the mixer, so PERHAPS my palate was dumb and my memories are imperfect.

I dropped by Crazy Bastard for Irn-Bru (making a mental note to pick up a cheeky bottle of Bucky the next time I’m there) and the grocery store for mini Jägermeister bottles since my freezer is too small to keep a bigger bottle rattling around. I was a little apprehensive, but you know what? IT’S NOT A BAD DRINK! That characteristically strong herbal element of the Jäger is cut and balanced well by the sweetness and carbonation of the Irn-Bru. I didn’t down it in one go because I am a weak adult and also I drank it at 2 in the afternoon, which I suppose goes against the whole concept but whatever. Sipping is fine. This summer I’ll definitely experiment with frozen versions; I think they will hold up well.

Ingredients & Method:

  • Shot of Jägermeister

  • Can of Irn-Bru

Exact measurements go against the spirit of the John Smeaton. This is a drink to start your night off with a bang, a drink for partiers with a mouth full of sweet teeth and hearts full of Scottish patriotism, a drink for pretending hangovers aren’t real, a drink for kicking a terrorist in the groin. Pour Irn-Bru into a big glass, drop the Jäger shot in, chug the whole thing. Fuckin’ mon, then.

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