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The Tippling Point | Sidney Frank's Dream to be a Millionaire and his Luck With Jagermeister

One evening while Sidney Frank walked around the German immigrant colony at Manhatten, he saw people sipping a curious drink. He asked what it was. Jagermeister is a German digestif distilled from 56 herbs and spices.

Manu Remakant |

Updated:July 1, 2018, 12:35 PM IST
The Tippling Point | Sidney Frank's Dream to be a Millionaire and his Luck With Jagermeister
Image for Representation

News18 Tippling Point Sidney Frank was born in Montville, US to immigrant Jewish parents who supported themselves by raising chickens and vegetables on the family farm. Legend tells us that his mother had to sew burlap sacks together to make the sheets they used.

Frank’s greatest dream was to become a millionaire.

He started early in his life to make money. Frank found that the Mohegan rock near his home, one of the largest natural formations in the country, attracted a lot of tourists round the year. So one morning people found a crudely built ladder near the massive rock.

If you want to savour the unobstructed views of Long Island Sound from the top of the Mohegan rock, his invention could help but with a small fee.

Frank took whatever he could save from the ladder business and joined the Brown University. When money ran out after the first year he dropped out but not before striking a valuable friendship with his roommate, David Sarnoff.

A year later Sarnoff invited our hero to a party, where he was introduced to Lewis Rosenstiel, then the largest distiller and beverage importer in the US. The latter was impressed by the charm of Frank and asked why he couldn’t join him to develop an alcohol-based motor fuel.

The fuel wasn’t developed but a relation with Rosentstiel’s daughter did. Later in an interview Frank said “It is easier to marry a million than to make a million.”

Frank married the millionaire, Louisie Rosentstiel.

But the relationship with the family was not smooth. Frank soon found himself standing before the closed door of Rosenstiel’s business. It didn’t matter. By that time he had garnered enough knowhow in the spirit industry. Following the untimely death of Lousie, Frank founded the Sidney Frank Importing Company.

At that time, it was no rosy scenario for a newbie to flourish in the liquor industry. He waited for his moment.

One evening while Sidney Frank walked around the German immigrant colony at Manhatten, he saw people sipping a curious drink. He asked what it was. Jagermeister is a German digestif distilled from 56 herbs and spices.

Once he got back to his apartment Frank shot a letter to the president of Jagermeister asking for exclusive distribution rights. He was given the same.

Wasn’t that a thoughtless gamble!

Jagermesiter made from an assortment of herbs and spices could be appealing to the Germans but outside the community, it was called liver glue because of its yucky taste. Frank did everything to lift the drink out of its shady image, selling nearly all his assets, in vain.

Then in the mid-1980s, when Frank might have thought nearly he was all done, Jagermeister miraculously shuffled away its image and shot up to become a cult status.

It was no curious advertising strategy, no new sort of packaging; no new ingredients that helped the drink pull out this magic. It happened all because of an article that appeared in a magazine, which quoted students of the Louisiana State University describing the drink as “liquid Valium” and one of the best aphrodisiacs available.

Frank saw the opening and barged in with all his cylinders firing. He made hundreds of copies of the article and posted it everywhere, especially in men’s rooms of local bars and campuses. Apart from the deluge of billboards that suddenly flooded the streets of the country, Frank innovated a hitherto unseen strategy in the spirit industry.

Hundreds of Jagerettes, beautiful and scantily clad young ladies began to patrol the bars dispensing shots of Jagermeister to the new clientele. Jagerdudes took care of the gay bars.

Frank also knew that the drink in room temperature was still lousy. So he gave orders to build a specially made Jagermeister Tap Machine, which could dispense cold shots that froze the yuckiness of the drink. Sales exploded!

By the 1990s Frank was a legend in the industry. Even the big names in the spirit business acknowledged the marketing genius in him, condescendingly. How could they imagine that this minnow from Montville could one day threaten them, the giant sharks and whales of the spirits industry!

For Sydney Frank, there was only one small step now between him and his childhood dream of becoming a millionaire. He must restructure the basic principles by which spirits were sold in the US and elsewhere.

Frank might have thought at the moment how he started out his life with a crude ladder put against the Mohegan rock many decades ago when he was a small boy.

Soon he summoned all his executives for a crucial meeting.

(The story will continue...)

(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)

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| Edited by: Sana Fazili
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