“Most first-time drinkers of Jeppson reject our liquor,” begins the brown label of a mysterious bottle featuring the Chicago flag. “Its strong, sharp taste is not for everyone.”
That’s an understatement. Somewhere between liquid earwax and fermented palm fawn lies Malort, a kind of schnapps named after the Swedish word for wormwood, one its key ingredients.
“During almost 60 years of American distribution, we found only one of 49 men will Jeppson Malort,” the label continues.
Malort is somewhat of a secret Chicago alcohol mascot. It features the city’s insignia and is only distributed in Chicago by the tight-lipped, media-wary Carl Jeppson Co. A representative from Carl Jeppson declined to comment for this article because of the negative press in the past.
The Internet Cocktail Database reports that Malort “has been adopted enthusiastically by bikers and is a mainstay at biker bars.” Whether this is true or not, it does seem that having Malort at your bar is either to cater to the old-school regulars or just an homage to times past.
However, some bars carry the liqueur for a much higher purpose — the hilarity potential.
“It’s like moonshine,” said Happy Village bartender Alex Jenski. “We give it to our friends just to mess with them.”
In line with other products with wormwood — which has a long history with medicinal use — Malort has been rumored to cure hangovers and stomach indigestion, Jenski said.
Personally, my stomach was physically offended after trying Malort. But maybe it’s one of those things like cold medicine — you make yourself taste something terrible to make your stomach pains comparatively better. Or maybe I am just not in — as Carl Jeppson would say — “that unique group of drinkers who disdain light flavor or neutral spirits.”