odd spirits Spirits travel

Odd Spirits: Malört

Quite possibly the worst tasting alcohol ever invented.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have tried Malört and those that have not. The only thing separating the two, is the PTSD those who have drank Malört now carry for the rest of their lives. For you see, Malört can easily be called the single worst alcohol ever invented. And yet somehow, it lives on, in bars all over Chicago. It’s like Chicago’s version of a sick joke.

Malört, overall, doesn’t sound terribly bad: it’s a Swedish wormwood liqueur, not unlike absinthe. Jeppson’s Malört is named after Carl Jeppson, the Swedish immigrant who first distilled and popularized the liquor in Chicago back in the 1930’s. The production of the recipe has changed several hands over the years but one thing that hasn’t changed is the taste.

It’s difficult to describe Malört, since everyone has their own particularly graphic way of explaining the taste. Frankly, Malört tastes like what burnt gasoline would taste like if left out in the hot sun. It has none of the forgiving flavour of its cousin absinthe, and all of the pain. The alcohol strips your taste buds of flavour, and the sensation lasts for far too long. The rumours say Carl designed this recipe as it was the only alcohol he could actually taste with his tobacco ruined tongue, and it shows.

Weirdly enough this awful alcohol has a severe cult following. It’s become somewhat of a rite of passage for Chicagoans, and fans of the brand are un-ironically attached to it. There are fan based videos, challenges and even slogans. Here’s a few for a taste:

  • Malort, kick your mouth in the balls!
  • Malort, when you need to unfriend someone IN PERSON.
  • Malort, tonight’s the night you fight your dad.
  • Malort, the Champagne of pain.
  • Malort, turning taste-buds into taste-foes for generations.
  • Drink Malort, it’s easier than telling people you have nothing to live for.
  • Malort, what soap washes its mouth out with.
  • Malort, these pants aren’t going to sh** themselves.


Now you could find ways of incorporating Malört into cocktails, and there are some out there that make it palatable. But, that’s not the true purpose of Malört and not one we would advocate. In fact, we wouldn’t advocate drinking Malört at all, but it remains a tradition in Chicago, so if you’re passed a shot, suck it up and join the club.


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