Malört is coming home to the Windy City now that CH Distillery in Pilsen has purchased the iconic Chicago beverage. It’s often found in dark dive bars, possibly featured on a dare wheel on the wall. If you’ve never tried it, look for it in the next bar you go to, though you’ll be hard-pressed to find a good cocktail mixture. And, if you’re brave enough to take a shot of it yourself, god rest your soul.
The wormwood liquor has a uniquely bitter grapefruit taste to it and has been compared to cleaning solution and gasoline. But, as nasty as it is, Malört has become a right of passage to Chicago natives and transplants alike and has spawned a string of legendary traditions like the Malört 5K. I remember my first shot of Malört, which can only be described as both disgusting and eye-opening all at the same. The bitter beverage is notorious for giving its drinkers “Malört face” after taking even one sip, and I don’t blame them.
Malört was created by a Swedish immigrant, Carl Jeppson, in Chicago in the 1930s. Apparently, Jeppson’s tongue was so damaged from all the tobacco he smoked that Malört was the only thing he could actually taste. Today, Chicago is still the only place Malört is sold, even though it’s been produced in Florida and transported to Chicago to be sold in bars across the city since the 1970s.
CH Distillery founder Tremaine Atkinson purchased the beverage from the retiring president of Carl Jeppson Co. Rumor has it that he plans to expand beverage sales to other markets, such as Milwaukee, Seattle, and Austin.
Atkinson will serve Malört at his tasting room and produce the beverage at his distillery later this year. Welcome home, Malört.