“It tastes like a ball of rubber bands, dipped in hairspray and ignited.”
Sounds enticing, right? No seriously. If you hear of a food, in this case a drink of alcohol, described as such, just try it for yourself, even if the result is going to be a disaster.
The above explanation is how I describe the taste of Malört to people. What is Malört? It’s both the most wondrous and hideous drink that adorns God’s Green Earth, that’s what.
There’s a lot of lore behind Malört, and while much of his origin story is probably apocryphal, it’s still a damn good story, so who cares? During Prohibition, Carl Jeppson, a Scandinavian immigrant living in Chicago, started making Malört at home. Jeppson went door to door selling his pungent liquor, professing its medicinal qualities to customers. Some believe the reason he got away with selling the booze during a ban was that after a policeman took a puff of Malört, they couldn’t understand the idea of it being sold. for another reason. To put it bluntly, the law believed that people would not choose to drink Malört if they had another option.
Malört is the kind of drink you should be prepared for. If you approach this shot glass thinking it’s whiskey, you’re going to be bitterly disappointed. Literally. It’s overwhelmingly bitter. The wrinkled reaction people have on the first try has become known as the “Face of Malört”, and that’s not a misnomer. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is doing it for the first time.
As a drink designed more to last than to be enjoyed, it’s probably the most “Chicago” thing ever. Since the rest of the country hates it, the people of Chicago have embraced it, as we are used to. I have a bottle of it on my desk right now. While normally I wouldn’t trust my co-workers to refrain from drinking my alcohol, I know they’re all too weak to try drinking this. The one time I shared it with them, I was reprimanded with a flood of profanity like you wouldn’t believe.
To be completely honest, I really like the stuff. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in Jersey for so long that my adoration is born out of scarcity more than anything else. Maybe it’s the opposite in me – I just love him because everyone hates him. Or, and when I was living in Chicago, I know that was true, but there was something really cool about being able to buy someone you don’t really like a picture of Malört as a subtle “kiss my ass”. You become magnanimous as you buy the shot, then gloat as the miserable SOB suffers.
Nobody likes Malört, either you like him or you hate him. In the gallery below you will find many people in the first category. Is the pain of getting a Malört tattoo better or worse than taking a sip or two from the bottle? Perhaps! There’s only one way to find out.
So get yourself a Chicago Handshake (an Old Style tallboy with a shot of Malört) and enjoy those Malört tattoos!