Malört is not bourbon. It's not any kind of whiskey. It's barely even a beverage.
But malört is a unique Chicago thing, a digestif that is so awful it makes Jaegermeister taste like Pepsi. It's worse than Jeremiah Weed. Most moonshine tastes better. In fact, malört tastes like moonshine aged in cardboard boxes.
Malört, officially classified as a liqueur, may be the most disgusting liquid ever declared fit for human consumption.
During Prohibition, Chicago's Swedish immigrants recreated a drink popular in their homeland, by infusing herbs and other ingredients into neutral spirit, and sweetening it with sugar. Wormwood, famous for its role in absinthe, is a key ingredient. Malört is the Swedish word for wormwood.
After Repeal, Carl Jeppson began to make a legal malört and Jeppson's Malört has been the only one you could buy until recently.
The new malört on the block is R. Franklin’s Original Recipe Malört. As reported by Robert Simonson in the New York Times, 'R. Franklin' is the nom de bar of Robert Franklin 'Robby' Haynes, who manages The Violet Hour in Wicker Park. Haynes first tasted malört about five years ago and began to think about how it might be improved.
The producer is Leatherbee Distillery, a new micro in Humbolt Park.
Right now, you can taste R. Franklin’s Original Recipe Malört at The Violet Hour, but you can't buy a bottle. That may change.
Should malört be improved? A malört that doesn't trigger the gag reflex hardly seems worth its umlaut.