Thursday, January 3, 2013

Violet Hour and Leatherbee Make a Better Malört

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.


frederic said...

The Bittermens apparently have a Malort coming out. Haven't tried it but you can read more here:

Justin Victor said...

I think I first heard about this stuff on Drinking Made Easy when Zane Lamprey was in Chicago. He could barely gag it down. Zane not being able to down a shot of booze is like Andrew Zimmern barfing after eating some disgusting foreign dish. It just doesn't happen.

frederic said...

It's propaganda like Zane's that made me disappointed when I finally tried Malort and thought it was rather good. It lacks the sugar of most amaros, so it comes off a bit unbalanced in that manner; however, if you've gotten used to tasting nonpotable bitters (dasher bottle bitters), it is seems pretty tame.

Dolph Lundgren said...

Malort is a Chicago tradition - a right of passage. And the only path I know is Jeppsons. Most brands are defined by their product, but Malort is different. It's almost vice-versa - Malort is Jeppson's. I hate to see another brand try to milk a few bucks off of the reputation of another (we all know Malort is not going to be a high demand product - in reality, it's a novelty).

Also, I hate how how villianized Malort is these days. In reality, it's not that bad - it tastes like citrus rind (which we've all had) and has earthy notes. There are worst drinks out there (just try Fernet).

mike janowski said...

"In fact, malört tastes like moonshine aged in cardboard boxes."

LOL, Chuck. Not to mention the cardboard box also contains several old gym socks, well-used; and exotic herbals incuding Listerine wipes and dessicated balsam rope from their office decorations.

But I drink it anyway...