Illustration by John Kenzie
Illustration: John Kenzie

Garrett Popcorn Shops recently sued a former employee for allegedly stealing its top-secret recipes. Identifying her must have been a breeze, given that she was one of three people with the right thumbprint to access the more than 5,400 (!) digital files. That got us thinking: If caramel and cheese mix is this closely guarded, how might other iconic Chicago food brands protect their formulas — and what might their secret ingredients be?

Jeppson’s Malört

Security measure:A military bunker in the mountains
Trade secret:Swedish monks cultivate the wormwood, then dry it in old socks.

Green River Soda

Security measure:A safe at the bottom of an extant artesian well beneath the old Schoenhofen Brewery
Trade secret:That neon green? The result of a few drops of Chicago-style relish juice.

Frango Mints

Security measure:Under lock and key, inside one of Macy’s Great Clocks
Trade secret:Its special triple-distilled peppermint oil just isn’t enough these days. Enter CBD oil.

Lou Malnati’s Dough

Security measure:Grandpa Malnati’s will dictating that his recipe never be written down
Trade secret:Lake Michigan water isn’t the key to the flaky crust. Gallons of H₂0 are actually imported from — gasp! — New York City.