Jeppson’s Malört: the unofficial beverage of Chicago. Named for Swedish immigrant Carl Jeppson, who brought the drink to America, the wormwood-based schnapps became an Andersonville mainstay during Prohibition. (It was legal, as it was deemed a “medicinal alcohol”—we assume it’s the miracle cure for my-mouth-tastes-too-normal-and-good-right-now disease.) Today, you can find the iconic label behind nearly every bar in the city, and tattooed to waaaaay too many biceps in Logan Square.
While we can (mostly) all agree that Malört tastes, um, unsavory, we can’t all seem to agree the specific way in which the liquor ravages our taste buds. Professional food and drink writers and anonymous internet commenters alike have taken on the great task of identifying Malört’s unique putridity. So we collected our favorite descriptions of this utterly un-sippable Chicago drink, for your heaving pleasure.
“Most first-time drinkers of Jeppson’s Malört reject our liquor. Its strong, sharp taste is not for everyone. Our liquor is rugged and unrelenting (even brutal) to the palate…we found only 1 out of 49 men will drink Jeppson’s Malört after the first ‘shock-glass.’” — Original Jeppson’s Malört label
“Jeppson Malört has the aroma and full-bodied flavor of an unusual botanical. Its bitter taste is savored by two-fisted drinkers.” — Current Jeppson’s Malört label
“It tastes like pencil shavings and heartbreak.” — John Hodgman on WTF with Marc Maron
“Malort tastes like fertilizer except it doesn’t grow on you.” — The “Wall of Malort” at Nisei Lounge in Wrigleyville
“Imagine twisting damp socks after a heavy workout and squeezing the moisture into a bottle. Fill the bottle with that, let it ferment in a warm closet. That’s Malort.” — Reddit user borkbork99
“Malört tastes like a baby aspirin wrapped in a grapefruit peel, bound with rubber bands and then soaked in well gin.” — Sam Mechling, marketing director for Jeppson’s Malört, to Inked magazine
“But you have to earn living in Chicago. You earn it by living through those winters. And if Malört isn’t the liquid equivalent of a Chicago winter, I’m not really sure what is.” — The Violet Hour head mixologist Toby Maloney to Munchies
“Subject: A stupid Chicago tradition has gone TOO FAR… This literally tastes like throw up. That is not an exaggeration. The aftertaste is just about the worst thing I’ve ever had in my mouth OTHER than the aftertaste of vomit… It was the worst liquor I’ve ever had, and hopefully my review will save you from having to endure this STUPID tradition. If someone ever calls you un-manly…” — Binny’s Beverage Depot website commenter tapoutrightnow
“This Malort tastes like Nintendo Switch cartridge.” — Someone Twitter user @kazeugma overheard at MAGFest
“It tastes like someone vomited up their gin and now you’re drinking it from a shoe.” — Reddit user Look_to_the_Stars
“What can you say about drinking Malört that hasn’t already said…about drinking pesticide?” — Sean Cooley, Thrillist
“It’s like swallowing a burnt condom full of gas.” — Jason Sudeikis’ character, Gene, in Drinking Buddies
“When you’re putting your kid’s shoes on and it’s getting to be time to replace them—the way they smell is how Malört tastes.” — Whet Moser, Senior editor, Chicago magazine
“What does a punch in the face taste like? Just try Malört.” — Kat Odell, Eater