9/10/2012 01:53:00 PM

Bitter Booze Trend: 13 Malört Cocktails In Chicago

Malört may soon lose its monopoly on the go-to local bitter spirit; see slide 12.
Malört is the spirit of Chicago - so why have you never heard of it? We've noticed the bitter liquid popping up on cocktail lists all over town, but anyone who is unfamiliar with the city’s dive bar or craft beverage scenes probably looks at this strange word with a cocked head and confusion.

For the newbies, here is a little history.

Jeppson’s Malört Liquor is a Swedish spirit distilled from wormwood. It is named after Carl Jeppson, a Swedish immigrant who brought the bitter alcohol to Chicago. It was distilled and distributed in the Windy City exclusively until the mid '70s, when production was moved to Florida, but Chicago remained the sole distributor - lucky us.

You might call it the Guinness of the Midwest or the Fernet of Chicago. Drinking some could be called a rite of passge - Malört virginity is quickly stripped with a room-temperature shot of the amber-tinted liquid. It’s going to hurt the first time. A distinctly herbal flavor is up front, with an intense bitter finish. The liquid has hints of grapefruit and earth with 35% alcohol.

Most commonly consumed in a single shot (and pressed on unsuspecting victims to provoke a “Malört face”), local bartenders have embraced the liqueur’s unique qualities in cocktails. We've rounded up 13 Malört-infused concoctions created by some of the most talented mixologists Chicago has to offer. Do not attempt to consume all 13 in one evening, but do use this as a guide to the Malört landscape. It’s a treacherous path, but there are delicious stops along the way.

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