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Jeppson’s Malört: the world’s worst tasting liquor?

3 min read

If you’re not into liquors and probably all taste bad for you, there’s a particular liquor that, apparently, everyone agrees tastes horrible.
It’s called malört and, over the years, it has been compared to battery acid, pesticide and gasoline.

Carl Jeppson Co., a Chicago company, has built a minor social media empire around malort’s “brutal” flavor. Although Jeppson’s Malört is most often associated with the American city of Chicago, its roots are in Sweden, where where “malört” is the word for “wormwood”, a weedy plant that’s also the key ingredient in absinthe, a notoriously bitter herb known for its ability to kill stomach worms and other parasites. Swedes first started infusing it into distilled alcohol in the 1400s, calling it besk, a folk remedy for digestive problems, and it reached US shores with the first Swedish immigrants.
The awful taste didn’t appeal to many, so it’s no wonder that malört faded into obscurity pretty much everywhere. Except Chicago where, for some reason, locals not only accepted its horrible aroma, they actually embraced it.
It seems that much of the drink’s success can be attributed to the city’s bartenders, as they adopted as their “secret handshake”, and this allowed the drink to thrive, despite its terrible aroma.
Another important component in the Jeppson’s Malört success story is, of course, social media: the company has embraced malört’s reputation as one of the most foul alcoholic drinks on the face of the Earth, promoting it with slogans like “turning taste buds into taste foes for generations,” and boasting about its brutal flavor.
Interestingly, while pretty much everyone agrees that Jeppson’s Malört is an unsavory drink, when it comes to identifying its taste, everyone has their own opinion. But you can be sure people’s descriptions of malört will be as nasty as its taste.
Someone said that It tastes like someone vomited up their gin and now you’re drinking it from a shoe, while another customer wrote “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 Malört”.

In any case, Malört tastes so bad that when Carl Jeppson started selling it during out of a suitcase on the sidewalk, during Prohibition, its awful aroma was what kept him out of jail. When police officers came to inspect the legality of his business, Jeppson would offer them a taste and they always agreed that what he was selling was most definitely not a recreational good.
The countenance of first-time drinkers of this atrocious liquor has become known as “Malört Face”, and Chicagoans love pranking their out-of-town friends with a glass of their local spirit.
In any case, despite its reputation as a terribly unsavory sprit (or perhaps because of it) the malört brand has been thriving in recent years and, although still mostly consumed in Illinois, the drink has slowly been adopted by other markets as well.

Images from web – Google Research

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