A wholly accurate, unbiased, and professional review of Jeppson’s Malört
The best description I’ve heard of Malört is that that it tastes of pencil shavings and gasoline, with a strong aftertaste of regret. Though invented and now brewed in Chicago (production took an extended trip to Florida), it’s considered a member of the Swedish bäsk brännvins liquor family. This collection of seventy-to-eighty proof botanical spirits are brewed from potatoes, grains, and (surprise) wood cellulose. Like gin, it’s instilled with various herbs, but it also includes wormwood, the same psychoactive ingredient as absinthe. However, where absinthe is polished and refined, a muse for the likes of Poe and Picasso; Malört’s aesthetic is more likely found on the walls of the men’s room.
The flavor is strong; incredibly strong. Allegedly Carl Jeppson thrashed his taste buds smoking cigars, and this concoction was his answer to a flavorless world. Coincidentally, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, credit their products’ intense flavors to taste insensitivity as well. But where their product is creamy and sweet; a crescendo of fruity, nutty saccharine. Malört is brash, bitter, and very hard to pin down. It’s a Keith Moon drum solo to Ben and Jerry’s Yo-Yo Ma, a Sherman tank to a Ferrari. Many have tried to describe it and while no one quite agrees, the accounts are outstanding.
Malört is best taken straight or as a shot. Just like your extremist uncle, it does not mix well with others. Watered down, it is a sad shell of its former glory. Paradoxically, I find it also does not need a chaser. Herein lies both one of its signature features and its greatest pitfall.
Typically upon taking a shot we think,“Wow! I just had a lot of alcohol! I should wait a bit before I have any more. I should also probably drink some water. Maybe I’ll hit the dance floor (tequila).”
With Malört, it starts the same, “Wow!-”
But then the cautionary part of your brain is overruled by curiosity, and you think, “That is… Different! And interesting! I’d like to know what those flavors are!”
“I should have some more.”
And herein lies the rub. Next thing you know, you’ve had ten or twelve shots And are feeling great. Conversation is sparkling. You’re awesome. They’re awesome. Everything is awesome.
And then you’re vomiting profusely in your dear friends’ Upper East Side apartment bathroom... Bright side, you’re well anesthetized.
Next, you realize you passed out on the floor beside said toilet. Your friend is checking in on you while having a pee.
Now, they’re tucking you into bed on the couch because you’re too drunk to take the subway home. Yes,*that* drunk.
You wake up with a kitten purring on your chest (the good part), and the worst hangover of your life(the bad part), and you finally grasp that “aftertaste of regret.”
One might think that after such an experience one would avoid such a formidable solvent in the future. But regret is fleeting and hubris limitless. Inevitably one finds themselves tasting the bitter dragon again, certain that this time they will not get stuck on the Upper East Side.
This is of course a wholly generalized account that happens to all who try Malört, and is not based in any way whatsoever upon anyone’s (slightly fictionalized) first encounter with the inimitable (inimical?) Jeppson’s Malört.