City Cast

The Fun and Funky History of Malört

Natalia Aldana
Natalia Aldana
Posted on July 6
Are you team Malört? (Jacoby Cochran / City Cast Chicago)

Are you team Malört? (Jacoby Cochran / City Cast Chicago)

Do you remember the first time you drank Malört? Are you feeling the burn right now reflecting on that moment you were forced by your buddies, egged on by your cousins, or feeling stupidly brave at your local bar? Are you making that “Malört face” right now?

Ahead of this Saturday’s Malört 5K '23, where runners will take a shot before and after the race and the first place winner gets a bottle of Malört — but the last place finisher wins two bottles — let’s explore the history of the wormwood-infused drink Food & Wine has described as “both off-putting and excellent.”

The beginnings

  • Malört was created by Carl Jeppson, who was born in Sweden in 1865. Some twenty years later, he immigrated to Chicago's Swedish area near Clyborn and Division where he opened a cigar manufacturing business.
  • Jeppson may have found a loophole in Prohibition law by selling his bäskbrännvin, a traditional Swedish style of bitters, as a medicinal product. After Prohibition ended in December 1933, the Jeppson’s Malört we know today was first produced.

Malört and Chicago: A Love Story

  • The Mar-Salle Distillery in Chicago produced Malort from 1953 to 1986. It was then produced by a Kentucky bourbon company for two years and then in Florida.
  • In 2011, Sam Mechling began promoting Jeppson’s Malört on social media and selling unlicensed shirts despite having no connection to the company. Mechling’s posts elevated Malört from a lesser-known spirit to a popular Chicago icon. The brand eventually hired him to market the drink.
  • In 2019, Malört production came back to Chicago.

Fun and funky Malört facts

🥃 We want to hear from you. What do you love or hate about Malört? Do you have a great Malört story? We’d love to share it with your fellow Hey Chicago readers in an upcoming newsletter.

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