Unveiling the Bitter Charm: How Malort Became Chicago's Beloved Spirit

Unveiling the Bitter Charm: How Malort Became Chicago's Beloved Spirit


In the city of broad shoulders and deep-dish pizza, a unique and polarizing spirit has captured the hearts (and taste buds) of Chicagoans. Known as Malort, this bitter liqueur has become an emblematic part of the city's drinking culture. In this blog, we will uncover the intriguing story of how Malort became Chicago's favorite spirit, celebrated for its distinctive taste and the enduring spirit of the city itself.

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A Swedish Heritage:

Malort traces its roots back to the Swedish immigrant community that settled in Chicago. Created by Carl Jeppson, a Swedish immigrant, in the early 20th century, Malort was initially intended as a traditional Swedish wormwood liqueur. The recipe was handed down through generations, eventually finding its way to Chicago's bars and liquor stores.

A Taste Like No Other:

Malort's claim to fame, or infamy depending on who you ask, lies in its uniquely bitter and bold flavor profile. Described as intensely herbal, with strong notes of wormwood, grapefruit pith, and an earthy aftertaste, Malort is an acquired taste that lingers long after the shot is taken. It's the kind of drink that challenges and polarizes drinkers, becoming a badge of honor for those willing to endure its distinct bitterness.

A Rite of Passage:

Drinking Malort in Chicago has become a rite of passage, a test of one's fortitude and allegiance to the city. Visitors and locals alike willingly subject themselves to the challenge, braving the initial shock of its flavor and proudly sharing their experiences. It has become a badge of honor, a way to prove one's mettle and showcase their love for Chicago.

The Power of Word-of-Mouth:

While Malort's distinct taste might not appeal to everyone, its rise to prominence in Chicago is largely attributed to the power of word-of-mouth. The stories and experiences shared among friends and bar-goers have created a sense of curiosity and intrigue surrounding the spirit. The legend of Malort has spread like wildfire, drawing in adventurous souls seeking a truly unique drinking experience.

An Emblem of Chicago Resilience:

Beyond its taste, Malort embodies the spirit of Chicago itself—bold, unapologetic, and resilient. The city is known for its ability to weather storms and rise above challenges, and Malort reflects that indomitable spirit. It has become a symbol of Chicago's tough yet endearing character, proudly embraced by locals as a representation of their city.

Embracing the Malort Tradition:

Today, Malort has become a staple in Chicago's drinking scene. It can be found in bars, served as a shot or mixed in cocktails, and has even inspired its own line of merchandise. The spirit continues to evolve, with craft distilleries putting their own spin on the recipe, creating new interpretations while staying true to its bitter legacy.


Malort's journey from a traditional Swedish liqueur to Chicago's beloved spirit is a testament to the city's unique character and the power of shared experiences. Its distinct taste and enduring popularity have made it a cultural phenomenon, leaving an indelible mark on the city's drinking culture. Whether you embrace the bitter bite or prefer to watch others experience it, Malort has become an iconic part of Chicago's identity, celebrating the city's resilience and unapologetic spirit. Cheers to the enduring legacy of Malort and the city it calls home.

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