I had some time off scheduled and when trying to figure out what to do with it, I looked at a map and my Tuesday challenge book They Year of Drinking Adventurously and decided I had time for a road trip.
Our author has taken us to some crazy places and had us drink some ridiculous stuff (pruno?!), but this next one was do-able. Malort is a bitter liqueur with Swedish roots akin to absinthe. It gets it’s name from it’s primary ingredient; wormwood is malort in Swedish. Sweden was one of the few countries that never banned absinthe and the Swedish immigrants who came to this country brought with them this bitter liqueur.
A fellow by the name of Carl Jeppson made his living during prohibition by making alcohol for “medicinal purposes.” By the time prohibition came to an end, the Swedish community of Chicago knew to ask for Jeppson’s Malort by name at their local tavern.
Fast forward to today. Jeppson’s Malort is still a staple in Chicago, but have moved their production to Florida. A few local distilleries have begun making their own versions. I did some research in advance of my road trip and found a website that has a malort map! This made my scavenger hunt a little easier.
Via the map, I found Owen and Engine. I went in early on a Sunday afternoon and was thankful the place was not very full. I sat down at the bar and told the bartender, Luke, what I was up to. He was excited when I told him I needed a cocktail, dealer’s choice. He made me one that they were still finalizing before putting on the menu. It was a tasty riff on a Salty Dog with lime juice, pamplemousse liqueur, house infused tarragon vodka, malort, saline, and peychauds. Another thing Luke served me was the Malort shot, which is tiny, simplified version of my cocktail. Also, quite good.
Luke also let me taste Jeppson’s Malort and the local Letherbee’s Besk. It being sunday, and I was in a rush to get to my next stop before they closed, I didn’t get a chance to get a bottle of Besk. But it will be on my bar soon. Both are strong bitter liqueurs, but the Besk, has a softness and wonderful finish that lasts. Malort’s finish lasts, but you can’t wait for it to go away. Maybe good for indigestion, but not something I can recommend on it’s own.
Luke made this week’s challenge one for history books. So if you are reading this, Luke you are awesome! Now run along and see what Meg did. I’m fairly certain this week was a skip for her, so see what she came up with.
Enjoy your Tuesday, whatever you may be drinking!