It’s not unusual for first-time drinkers of Jeppson’s Malört to freak out. Reactions to this bitter booze, including the popular meme known as “Malört Face,” are so strong that onlookers regularly capture friends’ first shots on camera.
The drama is not without warrant. Jeppson’s Malört is 70-proof alcohol infused with the particularly bitter wormwood plant. Multiple online reviews liken Malört to drinking bug spray. For years, the back of Malört bottles even boasted that the harsh, herbaceous liquor was “rugged and unrelenting (even brutal)” and that “only one out of 49 men will drink Jeppson’s Malört.”
Swedish immigrants—who also drank Malört for its purported medicinal benefits—brought it with them to the United States. But the bitter liquor was far from a national success. Its fans were, and still are, limited to Chicago.
Jeppson says the drink appeals to a “unique group of drinkers who disdain light flavor or neutral spirits.” According to Mark Brown, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, it has “shot-and-a-beer roots” and cult-like status at Mexican bars and among the biker community. But the heart of the matter, he says, “seems to be nobody else wants it.”
Need to Know
You can find Jeppson's Malört in bars and stores around the Chicago area. It's made in Florida, but it's enjoyed in Chicago.