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Move over Malort? Chicago bar to brew their own beast

  • (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye)
(Lenny Gilmore/RedEye)
October 15, 2012|By Mick Swasko, @mickswasko | RedEye

Is Jeppson’s Malort still Malort if it isn’t harsh and bitter?

Pat Gabelick, president of the infamous local liquor brand, said she doesn’t think so. But according to the New York Times, the folks over at Wicker Park bar The Violet Hour are brewing up what could be a competitor for the storied brand, which has been around since the end of prohibition.

“I think what we’re doing is significantly more nuanced and layered,” Violet Hour manager Robby Haynes told New York Times “Diners Journal” writer Robert Simonson last week.

Haynes told the Times he’s found the original Malort “less remarkable” than when he first sipped it, and beyond wormwood, his version will include “grapefruit peel, juniper, elderflower, star anise and other botanicals.” It will also be significantly more potent at 50 percent alcohol compared to Jeppson's 35 percent. Haynes had previously been experimenting with his own recipe, and will now work with Humboldt Park’s Leatherbee Distillers to produce the drink to be sold exclusively at the bar.

“First of all, it doesn’t sound a bit like Jeppson’s Malort. They’re adding all sorts of other flavors which we don’t do,” Gabelick said, adding that Haynes probably just “got used to” the harsh flavor of her recipe. “But if that’s what they want to do, God bless them.”

Gabelick said she’s not threatened by the competition--which will be called R. Franklin’s Original Recipe--and said the drink sounds like something completely different on its own. She even said she’d be curious to try the concoction.

“If they want to make it more palatable, I guess that’s fine," she said. "But it certainly wouldn’t be Malort."

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