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Holy Shit It's Only Wednesday: Liquor Review - Jeppson's Malort

It was a short, strange journey…one, it was suggested, that was worthy of documentation. And so, here we are.

Yes, welcome to the first Holy Shit, It’s Only Wednesday…our Liquor review segment which takes it’s title from the immortal George Carlin. The purpose here is to highlight the drinks that provide the light at the end of the long dark tunnel that is the work week. And for our first, boy do we have a doozy.

It all started on Twitter.

My Twitter interests tend to go in three directions: cute dogs, movies (horror and sci-fi in particular) and Transformers. I know, rather obvious given the content of the site. That aside, yes, I tend to follow the ‘popular kids’ in each of these avenues. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was through the horror movie centric #MutantFam that I discovered the topic of today’s review:

Jeppson’s Malort.

Ever have one of those things that you have no idea what it is, but it keeps popping up in your day/week until finally you’re driven to find out just what the hell is this thing that seems to have taken up all available real estate in your brain? Well, this was one of those moments for me. Would I live to regret it? Read on and find out…

Like anyone else, the first step is always to hit the Google. It’s worth mentioning at this point that the context in my Twitter timeline seemed akin to how I refer to the guilty pleasure movies in my DVD/BluRay collection: Yes I own them, yes I like them, but I have no reasonable defense as to why. This was the vibe I was getting and it was interesting to see it in terms of something consumable. So with that, while I wasn’t expecting anything positive from my Google search…well, nothing truly prepared me for Malort.

First you’ll run into the term ‘Malort face’: the face made when first trying it. Given the photos, they looked very akin to whenever I try to down a shot of NyQuil during cold and flu season: every muscle in the face does their best to both get away from the nasty flavor within while also trying to implode into a black hole that will remove all bad flavors…and the universe…from existence. Then there are the sayings and mock slogans:

Malort: Tonight’s the night you fight your dad.

Malort: The Champagne of pain.

Malort: Turning taste-buds into taste-foes for generations.

Drink Malort, it’s easier than telling people you have nothing to live for.

Malort: What soap washes its mouth out with.

Malort: These pants aren’t going to shit themselves.

Malort: The authentic taste of social distancing.

Malort: The pumpkin spice for sadists.

At this point, I was very much intrigued and very VERY much expecting that this would result in probably one of the worst drinking experiences of my life. So OF COURSE I plunged further down the rabbit hole. Up next, I wanted descriptions of the taste. “When you need to unfriend someone…in person.” “I’d say I have a complete understanding of Ralph Wiggum’s descriptive phrase ‘It tastes like burning’.” “This tastes like a tea bag soaked in moonshine. They must be even more miserable in Chicago than I thought.” “Smells like burning garbage and Ricola, tasting of rubbing alcohol and smokey rubber.” “It tastes like sad Christmas.” “Wow, just excruciatingly rancid.”

Now, between the web addresses and the one quote, you’ll notice that Chicago is name-dropped. As it turns out, while common in the Chicago area, Malort is a little hard to come by elsewhere in the nation. That helps answer why I, as a raging alcoholic, had never heard of this stuff before. It also begged the question: would my journey be over before it began? Perhaps not…as I have two co-workers that hailed from the area and occasionally go back for visits. But my curiosity continued…and what better way to get a feel for something than from those that had experienced it already? One was quick to reply, “It’s really bitter. In my younger years we did shots and chased it with cheap beer. I’d never drink it now though.” The other chimed in soon afterward, “Oh, I agree! It’s been a while, but I’d do a shot with ya! I doubt I can handle it though…” The fuse of nostalgia was lit for both of them and there was an agreement: the next time one of them went back to Chicago, they were bringing a bottle back.

As it would turn out, they didn’t have to.

This is where curiosity got the better of me. After all, the Thrillist article did say it was available outside of the Chicago area…so it was time to put this to the test. I hopped on to my old standby: Total Wine. And I’ll be damned…or at least my taste buds would be…because they carried it in their Tacoma store. One of the former Chicagoans lived in that direction and mentioned a mix of both surprise and the opposite: “You wouldn’t believe the number of people I’ve met from Chicago down there!” With that being the case, it seemed reasonable why they would have it.

It also seemed reasonable for my bluff to be called. Morbid curiosity was winning more and more. I would have to make the trek. I needed to get my hands on Malort.

So…how is it? Is it as bad as they say? Is it worse? What’s your Malort face???

To answer all of these questions, I have to tell you a story of my younger days with my ex down in Tucson. She was a fusion of Armenian, Persian and Russian and very much dedicated to goth and all things ‘Eurotrash’. That included smoking clove cigarettes. So, trying to fit in, I’d partake as well. Now, here’s the thing, on the inhale, it’s not that bad. The smell is fine and there’s kind of a sweet taste to it. The thing that always hit me was the morning after smoking, my mouth would always taste like a bitter ashtray. It was just…gross. Eventually, this would lead me to quitting the habit completely even though I really only smoked socially.

Why do I tell you this? Because that ashy taste from way back then came roaring back into my mouth on my first shot. That said, you’d expect me to tell you it tastes terrible, right? But no. I actually kinda dug it. Because now, that taste has nostalgic warm fuzzies attached to it. But that’s not gonna be most of you. In fact, most of you are going to hate me for bringing this up, teasing your own morbid curiosities and, eventually, the death of many taste buds and brain cells.

All right, so how do you survive your first encounter with Malort. First off, it never hurts to remind yourself that this is gonna suck. Unless you’re a smoker…then you’ll probably be fine. Second, you need to choose a chaser. We’re gonna recommend either an ale or a lager here. My Chicagoans all leaned toward lager, but I went with a Belgian ale and came out the other side just fine. Now, if you’re doing Malort, then you are doing Malort. Yeah, you can step away and do beer, sure, but don’t even think about moving on to cocktails or other shots. Trust me, that way leads to throwing up the next day. Another thing to keep in mind: this shit works fast. Pace yourself. That first shot and beer chaser is gonna kick in within about 15 minutes, even with a scarred liver like mine. Personally, I’d suggest nursing that beer and when it’s finally finished, you’re ready for your next go. After the second shot, I was game over for the night. Anything more than that was gonna not end well.

Some fun facts to close: Carl Jeppson, creator of this little bit of liquid hell on Earth, was a heavy cigar smoker who couldn’t taste much because of that, but it is said that he COULD taste Malort. This ends up supporting both my experience and my suggestion that smokers likely won’t mind the taste of this stuff. Secondly, this stuff is made from wormwood, just like Absinthe. Unlike Absinthe, no, there’s no hallucinations, but like I said, it doesn’t waste any time getting your head in the game, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. Lastly, remember kids, ‘wormwood’ in Russian is ‘chernobyl’. Kinda says it all right there, doesn’t it?

I certainly wasn’t expecting how this road was going to end. I expected to give a review resulting in either Angry Cat or Dead Cat, but like I said, I ended up kinda digging it, which would warrant a Happy Cat from me. Can I recommend it? No. Would I advise you to hunt it down? Certainly not. But, if you have the chance and want to test your mettle, I’d say roll up your sleeves buck-o, because we’re about to find your threshold for pain! For the life experience alone, I’d say, sure, take a shot. Who knows, you might be like the 10% of the population like me that, for some ungodly reason, actually kinda likes this stuff.

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