This is Malört’s Moment

Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

Once Malört was kind of an in-joke known only to habitues of Algrenesque bars where hipsters and working men drank elbow to elbow and the latter often challenged the former to try something manly. The Florida-made but Chicago-specific liqueur, which combines the piquancy of paint thinner with the delicate nose of grapefruit-scented car wax, started gaining in public attention in 2009, when Mike Sula told its story and challenged six local mixologists to use it in a cocktail. Michael Carlson of Schwa used it with food in his Key Ingredient challenge last year, and Redeye demonstrated “Malört face” (the expression of repulsion a Malört newbie makes when first tasting it) with its staff of youngsters just days ago. Back when Sula challenged cocktail pros to make Malört beverages, it seemed just a novelty dare, but in fact the liqueur’s bitterness is well suited to mixing, though it probably subtracts from the overall character of better spirits in anything more than small doses. Zagat’s Sarah Freeman now goes Sula not just one, but seven better, with a slideshow of 13 cocktails actually on the menu in Chicago right now in which the notorious stuff plays a part (two of them among those originally invented for Sula’s challenge). Can anyone doubt that we are living at the moment of Malörtmentum? Is it time for some food & drink writer to kick off the Cohasset Punch craze? Probably.