When Meteor Bar announced last week that they were getting ready to celebrate Malört's Minnesota debut, commenters were split. In one camp: "OH MY GOD IT'S HAPPENING," "OUR TIME HAS ARRIVED," and "Let's fucking go!!!"
In the other? "Dear god," "Oh god why," "Goddammit," and "Stop the spread."
Jeppson's Malört is divisive—you love it or ya hate it, or, I suppose, you drink it for the novelty when you're in Chicago. "We Swapped All the Malört at This Bar With Piss-Flavored Gasoline and No One Said Anything," the Hard Times recently goofed; Malört shared the story on Instagram with the caption, "Cannot confirm or deny."
The bitter herbal liqueur created by a Swedish immigrant named Carl Jeppson famously skirted federal regulation during Prohibition, getting a medicinal designation "given the recurring conclusion by law enforcement that nobody would drink his concoction recreationally." Bless you, Carl.
When Chicago's last distillery closed in 1953, Malört could no longer be made there, and production bounced around for a few years. First it was Kentucky, and then Florida, but the liqueur wasn't sold there—they'd ship it back to Chicago after it was bottled. It wasn't until late 2018 that Chicago-based CH Distillery acquired the brand, bringing production back to Illinois.
"And that's really when the expansion started," says marketing director Stephanie Warsen. Malört is now available in 25 states, but Minnesota hasn't been one of them—until now. And to celebrate, they're visiting a trio of Minneapolis bars this week: Mortimer's on Tuesday, Palmer's on Wednesday, and Meteor on Thursday.
Warsen says she's as surprised as anyone that the move into MN took this long. "Obviously Chicago is home base, and that's where the true love and pride of the brand is, but it kind of trickles out from there to the Midwest first," she says.
Indiana and Wisconsin were some of the first states outside of Illinois where you could find Malört, and Warsen, who oversees Jeppson's social media pages, says Minnesotans are some of the most vocal non-Chicago fans. "Minnesota was like the one missing piece to the Midwest states."
Jeppson's found a distributor in New France Wine, who helped nail down the trio of bars they'd work with to celebrate their MN launch—the first time Minnesotans can get Malört without road tripping to Wisconsin.
(Unless you were visiting the welcome-wagon bar that's been "importing" it themselves with little visits across the border for the last year or so—we won't name names.)
The fun starts Tuesday night, when Jeppson's and New France will be at Mortimer's—sorry, Malörtimers—from 8-10 p.m. for $5 Malört shots, $8 beer and a bumps, and special merch. Next comes Palmer's, where from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, you can grab $4 Malört shots, $10 Chicago Milkshakes (a Modist milkshake IPA and Malört), and more merch.
On Thursday, the launch comes to Meteor Bar, where owner Robb Jones and co. have a whole thing up their sleeves: $4 shots, $8 boilermakers, and $12 Malört cocktails—including a Tiki-style drink, a Negroni-style drink, and a take on a Paper Plane called a Paper Pain—from 7-9 p.m.
Jones knows Malört is divisive, but he also thinks this is the best time to give it a shot.
"It's a dive bar thing—we've been pouring gross shit for people for a long time," he laughs. "And I don't even think it's the grossest—I like Malört better than... there's some Amaros I can't stand. Like, I hate Fernet."
It's an acquired taste, certainly. It's also got one heck of a loyal following. "The brand exists because of the following we have ... [it] wouldn't have survived as long as it has if it weren't for them," says Warsen.
"You meet someone, and you love Malört, and they love Malört—you could have nothing in common with them except for that, and it's instantly a bond," she laughs. "It just connects you."