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10 Top New York Sommeliers Try Malört

What happens when seriously refined palates get hit with Chicago's famously bitter liqueur?

Search #malortface on Instagram or Twitter and an endless queue of disgusted imbibers brandishing mouth-puckering grimaces fills up the feed. One of the many endearing slogans for Jeppson's Malört, Chicago's most beloved—or despised—liqueur, offers, "When You Need to Unfriend Someone ... In Person." And after slugging back a mouthful of the gasoline yellow spirit, that slogan feels entirely appropriate.

What does a punch in the face taste like? Just try Malört. While a slew of companies now produce their own take on the bracingly bitter liqueur, the Jeppson's brand—originally distilled in Chicago, though now made in Florida—pioneered the wormwood-flavored drink that's based on a Scandinavian recipe similar to aquavit — and famously among the worst-tasting spirits on the market. Eater convinced 10 of New York's finest sommeliers to try the stuff. Added bonus: For most, this was their first time.

Jack Mason

"On the nose ... saffron and yellow fruit characteristics are secondary to notes of fusel oil and burning lanolinboth of which come right out, full force. On the palate ... it is harsh, fiery, waxy and very savory ... tastes like a dry, more affordably version of Suze, with additional bitter herbs ... I’d say I now have a comprehensive understanding of Ralph Wiggum's descriptive phrase 'tastes like burning.'"

Dean FuerthBetony

"On the nose there is this almost rancid anise herbaceous quality ... quite pungent and aromatic. On the palate ... a mix of corked Bordeaux, Saler's apéritif on crack, dead dog, and the Gowanus canal during summer."

Grant ReynoldsCharlie Bird

"It's like ... like getting your mouth washed out with soap. The nasty, floral, pink kind ... tastes like a tea bag soaked in moonshine ... They must be even more miserable in Chicago than I thought. "

Thomas PastuszakThe NoMad

"This smells like a combination of burning garbage and Ricola, with a massive wallop of alcohol ... on first taste, nothing but rubbing alcohol and smokey rubber ... I'm shocked with how little flavor there is relative to such an intense aroma. This is actually painful both to smell and taste, so bad that I keep going back, hoping to see if it gets better!"

Carrie Lyn Strong

" ... super herbaceous with strong gin-like herbals ... as if gin were reduced down to a powder of just the very potent juniper flavors. It has a highly acidic mouth feel ... my mouth keeps watering as if I needed to put the fire out on my tongue ... it's not wildly offensive, but probably not the drink I'd keep drinking until 4 a.m."

Leo Schneemann

"It has got a grapefruit bitterness at the front ... it feels like you are biting into an old grapefruit peel ... many herbal flavors concentrate the astringent nature of the grapefruit flavor, making it even more unpleasant on your palate ... tastes like that itch on your back you can't reach to scratch—only all over your body."

Jeff Porter
Del Posto

"Pine-Sol, gasoline, lemon, and grapefruit pith, caraway seeds, fennel ... intense and an unpleasant, persistent finish of cleaning fluid."

Lauren BlakeDavid Burke fabrick

"... it’s the finish that’s … sticking with me. It’s SO bitter, and in an entirely different league of bitter than any fernets or amari that I've ever had. It isn’t just the fact of the bitterness—it’s lingering forever and ever, like a bad dream that seems super real, but then you wake up and it's not real ... Also, it’s making me grind my teeth, as if I'd had 26 shots of espresso ... tastes like sad Christmas"

Jason Jacobeit

"Wow ... just excruciatingly rancid. This takes the concept of a bitter, which is a beautiful one by the way, to its painfully logical conclusion. I derived zero pleasure from this ... I guess there is one good thing about the experience — it just ended."

Hristo Zisovski
Altamarea Group

"Silent, but deadly. Not intense in aroma ... it has a wet bark thing going on ... it creeps up on you ... with bitterness on the tongue, but if you like that kinda thing, and are not a wimp, it’s not too bad ... I like it."


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