There's a reason why Jeppson's Malört—the reviled liqueur that has somehow earned an unquenchable cult following in Chicago—comes with its own "face." Take a swig, and all of the muscles above your neck will contort as you recoil from the potent and punishing flavor of the drink. As our contributor Gray Chapman found, it tastes like "getting mugged in a prison shower" or "that thing they do in the Mexican cartels, where they soak a tire in gasoline and then put it over you and light it on fire."
Unfettered, she asked renowned drink-maker Greg Best to find a way to make it pretty and palatable, if not delicious.
First there's the Tall and Bitter, which goes full-throttle into Malört's punch-you-in-the-teeth astringency by adding more bitters, quinine-tinged tonic water, and Bigallet China China, a bittersweet French liqueur. It's topped off with just a hint of sweetness in the form of salted honey syrup. As Chapman notes, it's "a little more floral, and less like a dusty incense box, which is what it feels like I've just swallowed a tablespoon of."
With a few chest hairs suddenly sprouted, you're now a Mälort acolyte. For your second round, may we suggest the Pandora Royale?
No, sweet Jesus, no! we hear you thinking. But worry not: This one isn't a shot of pure wormwoody tongue torture. The Pandora Royale tames Mälort with the help of Prosecco, honey, lemon juice, and Bénédictine. This is the closest Mälort fans will get to a Bellini without actually embracing the worst brunch cocktail in existence. Or, as Chapman says, "I think that if we were to serve these to any unsuspecting victim, they would not know there was anything vile in there."
We take that as a challenge.