Malort and the Chicago Rathole

Screen capture of a rathole wedding on TikTok taken on January 22nd, 2024This week social media algorithms have elevated a rat shaped depression in a sidewalk on West Roscoe street to Chicago’s most talked about landmark. The site is now home to a shrine eclipsing that of Our Lady of the Underpass, has hosted gay weddings, and has received numerous offerings from passerby. Prominent among the mentioned offerings is a beverage called Malort.

You dear reader may be wondering, “What is Malort?” Prepare to be enlightened on this most Chicago of beverages

Nominally, Jeppson’s Malört is a Swedish style “bäsk liqueur” produced in Chicago by the Carl Jeppson Company. In reality, it is one of the foulest tasting substances known to humanity. Carl Jeppson invented Malort during prohibition as a way to exploit a legal loophole where he could sell his concoction legally as a medicine. Jeppson succeeded in passing of his liqueur as medicinal.

Much of this success in escaping prohibition may be attributed to the uniquely exceptional flavor that Jeppson, a heavy smoker with a notoriously dulled sense of taste authored.

The advertised anise flavor is hidden behind an overpowering bitterness that is better compared to pharmaceuticals than beverages. The actual dominant flavor profiles of Malort are metronidazol, astringent, and penance via mortification of the flesh.

With a taste approximating the Platonic idea of “foul”, it was impossible any authorities to imagine this substance was a beverage and not a medicinal elixir only the most desperately ill would imbibe.

And so the desperately ill City of Chicago consumed this safe, legal product during times when far better tasting outlaw products were unavailable. Jeppson was as a matter of fact, Al Capone’s superior in prohibition Chicago’s hooch trade.

Thusly, Malort became a right of passage for Chicago’s drinking public. The lore rich and very Catholic devotions developing around the rat hole seem to be making this the most Chicago cultural phenomenon in history, overtaking the Blues Brothers.

Fun Fact: Rodent veneration has a long and storied history in Illinois from the white squirrels of Olney, beaver watching near Northwestern, along with Pinto Bean and other named squirrels.

2 thoughts on “Malort and the Chicago Rathole

  1. Also 2 rat Illinois presidents Obama and Reagan crashed the US into this decades long middle east mess! Iran-Contra and martyring Colonel Ghaddafi!

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