I am thankful for many things this year, among them is Jeppson's Malört. It's a Swedish-style "bäsk" brännvin produced by the Carl Jeppson Company of Chicago. Most people hate it, think it's gross and have nothing but awful things to say about its unusual, bitter flavor.
It's my favorite type of alcohol. Unlike other spirits, especially whiskey or vodka, which pack a kick that hides any semblance of flavor, Malört has no kick, it's all flavor. Glorious, bitter, botanic, unusual, sort of mediciney flavor. It's unique and surprising, but I also think it's comparable to Campari. Fans of the pink bitter might find Malört to be a pleasant upgrade, and much more tolerable straight than Campari.
This year, in pursuit of a holiday-friendly drink that tastes good and numbs the effect of my less tolerable family members, my friend Nathan and I decided to add Malört to a couple seasonal staples — apple cider and egg nog.
Let's just say that was a great idea.
The experiment produced two very different drinks (duh), both so delicious that it was hard to pick a favorite. Instead, Nathan and I found it best to seperate the drinks based on setting.
Malört cider turned out to be an excellent session drink and tastes like a subtle cocktail you might find at a hip lounge. The usual tang of apple cider compliments Malört's range of flavors in such a way that Malört's bitter notes are gone and you're left with a spicier than usual cider.
It's not too bitter, not too sweet. In fact, Malört might be the perfect addition for someone trying to give apple cider a boost without diminishing its flavor. Try it before or with a meal, or when you want something to sip one while you mingle with guests at a holiday party.
The nog would probably work best as an aperitif — when you're done with dinner and trying to fill any room left in your belly with booze or a rich dessert. The Malört stands out more in nog than in the cider, but the thick body and sweet, milky flavor of nog help neutralize Malört's most bitter, herbal notes. Most, not all.
This cocktail is especially strange because Malört actually clears the palette while nog coats it. As a result, the thick nog introduces you to Malört's more subtle flavors without the long-lasting, bitter aftertaste that makes the bäsk unappealing to most drinkers. You're left, instead, with a noggy aftertaste that tickles you like a mint turned sour. It's a great night cap if you can handle the texture.
What are your favorite holiday cocktails? Share your favorite mixtures in our comments section. Please don't drink and comment.