Well, this one might’ve been inevitable: Malört hand sanitizer is here. Mere days after Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker’s issuance of a statewide stay-at-home order —shelter in place, but less scary sounding?—the liquor synonymous with Chicago has jumped in the fight against coronavirus. After the first wave of COVID-19 panic purchasing left store shelves devoid of hand sanitizer, self-declared geniuses took to social media to explain that you could just use liquor to clean your hands. That didn’t, and doesn’t, work. But to fight the pandemic, distilleries, breweries, and wineries across the country have begun to whip up batches of actual hand sanitizer, both for purchase and sometimes for free. (We’re keeping track of all those booze businesses here.) And Malört, an iconic Chicago brand now owned by CH Distillery, is getting into the hand sanitizer game, too.
For the time being, Malört sanitizer will only be produced for hospitals, according to the Chicago Tribune. There are 250 bottles for now, specifically one-liter glass bottles—the company wanted to make smaller, more portable ones, but there was too much legalese to fit on them. If the pandemic persists, more bottles might be made, and you might be able to buy one for yourself. So there’s a silver lining to unending quarantine, I guess?
Jeppson’s Malört has a long association with Chicago, and is equally loathed and adored by the city’s occupants. It was created by a Swedish immigrant in the 1930s and was distilled in Chicago until the 1970s. For the past few decades, it was made in Florida, though is still an oh-so-Chicago drink, the subject of many an unfortunate tattoo in Logan Square. In 2018, Malört production was brought back to Chicago, where it’s now made by CH Distillery. Taking a short of Malört is sort of a rite of passage for Chicagoans. Drinkers identify the liquor’s signature taste as some combination of wood shavings, grapefruit peel, burnt eraser, diapers, used socks, and/or shoes. In essence: it’s gross.
This presents an obvious problem, though. How will we tell the difference between Malört and Malört hand sanitizer?