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John Hodgman Loves Malort: "It Tastes Like Pencil Shavings And Heartbreak"

By Amy Cavanaugh in Food on Feb 2, 2013 7:00PM

Ahh, Jeppson's Malort. Love or it hate it, it's still a Chicago institution. And as knowledge of the unusual spirit spreads across the Internet, we're getting more gems like this one, in which writer and comedian John Hodgman discusses his love of malort and connects it with "loathsome hipsterdom."

Hodgman isn't from Chicago, but when he appeared on WTF with Marc Maron on January 21, he proved to be more knowledgable about the spirit than most Chicagoans. Here are some choice quotes.

On what malort is:

"Malort is… like an aquavit, it's like a flavored vodka basically, but flavored with darkness and pain."

"It is made in Florida… but shipped exclusively to Chicago, the only place where it is sold, via, I presume, a secret malort tunnel."

"It's like aquavit… grain neutral spirits that are flavored with different botanicals, like gin. The botanicals that it's flavored with are wormwood and other bitter, sort of medicinal-type of botanicals. And thus, it tastes like pencil shavings and heartbreak."

On why he likes it:

"I am a fan of esoteric things. I'm a fan and always been been of the weird and the out of the way and the regional and the undiscovered and the secret history-type stuff."

"What is that, that impulse or that personality trait?" Maron asks.

"It borders very closely on loathsome hipsterism. Which is just the pursuit of esoteric knowledge for status. I know the band that you don't know, or I know the place to go that no one else knows and if anyone else ever knows about it, I'm not ever going to go there again."

"I call it loathsome hipsterism because of the loathing that I have for it… that's not how I feel about these things. I just am fascinated with weird, forgotten stuff. My impulse is to share it, because I want everyone to know about it. I want everyone in the audience to drink this malort that someone has brought to me from Chicago because I want everyone to experience the pain together."

Here's the whole interview. The malort bit begins around the 58-minute mark.

In other malort news, Deadspin writer Drew Magary has learned of its existence from a reader and wants to try it.

After the reader describes malort as, "It's like the 2 girls 1 cup of alcohol. The best part is you don't realize how bad it is at first. So everybody takes the shot and thinks they're okay, and then it starts hitting them after a few seconds. And it doesn't go away for 15-20 minutes. Nothing can wash that taste out of your mouth. It's glorious."

His response: "I have to admit: I'd really like to know what it's like to experience that split second before the agony kicks in. I MUST HAVE IT. I demand Jeppson's Malört be used in all fraternity hazing rituals."