Letherbee's Malört Is Now Bësk

By Melissa McEwen in Food on Mar 20, 2014 6:20PM

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(Label courtesy Letherbee)

Letherbee's R. Franklin Original Recipe Malort, a variant of Chicago's infamous bitter drink was released last year. The maker of the older Jeppson's Malört has trademarked the name, so Letherbee has renamed their drink "bësk," based on one of the Swedish words for the drink.

In Swedish "malört" simply means wormwood whereas "bäsk" or "besk" refers to the wormwood brandy. In the heyday of Swedish immigration, many similar drinks were produced across the United States. Chicago's Jeppson's Malört is the only survivor and claimed the trademark because it was the only known besk simply called "malört" until recently. Louisiana's Sazerac Co. has disputed the trademark.

Letherbee is not the only besk on Chicago shelves. Bitterman's Bäska Snaps Med Malört, another new American variant, arrived in Chicago last year. There is clearly a business opportunity for someone to import the Swedish-made besks such as Bäska Droppar or the excellent Piratens Besk.