Malort, the bitter liquor that everyone loves to hate (or at least loves to talk about hating), is becoming ever more popular in Chicago. There’s a certain amount of local pride involved: Jeppson’s Malort was once brewed in Chicago and has never been available outside of northern Illinois, as Mike Sula wrote in a 2009 column about the wormwood-based spirit. The Violet Hour is even producing its own version. Jeppson’s Malort, at least, has built its reputation on tasting absolutely vile; there are several places on the web where you can view “Malort face” photo galleries, and each year the company holds a slogan contest (this year’s starter entry: “When you need to unfriend someone . . . in person”). And Michael Carlson, tasked with Malort for Key Ingredient a couple years ago, compared it to “bum feet and earwax mixed together.”
All this is a long-winded introduction to last month’s winning video for the Second City Shorts competition, “The Adventures of Carl Wisnewski.” The challenge was to answer the question, “What’s that smell on the bus?” And no, the answer is not Malort. Not exactly.