The Times
Weeding out the weak since 1933

A Look at the History of a Chicago Icon

Weeding out the weak since 1933

It's not a drink for most people, but we're not most people.

Through the decades, Jeppson's Malört - a traditional wormwood-based digestif - has been thought of as a rite of passage or a hangover cure. For many Chicagoans, Malört is the drink that has defined the Chicago bar experience.

“As far as a photo of Carl Jeppson, that one is almost certainly an impossibility. He doesn’t even have a headstone. He was scattered without a marker, but perhaps he has made his way into the water table by now.”

– Sam Mechling -- Cultural Ambassador, Jeppson’s Malört

Take a Scroll Through Malört's History

Mid 1880's

Carl Jeppson emigrates from Ystad, Sweden, to Chicago’s Swedish area near the intersection of Clybourn Ave. and Division St.

1920

Prohibition era begins on January 17th

1920s

Carl Jeppson begins producing his “bäskbrännvin” (a traditional Swedish-style of bitters) and sells it as a “medicinal” product that rid its imbibers of stomach worms and other parasites in the body. Jeppson skirts federal regulation given the recurring conclusion by law enforcement that nobody would drink his concoction recreationally.

1933

Era of the “Three-Star” Chicago flag begins

1933

Prohibition era ends on December 5th and Jeppson’s Malört (as it’s known today) is first produced.

Mid 1930s

Bielzoff Products purchases the recipe for Malört from Carl Jeppson. During this time, the Jeppson’s Malört label is created. The iconic crest of the logo contains three stars to mirror the three stars of the Chicago flag.

1939

A fourth star is added to the Chicago flag.

1945

George Brode, vice president of Bielzoff, buys out the company shortly before the end of World War II. “Jeppson’s Swedish Brännvin” is now sold in a glass bottle with a stem of wormwood inside.

1953

George Brode selects Mar-Salle Distillery for production and bottling and begins a 40-year hobby exclusively marketing Jeppson’s Malört.

1966

Patricia Gabelick is hired as Brode’s legal secretary.

1986

The Mar-Salle Distillery in Chicago, which had produced Malört since 1953, closes. There are no distilleries left in Chicago to make Jeppson’s Malört.

1987-89

After two years of operating in Kentucky, Malört distillation is moved to Florida. Also, during this time, it becomes too expensive to continue putting a stem of wormwood in every bottle.

1999

George Brode dies, leaving the company to his secretary and long-time friend, Patricia Gabelick.

2011

Having no official connection to Carl Jeppson Co., Sam Mechling begins promoting Jeppson’s Malört via comedic Twitter and Facebook posts. The social interaction drives Malört from a lesser-known spirit to a popular Chicago icon.

2012

Sam begins capitalizing on Malört’s popularity through unlicensed t-shirt sales. This draws concern from Patricia Gabelick who aims to sue him. After meeting with Sam, Gabelick decides she likes him and hires him instead of suing.

2013

CH Distillery opens and begins offering a variety of traditional and specialty spirits focused on sourcing locally, drinkability, high quality, and value.

2016

In an effort to keep Malört’s full-bodied flavor, Patricia and Sam secure a long-term source for the strongest, most unpalatable wormwood.

2017

Driven by Mr. Mechling’s guerrilla marketing campaigns and genuine fandom for the brand, Malört’s sales rapidly rise to new heights.

2018

CH Distillery purchases Carl Jeppson Company from Patricia Gabelick adding Jeppson’s Malört to the company’s portfolio.

2019

Malört production returns to Chicago to the delight of many Chicagoans.