For years, Jeppeson's Malört was the only game in town. But more recently, places like the Trenchermen have started producing their own. But like Trenchermen, it seemed to be more of a one-time offering. At Violet Hour, however, they've started producing their own housemade malort that looks like its here to stay.
The Wicker Park lounge recently partnered with local distiller Letherbee to produce and bottle R. Franklin's Original Recipe Malort. Manager Robby Haynes, who was a driving force behind the creation, found that when combining complimentary flavors like grapefruit peel, juniper berry, elderflower and star anise, you could round out and accentuate, in a good way, the wormwood base, which is often more harsh tasting.
The initial run of R. Franklin's Original Recipe Malort is about 20 to 30 cases that Violet Hour will use and, depending on demand, may start to sell. That, however, is still up in the air. Primarily, they currently use it in their Thigh High cocktail, Haynes said, but will also do "dealer's choice" cocktails as well for people who are interesting in something different.
The drink combines the malort with Letherbee gin and also honey to temper the bitterness of the wormwood spirit. "The malort is so assertive that you have to use these bold flavors," Haynes said. "You can't put anything timid in a malort cocktail because it'll bowl it over. The citrus and egg white lighten it up and keep it refreshing." Haynes said while many people are turned off by Jeppeson's harsh flavor, they've gotten pretty positive feedback on their concoction. So if you up to the challenge of something different, pop by Violet Hour and ask for some R. Franklin's. You never know—you may actually find it, well, intriguing.