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Kelly Clarkson Isn’t Fazed by a Malört Shot

Chicago’s bitter liquor debuts on Clarkson’s TV show, but has the dive bar favorite jumped the shark? 

The Kelly Clarkson Show - Season 4
Count Kelly Clarkson as a fan of malört thanks to Chicago PD’s Benjamin Levy Aguilar.
Photo by: Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Has malört lost its luster?

That’s what fans of the celebrated bitter liqueur might be thinking after it made its daytime television debut. Jeppson’s Malört, a drink once only seen in the dingiest of dive bars across Chicago, made it to the set of The Kelly Clarkson Show earlier this week. While Clarkson has carved quite a career as host of her own show, she is known for Grammy-winning “Since U Been Gone,” and mixing her sweet pop sound with malört’s bitter aftertaste isn’t a combo many expected.

But, surprise, Clarkson enjoyed it.

“You don’t need a chaser,” Clarkson said during the episode’s taping, after enjoying it with an Old Style. “That’s good — I don’t think I needed a chaser.”

A second later, the aftertaste kicked in: “Oh, it’s still hot going down!” Clarkson said.

Actor Benjamin Levy Aguilar of Chicago PD enjoyed a shot with Clarkson as part of the Chicago Handshake, a recent dive bar delicacy in which a seasoned drinker pairs a shot of malört with an Old Style beer.

“Do you think it’s an acquired taste?” Aguilar asked Clarkson.

“No I just handled it,” Clarkson replied without flinching.

Malört continues to be a rite of passage for Chicagoans and visitors alike. And it seems TV shows set in Chicago are bringing the beverage more notoriety. Beyond Aguilar, actor Jeremey Allen White told Eater he’s had malört while filming The Bear and Shameless. White, who just won Golden Globe for his role on The Bear, isn’t such a huge fan of the shot, famous for inducing a grimace known as “Malört Face.”

CH Distillery, the Chicago company that owns malört, has been spreading the gospel to cities outside of Chicago. Not many people know that it’s gluten-free. CH Distiller owner Tremaine Atkinson says he was alerted before the episode was taped that malört was to make an appearance and that the staff of San Dimas Liquor hustled to deliver the bottle to Clarkson’s set in Universal City, California.

Atkinson isn’t fazed that the liquor is going mainstream or that it’s possibly jumped the shark.

“Malört is the shark!” he texts.