So last night, I went to see The Eagles of Death Metal at The Metro. Before the show, as is the custom, my friends and I had a drink at the G-Man Tavern, which is next door. One of the "specials" listed was a "Chicago Handshake," which is an Old Style and a shot of Malört, for $7.
Frankly, seven dollars for two horribly tasting alcoholic beverages is probably too much, but then again, if someone wants to pay that for the kitsch of saying they had a Chicago Handshake, who am I to argue? I also think it's funny to imagine a tourist who has never had either Old Style or Malört ordering this and assuming that all Chicagoans like both drinks. And of course, I always support buying an out-of-towner horrible local drinks, so
Old Style is the kind of swill that large breweries could pawn off on the masses several decades ago, when there were only like ten beers, and they were all basically the same. And, even then, Old Style was a notch below most of the others. I'm pretty sure Old Style has survived only because they sell it at Wrigley Field. And God help you if you've ever gotten an Old Style at a Cubs game on a hot day and have not finished it within about ten minutes. If there is a hell, all there would be to drink would be warm Old Style.
Malört is in its own category. Made with wormwood, pig sweat, and the tears of several Swedish serial killers, Malört describes itself on its bottle as a "two-fisted liquor." The label proudly proclaims that only 1 in 49 people who drink it will try it a second time. It is a drink that is so bad, people use it as a prank shot to give to unsuspecting friends. It's one of those things that you have to try at least once, just so you can experience for yourself just how bad it tastes. But make no mistake, it truly is one of the worst-tasting liquids you will ever consume. I have heard the taste described as follows:
-"a shot of earwax"
-"You know those jogging suits that wrestlers wear to help them lose weight? Well, imagine someone was jogging in one of those for five miles, then they lifted one of the pant legs and gathered leg sweat into a shot glass."
-"a burnt band-aid"
If you want a funny read, check out this article -- sent to me by a friend of mine who is one of the few people on Earth who actually likes Malört -- which describes three Chicago sommeliers' reactions to and descriptions of Malört.
In sum, if you're looking for a new and potentially vomit-inducing way to honor the Second City's fallen veterans this Memorial Day weekend, the Chicago Handshake might be just what the doctor ordered, especially if that doctor is not a doctor at all, but rather a hipster asshole who drinks awful-tasting beverages because it's ironic.