City Cellars has a large and eclectic collection of spirits, but one of our more unique products is the Bittermens Bäska Snaps Med Malørt. If your reaction to hearing a name like that is “Bless you,” we’ve got the low-down on this uniquely international spirit with origins in Sweden, production in France and Iceland, and history in Chicago.
First up, snaps or “schnapps”, is what Scandinavians call aquavit and similar spirits. In Swedish, “Bäska” means bitter, Med is “with,” and “Malørt” is “wormwood'”. Wormwood is the main flavouring agent, which gives it deep, rich bitterness.
Malørt is a traditional Scandinavian digestif, where families would take high proof aquavit or other spirits and infuse them with bitter herbs to create a real winter warmer, meant for drinking during the holidays and their lengthy winter. These “besk snaps” were served cold to family and visitors who needed a bracing eye-opener.
Malørt gained a cult-like following in Chicago through 'Jeppson's Malørt', an extremely bitter spirit that has been a Chicago institution since 1934. Formerly incredibly difficult to find, its popularity outside Chicago and Scandinavia has increased over the years, leading to Bittermens adding Bäska Snaps Malørt to their product line.
Bittermens, an American producer of bitters, extracts and flavour additions, were inspired by these classically bitter Scandinavian schnapps to create Bäska Snaps Med Malört. It's produced by first making an aquavit, which imparts a base of caraway notes. This is infused with liquorice, citrus and other herbs, then blended with a touch of sugar and a wormwood distillate from one of the oldest absinthe distilleries in Pontalier, France. It’s a kinder and gentler version of the Jeppson's Malørt, if you’re new to the spirit.
Similar in flavour profile to Fernet, Bäska Snaps can be drunk as a digestif after a meal. You can listen to the bottle’s instructions to Serveras Kyld! (serve cold, in Swedish), but it works at room temperature as well. It’s bitter, but has an added sweetness. If consumed alone, it pairs well with smoked fish or caviar, or with fried foods like pierogis.
If you aren’t down to sip it neat, it works well in common cocktails. The bitter sugar balance, the acid level and its texture is similar to Campari and Gran Classico Amaro. Which means Malørt works well in Negroni, Paper Plane and American variations — just swap out the bitter components in the cocktails one for one with the Bäska snaps. The wormwood in the Malørt can complement vermouth really nicely. It also plays similar to Angostura Bitters, so could work well in a Trinidad Sour or Angostura Flip.
Here’s a slightly simpler recipe for a refreshing summer sipper with a Nordic twist.
Bäska Mule Recipe
1.5 oz Bäska Snaps
.5 Cup Ginger Beer
.5 oz Lime Juice
1 tsp sugar or sugar syrup
1 lime wedge for garnish
Pour Bäska snaps and lime juice into a mug.. Add ginger beer and ice cubes, and stir together. Garnish with a lime wedge. Enjoy!
If all of this has you pretty excited, we have some not-so-great news — Bittermens has discontinued the Bäska Snaps Med Malørt line, BUT! City Cellars still has some in stock, so get your hands on this almost-collector’s item while you can!