LAKEVIEW — New restaurant Spritz Burger decided to take its vintage-seltzer cocktail theme to an unholy — albeit classically Chicago — place: Malort shots.
The new spot, which Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith opened this month after closing Hearty Restaurant, serves a chilled Jeppson's Malort shot from the restaurant's "spritzer," their name for a seltzer bottle that carbonates the alcohol.
The shot costs $4. Depending on whom you ask, the carbonation makes the notoriously cringe-inducing wormwood liqueur either taste lighter or makes that "grapefuit-soaked-in-gasoline" aftertaste linger just a little bit longer, said Rachel Miller, the restaurant's bar manager.
For Miller, the fizz sends the smells up her nose as she's taking the shot, and since smell affects taste, "the carbonation makes it worse," Miller said.
But assistant manager James "Gato" Garrido, who admits to not minding the aftertaste, thinks bubbles make the shot "lighter, more open-flavored," he said.
"I like that the carbonation disrupts the syrupy mouth feel," he said.
In the two weeks Spritz Burger has been open, it's gone through four bottles of Malort, or about 35 shots. One elderly woman named Charlotte even ordered the drink. She sipped it.
"We told her, 'It kind of tastes bad'," Miller said. "She said, 'My brothers drink moonshine'."
Spritz Burger, 3819 N. Broadway, may be touting its creative seltzer cocktails, but Miller knows Malort shots are more of a social drink downed for fun or simply a rite of passage than anything else. She even had the whole staff — many of whom hadn't tried Malort before — take a shot together during training as a form of Chicago hazing.
McDonagh, a "cocktail nerd" who co-wrote a book on drink recipes with Smith, didn't quite understand the appeal of the drink, which he thought was "terrible," Miller said.
She's "the hype man" who insisted that they include it. (It's the only thing on the menu she really took a stand on, she said.)
"There are few people who truly enjoy Malort anyway," she said. "We're not trying to make converts."
For those daring enough to try the fizzy version of Chicago's favorite self-hating beverage, Spritz offers more than a dozen other original drink options to chase the aftertaste away. For example, the Thai curry soda, a slightly savory, bubbly drink will help you forget you downed Malort in the first place.