The Chicago Handshake, Deconstructed
The handshake is a gesture used for introductions, as well as for finalizing business. In Chicago bars, the handshake is an introduction to a bit of Chicago's beverage history.
What is a Chicago Handshake?
In the Chicago drinking world, the Chicago Handshake is slang for a drink special involving a shot of Malört paired with an 'old-school' Midwestern beer, most typically Old Style Beer. Although Old Style originated in Wisconsin, it became 'Chicago's beer' after crossing state lines in 1935. Sponsoring the Cubs in the 1950s solidified Chicago's love of Old Style Beer.
What is Malört?
Jeppson's Malört is a wormwood-based Swedish style schnapps also known as beskbrännvin, or besk for short. Malört is Chicago's original besk, introduced by Carl Jeppson. Jeppson immigrated from Ystad, Skåne, and legally sold his besk to bars as a medicinal spirit during prohibition. Malört has a medicinal, herbal taste. Enthusiasts can find bars serving using this handy Malört map. If you're a superfan, consider getting a serving gun.
The Best Place to Try a Chicago Handshake
The best place to enjoy a Chicago handshake is with someone who has never had Malort before. Beyond that, any bar serving both Malort and Old Style will do! Given the Chicago Handshake is a piece of Chicago history, we'd recommend heading to a bar that has been around for a while. If you want a Malort and historical Chicago bar crawl in one, you might try The Matchbox, followed by Emmit's Pub and Richard's Bar in West Town.
You can also opt to buy an Emergency Malort Flask, which will allow you to expand your Chicago Handshake opportunities.
EVERY DAY HANDSHAKES
Nick's Beer Garden in Wicker Park has an every day special for the Chicago handshake for $7, which you can enjoy while playing games in the back game room.
The Flat Iron is also a Wicker Park stop to have an authentic Chicago Handshake.
In nearby Ukranian Village, J and M Tap has $4 Malört, free pretzels and candy every day, which you could easily pair with an Old Style simultaneously. Call it a secret handshake.
On Mondays and Tuesdays Shoes Pub has $2 Malört shots, and a selection of old school cans is at your fingertips.
You can pair live music, stand up comedy, and handshakes at The Ginger Man.
Nisei Lounge offers the handshake for $7 every day in the form of $4 Old Style Tall Boys or Pabst Blue Ribbon Drafts and $3 Malört. On Monday through Wednesday, however, pay $5 for a COW Shot: Get a Can of Week (COW) and a shot of Malört or Jim Beam.
On Tuesdays pair $2.50 Malort shots at Weeds Tavern with stand up comedy at 9pm. Old Style tall boy cans are available, but Miller High Life bottles are $2.50...dealer's choice.
Madison Public House in Logan Square has a Wednesday night Handshake for $6, which you can enjoy while watching sports or retro music videos.
Handshakes are for lovers (or friends) at Beauty Bar's Chicago Handshake happy hour. From 7-9pm on Thursday and Friday, get a 32oz mini pitcher of Old Style plus two shots of Malört for $10.
Friday nights at Fizz Bar and Grill grab a tall boy to go with $4 Malört shots and Friday night fish fry.
Quenchers Saloon offers handshakes for $4. After you greet Quencher's properly, settle in for a good time or a special event like a boozy spelling bee or chili cookoff - a mere sampling of what you may stumble into at this Logan Square corner bar.
HANDSHAKES IN DISGUISE
Don't be fooled at Analogue in Logan Square, where a Miller High Life and a shot of Besk is $5 and called a Peacemaker.
Henry's cocktail list includes the Packaged Goods, which is a shot of Malört and a 16 oz Old Style Tall Boy. Familiar package...
Basically, anywhere you go you can build your own Chicago Handshake, knowing what it is and having the courage to order one is the true battle.
Updated March 13, 2019
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The Chicago Handshake isn't just any windy city greeting.
Chicago Handshake Recipe:
Shot of Malört
Can of Old Style
1 Willing Consumer