The Chicago Handshake, Deconstructed

Updated April 13, 2018

The Chicago Handshake isn't just any windy city greeting.

Got Malort?

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 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. Enthusiasts can find bars serving using this handy Malört map. If you're a superfan, consider getting a serving gun:

When at #GreatTaste take a shot of Malort.

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Chicago is a town for foodies so naturally, you can also eat Malort in various forms. We tried the Chicago Sunrise pie at Hoosier Mama Pie, which is a Malort-flavored pie.

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. 

Related: Cocktail, Mixology and BYOB Cooking Classes in Chicago

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 Chicago Handshake. Best saved for those you truly hate, or truly love #whereintheworldisDanMayer

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The Flat Iron is also a Wicker Park stop to have an authentic Chicago Handshake.

#chicagohandshake #oldstyle #marlort #delicious #whyihavenofriends

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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.

Hey hey, the new Old Style cans are in! Retro Classic tallboys!

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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 $'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.

The #chicagohandshake tastes like you'd expect. #kindascummy

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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.