Just as that bitter taste lingers in your mouth for what feels like forever, malört has managed to linger in the DC drinks scene since it broke out in late last December. This is due in no small part to the massive hype it’s been generating, getting continuous press and even a bar dedicated to it.
The malört craze started with Boundary Road, which was the first time I saw malört on a DC menu, and Bar Pilar who featured Malört Bombs on their Anti-Valentine’s Day Menu. But the real stuff, Jeppson’s Malört, as of now, is only behind one bar in the city, Ivy and Coney.
Ivy and Coney is DC’s shrine to this bitter Chicago spirit. Opened in late December, Ivy and Coney has been making waves for it’s no frills, divey neighborhood bar take on midwest taverns. Come to drink the inexpensive beers, eat cracker jacks and the Chicago-style hot dogs and coneys. And, of course, shoot malört. This isn’t a place to get fancy, it’s a place to have an unpretentious beer and a snack after work, and see your friends’ malört face.
Head through the cheekily graffitied door and up a flight of stairs to the main room, where the all the barmen are pouring drinks and grilling hot dogs. Hang at the bar for a complimentary bowl of peanuts but please, throw the shells on the floor. The bartenders will love you, I promise. After all, the floor is much easier to clean at the end of the night than having to constantly wipe peanut shells off a bartop during Friday night crunch time. Once you’ve got your drinks and a dog, head to the back room for a few rounds of Mario Kart on the N64 and relive your freshmen year of college.
I’ve been frequenting Ivy and Coney since they opened but I’ve held off on a comprehensive review for one reason. Jeppson’s malört wasn’t easily available in DC. Now it’s certified DC safe, officially carried by DC liquor distributors, and will start popping up at bars all around the city in an attempt to make DC the “Second City of malört.” Just remember that Ivy and Coney was first. Any time you see a bottle of Jeppson’s behind the bar, it’s there because the owners of Ivy and Coney special ordered cases of the stuff and built the DC malört hype from the ground up.
But even without the draw of malört, Ivy and Coney is a great, low key addition to the booming Shaw nightlife scene. On off nights it’s the perfect spot to relax with a beer after work. On busier weekend nights, it starts to feel like a cross between a sports bar and a squatter house party. It ain’t fancy, but it sure is fun. Just remember, it’s cash only.