There's a new drink combo that's been springing up on bar menus across the country: The Pickleback. Yes, that's right - a shot of whiskey accompanied by a "back" of pickle juice. This week, with side-by-side measures of skepticism and curiosity, I gave this unlikely pairing a shot.
A Little Background
Over the past few months, the Pickleback's generated a lot of Internet buzz. Christened and made famous by a bar in Brooklyn called The Bushwick Country Club (where the setup consists of a shot of Old Crow bourbon with a shot of McClure's pickle juice), this unusual drink combo was prominently featured in many St. Patrick's Day menus (with Irish whiskey - usually Jameson - subbed in) this year.
Although I'm a fan of both whiskey/whisky and pickles (well, the preserved cucumber part, anyway, I'd never poured myself a glass of the brine before), the prospect of tasting a shot of each in rapid succession didn't sound especially appealing. But I'll try almost any drink once.
I didn't have any bourbon or Irish whiskey on hand, but I did have some Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Rye and figured that if a dill pickle tasted good with rye bread, then why not with some peppery-dry rye whiskey? And although my local market didn't stock McClure's, it did stock another artisanally made pickle, Rick's Picks "Spears of Influence." I was set.
I lined up the two shots and took a healthy gulp of the whiskey, followed by a tentative sip of the pickle brine. Not terrible - actually, pretty good. The Rick's Picks pickle juice, though strong, tasted fine on its own (I definitely wouldn't recommend using mass-produced, artificially flavored and colored pickle brine for this experiment), and the cumin in it worked quite well with the rye.
I hadn't had dinner yet, so I found the whole boozy/savory/salty/sour flavor experience made me immediately hungry. So while I don't foresee this combo making its way into my regular drink rotation, I could imagine trying it again with a tuna sandwich on rye and a side of potato chips. And of course, a big glass of water - pickle brine is salty stuff!
1 1/2 ounces whiskey (bourbon, rye, or Irish)
1 1/2 ounces juice from a jar of quality dill pickles
Pour the whiskey and pickle juice into separate shot glasses. Sip or shoot according to taste.
Have you ever tried/would you ever try the Pickleback?
Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC's Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.
- "Case Study: Got Your Pickleback," The New York Times Magazine
- "The Pickleback: A New Old Drink for St. Patties," Esquire
- "Spirits: For St. Paddy's Day, Make My Whiskey Irish," The Washington Post
- "The Pickleback," PDX Plate
Related: Recipe: Pickletini
(Images: Nora Maynard)