A pickleback is a type of shot wherein a shot of whiskey is chased by a shot of pickle brine; the term “pickleback” may also refer only to the shot of pickle brine itself. Alternatively, the shot of whiskey can be chased by a bite of a pickle (generally, a whole dill pickle). The pickle brine works to neutralize both the taste of the whiskey and the burn of the alcohol.
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The term "pickleback" was coined by Reggie Cunningham of The Bushwick Country Club bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2006. He was introduced to the pairing by a Southern patron, and the pairing has some history in the Southern United States, notably Texas, along with similar pairings globally (vodka and pickles in Russia, tequila and pickle brine in Mexico). The original pairing was Old Crow bourbon and brine from McClure's spicy pickle spears, which remains the house speciality at the Bushwick Country Club:
Reggie poured me a pickleback, which he described as the house specialty: a shot of Old Crow bourbon and an accompanying shot of brine from a jar of McClure’s spicy dills.
…Reggie Cunningham, who’s now widely credited with the drink’s invention at the Bushwick Country Club, was quick to set the record straight, while possibly supporting Littrell’s theory [of Texas origin]. “We were storing pickles for the McClure’s guys in the basement when they first started their Brooklyn operations,” he said. “I was just munching on some one night when this gravelly-voiced Southern chick asked for a shot of the juice alongside her whiskey. I said, ‘No way,’ but she made me have one with her, and I think I had, like, a dozen that night. Totally cured a cold I had, and no hangover. It took off like hell from there. That one drink totally cemented the bar.”—Toby Cecchini, The New York Times Style Magazine
The "pickleback" has spread internationally, particularly in the Anglosphere, with many bars now offering picklebacks on their menus. The drink has had significant success in Aberdeen, Scotland thanks to their reputed popularity among staff of the craft brewer BrewDog whose Flagship bar is in the city. This has resulted in city establishment "The Tippling House" having to increase their nightly supply of pickle brine to ensure that the drink can stay available. Several British visitors have returned to the United Kingdom from New York City (where the drink enjoys significant popularity) with the recipe, introducing it to bars in both London and Devon.
In 2012 Byron Knight created Pickleback – the UK's first pickleback shot – using his own homegrown dill pickles and a flavour profile of ginger, mustard seeds, dill, garlic and dark sugar.
The Rivington Grill in Shoreditch, London, developed a variation of the Pickleback in February 2014, replacing dill pickle brine with a mixture of olive brine and a drop of pickled onion vinegar. A group of New York residents voted the London Pickleback a success.
At The Burlington Hotel, in Sheringham, England, the Pickleback is available with 10 varieties of pickle chaser, including pickled Strawberry, Radish and Garlic. Callum Ringer of the Burlington is said to be the father of these particular types of Pickleback.
- The True Origin of the Pickleback, Feb 23, 2011
- Toby Cecchini (2010-03-16). "Got Your Pickleback". The New York Times Style Magazine. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- Pease, Victoria (2013). "The Tippling House shakes up the perfect intimate cocktail bar".
- Hume, Tim (2013). "Half Full: The Power of the Pickleback". Wall Street Journal.
- "Pop Goes The Restaurant".t
- "Cocktails: The Pickleback".