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.
The term "pickleback" was coined by Reggie Cunningham at Bushwick Country Club 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."
I first had a pickle back with Kessler chased by pickle juice at a dive bar in San Bernardino, CA before 2006. …
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
An earlier version of the pickleback began in Calgary, Alberta in the late 1990's at a small billiards bar named the Classic Q. Equal measures of Canadian whisky and pickle juice were prepared as a shooter, and one memorable night the bar was emptied of both whisky and pickle juice. Brian West, who started the local fad, worked in Boston and the Bronx in 2001, asking for his favourite shot at stops along the way. The request for "rye and pickle juice" was always met with a frown and a polite, "excuse me?".
The "pickleback" has spread internationally, particularly in the English-speaking world, 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.
British visitors returning to the United Kingdom from New York City introduced the recipe to bars in both London (as early as 2011), and Devon. In 2012, UK bartender Byron Knight created a bottled Pickleback using his own homegrown dill pickles and a flavour profile of ginger, mustard seeds, dill, garlic and dark sugar. At The Burlington Hotel, in Sheringham, England, the Pickleback is available with 10 varieties of pickle chaser, including pickled Strawberry, Radish and Garlic.
In Berlin, the pickleback is available in a few of its best bars for several years now. Most notably in Keith where the owner, a Texan, makes his own pickles and uses the juice to back a shot of Bulleit Bourbon. Geist im Glas, another Berlin bar, does a pickleback using the brine from house made pickled onions.
Paraguay adopted the drink to a tropical version called "Pickle-Back-Rum". The paraguayan "Jules Verne - Rum" is used instead of Whisky. It is currently popping up in the most trendy bars in downtown Asuncion. The trendy hot spot "El Poniente" was the first to serve it.
- Hume, Tim (2013-02-28). "Half Full: The Power of the Pickleback - WSJ". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2016-03-18.
- Cunningham, Reggie (February 23, 2011). The True Origin of the Pickleback. YouTube. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
- Toby Cecchini (March 16, 2010). "Got Your Pickleback". The New York Times Style Magazine. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
- Adams, Tom (May 9, 2014). "How to make a pickleback cocktail". Life and Style. The Guardian. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
- by Puppet (2014-04-04). "Pickleback | Isle of Man Whisky Club". Iomwhiskyclub.com. Retrieved 2016-03-18.
- Pease, Victoria (April 8, 2013). "The Tippling House shakes up the perfect intimate cocktail bar". Scotland: STV News.
- Hume, Tim (February 28, 2013). "Half Full: The Power of the Pickleback". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
- "Cocktails: The Pickleback".
- "Pop Goes The Restaurant".
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