The Pickleback is a very interesting whiskey shot and a drink you have to experience for yourself. It's incredibly simple—a shot of Jameson chased by a shot of pickle juice—and it is, without a doubt, one of the most popular shots ordered in bars around the world.
Chasing whiskey with pickle brine really is nothing new, it's long been one of those "hair of the dog" remedies for hangovers. Yet, it wasn't until 2006 that Brooklyn bartender Reggie Cunningham gave the shot its now famous name at the Bushwick Country Club. After that, it didn't take long for the drink to become a hit and spread across the U.S. and beyond.
The combination is odd, though it works surprisingly well. Even if you're not a fan of pickles, it's a drink you'll want to try because it delivers a rich, umami flavor that you will not find in any other drink. There's no need to head to the bar, either. You can experience the Pickleback at home, even with that jar of Vlasics hanging out in your fridge.
- 1 1/2 ounces Jameson’s Irish Whiskey
- 1 1/2 ounces pickle juice
- Pour one shot glass full of whiskey and fill a separate shot glass with pickle juice.
- Drink the whiskey, then quickly chase it with the pickle juice.
The Irish Whiskey
The key to making a great Pickleback really is in the whiskey. You can pour any Irish whiskey—or any other whiskey, for that matter—but it will not be the same as a shot of Jameson. Maybe it's this particular whiskey's woody sweetness or something else entirely.
We really can't explain why, but Jameson creates the best tasting Pickleback.
While Jameson is not the original whiskey, it is the most popular today, and likely led to the shot's success. Cunningham's first round (or ten rounds, according to his account) of the Pickleback actually used Old Crow. This is good news if you want a Pickleback and want to save money. It's not quite as tasty as Jameson, but it's pretty good.
The Pickle Juice
As stringent as you should be about the whiskey, there's no need to be picky about the pickle juice. The brine from any jar of pickles will work. Go ahead and pour from that commercially produced jar, or your favorite homemade pickles, the shot will be just as good either way.
The pickle juice is also where you can have some fun. Bartenders around the country have played with a variety of pickle bases to great success. Some bars even stock up to 10 jars for this exact purpose. Try fruity brines, spicy brines or something in between to see which you like best. If you want to keep it authentic, McClure's is the brand of pickles Cunningham used and recommends.
A Beer Chaser
Many people have found that a beer chaser is a perfect way to finish up the Pickleback, though it's not required. If you'd like to give it a try, stick with the light, refreshing lagers. Dos Equis, Tecate and Pabst Blue Ribbon are some of the top choices among Pickleback fans.