How to Make a Pickleback Shot

Jameson's and Pickle Juice Are a Surprisingly Delicious Combination

Pickleback Shooter
A Pickleback is a shot of Irish whiskey and a shot of pickle juice. A weird combination? Yes, but too many people enjoy it so it must be good. Jupiterimages / Stockbyte / Getty Images

Have you tried the Pickleback yet? It's a simple shot recipe of Jameson and pickle juice and it has many fans. While it may not be for everyone (you really have to like the taste of pickles), it is very interesting and a new way to take a shot of a great whiskey.

The Pickleback is a two shot drink, thought to have originated in hipster bars in Brooklyn, but no one knows the exact origins. What is known is that the Pickleback has become one of the hottest drinks in the country.

The Simple Pickleback Recipe

The Pickleback is quick to make at home and the pickle juice from that jar of Vlasic Pickles in the fridge will do just fine.

Pour each shot into separate shot glasses. Drink the whiskey, then quickly drink the pickle juice.

At a bar, you may need to coach the bartender, but it is worth it. At the rate that this drink is spreading in popularity, it won’t be long before the Pickleback surpasses the Kamikaze in popularity.

What is So Great About the Pickleback?

The Pickleback is both surprising and tasty and some cutting edge bars create their own signature pickle juice to pair with Jameson’s. Portland bartender Jacob Grier offers up a pickled nectarine juice while NYC bartender TJ Lynch of The Breslin uses a pickle juice prepared by Quino Baca, co-owner of Momofuku.

When I asked TJ Lynch (New York City’s "Prophet of the Pickleback") how his customers react when he offers up the unusual shot of Jameson and a pickle juice chaser, he said that he gets three reactions:

The most popular is that they think I’m kidding, followed by thinking I’m crazy and some people say that there is no way they are going to try it.”

Luckily, Lynch is very persuasive and I can attest that the combination of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey and pickle juice - while sounding odd - can be a delicious combination.

Lynch attributes the success of the drink to Jameson’s slight woody, sweet taste. When combined with the pickle juice, it leaves a rich, umami flavor on the palate.

3 Tips for the Best Pickleback Experience

Fair warning, do not accept a pickle back without Jameson’s. Every substitution I have tried has had disastrous results. There really is something about this particular whiskey that makes the pickle combination work. It's hard to explain, but you really should trust us.

As for the pickle juice itself, you don't have to be so picky. I have tried everything from canned pickle juice in a neighborhood tavern to homemade pickle brine from Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak in Scottsdale and just about everything in between.

While a homemade brine often works out best, the juice from commercial pickles works just fine. Just try to avoid brine from pickled beets, the combination ends up tasting like a week-old sweat sock.

Picklebacks are best when served with a beer back. I usually choose a light lager beer like Dos Equis to complement the flavors. TJ Lynch prefers Tecate in the can with a bit of lime and salt, and Portland hipsters seem to go for the refreshing taste of Pabst Blue Ribbon. 

Originally Published: February 28, 2010
Edited by Colleen Graham