Picklebacks: The Drink in Two Parts That Has Some Pickle Funk to It

March 16, 2016

A couple of months ago, I found myself in school again, miles away from Manila. Some afternoons were spent in small bars right before the working crowd came in, with notes in one hand and a beer glass in the other. A two-day ritual at that time, the bartender carded me and asked if I really wanted another beer, “Or how about a warmer welcome to the New York summer?” Sure, buddy, so long as it’s on you. Two tiny glasses kissed the bar top, one smaller than the other. Into the bigger one went a small stream of whiskey, and in the other, something I least expected: pickle juice, straight from the jar, still a little cloudy with pickle bits settling at the bottom.

This, I learn then, is a pickleback. A drink of alleged Brooklyn descent, conceived sometime in the early noughties, it is a tipple in two parts: first, the whiskey—the cheaper, the better. (If a searing pain stabs at your throat, and you smell fumes as the whiskey makes its way down, you’re on the right track.) Then, in the split second that follows the journey to hell, slug back the pickle juice. What erupts from this is a meaty lick on the palate, neutralizing the burning bite from the whiskey just a moment prior.

This is as basic as picklebacks get, but some places have taken it further, by using vinegars that go from high to low, with pickled produce that ranges from turnips to roasted shallots. Skeptics might not buy it yet, but, coming from someone that’s lost college school nights to shots of tequila, the pickleback is the shot you will wish you had met sooner.

In our guide to basic brining, we’ve managed to pickle baby corn, and carrots, and chillies, in familiar local vinegars. Sky’s the limit with these shots, so you can go as crazy on them as you’d like. Add to that a flight of different whiskeys to pair them with, and you’ve got yourself a party.


Basic Pickling Brine

Time: 5 mins prep, 3 days pickling
Yield: 1 cup, estimated


  • 1 cup vegetables or fruit, of your choice
  • 1 1/2 cups vinegar, of your choice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp spices, optional


  1. Thoroughly rinse the vegetable or fruit. If necessary, cut them into pieces so that they can fit compactly into a jar.
  2. Firmly push the vegetable into a sterilized jar.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients into a saucepot. Dissolve all the sugar and salt, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for two minutes more.
  4. Pour the hot brine into the jar. Run a knife around the edges in order to get rid of any air bubbles.
  5. Allow the pickles to brine for at least three days. Store in the refrigerator.

Note: There are so many kinds of vinegar.  All of which have different acidity levels, flavor profiles, and colors. The same goes for vegetables and fruits. Experiment with the addition of herbs and spices. Use different combinations and figure out which flavors work best for you.

Michelle V. Ayuyao SEE AUTHOR Michelle V. Ayuyao

Michelle V. Ayuyao took up a course in Food Writing at the International Culinary Center in New York City before joining as Editor-in-Chief. She was previously the associate editor of Rogue magazine. Online she is @mvayuyao.

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