Pickle Power

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Pickle what? That was my reaction when I first heard about the Pickle Back. Yep, you read that right: Pickle Back. The drink, a shot of bourbon or Jameson Irish Whiskey followed by a shot of pickle brine, has developed a cult following complete with a Facebook fan page and press release from Jameson. It’s particularly popular among New York City bartenders who have spread pickle fever to other cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Francisco and even London.

It’s not all that crazy when you put it into context. The Russian and Nordic cultures have paired pickles and pickle brine with vodka for generations. I’ve been blending the brines of several pickled veggies for my Bloody Elixir for years. And, of course, many Martini drinkers add a splash of olive brine to their cocktails.

After much research—and many shots—I’ve traced the origins of the Pickle Back to Brooklyn’s Bushwick Country Club. In 2006, neighbor McClure’s Pickles asked to store some inventory in the bar’s basement. The Country Club’s bartenders were also using the brand’s brine in some cocktails. One Sunday night, according to owner John Roberts, a customer asked for a shot of pickle juice to accompany her vodka. The order inspired bartender Reggie Cunningham to jokingly pair Old Crow Bourbon with a shot of McClure’s spicy pickle juice instead of the traditional can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. But the reaction from patrons was no joke, and the bar started selling a lot of them.

When the Ruotolo brothers brought the drink to their East Village bar, Whiskey Town, the recipe changed slightly as Jameson replaced bourbon. The briny creation was soon being served at other bars, including the Rusty Knot and the Randolph. It can now be found around the city and beyond.

While bartenders use all sorts of pickle juices, Roberts remains a traditionalist. “If it’s not McClure’s it’s not the same,” he says.

H. Joseph Ehrmann is the proprietor of Elixir in San Francisco and the Brand Ambassador and Mixologist for Square One Organic Spirits. He is also one of Liquor.com’s advisors.

Locations: 501 New York
Brands: Jameson
Series & Type: Products Trends

From our Friends



  • graphicphreaks posted 4 years ago

    My cousin told me about pickle "backs" with whiskey - he even started a company around it : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pickleback/250503265104517
    I was hesitant to try it but my kids came home on leave and my cousin sent us a bottle. Pretty darn straight! And the "pickleback" product is so good! - more so than straight from the jar pickle juice! and you cna use it in many recipes too .

  • Katrina posted 5 years ago

    I'm looking for vodka and gherkin juice recipes, but a bit lighter than just these two - what mixer would work best?


  • Mike Fugere posted 5 years ago

    ...I invented JD and pickle juice on Dec.31st 1999 at 11:45pm only 15 min left before New Years we had a half a bottle of JD and no mix I looked in the fridge saw a jar of Vlasic Dill Pickles voila *Jack Vlasic* was born :)

  • Katie posted 7 years ago

    I've been doing these for years....except we call them a Tijuana hooker. Whatever the name...it's good!!

  • Julian posted 8 years ago

    I've been drinking vodka & pickle back with halibut and chips sense 1962 up here in Alaska, it came from Russia and we thought we were behind time.

  • Terry posted 8 years ago

    In Southern Colorado, along the Arkansas trail, we call it a
    San Juan Hooker (Patron followed by Pickle juice)and for the fellas, add a dash or 4 of Tabasco and it's called a Dirty San Juan Hooker!!!
    The lime and salt is dead and gone, POWER TO THE PICKLE!!

  • cna training posted 8 years ago

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  • Frankie posted 8 years ago

    Hey H! It's me, frank (used to work at Counter). Thanks for setting the record straight! I have frequented and worked at Bushwick Country Club for years. It's true, it's McClures or it's just not right.

  • Kristi posted 8 years ago

    I have heard of this drink before (and have been shooting them for years)....but I've always known it as a "Pickle Pony" - however, instead of Jameson, it used Crown Royal. I heard about it from a friend, who heard about it from someone else.

  • gardner Dunn posted 8 years ago

    Well put H. Hope to have one with you soon. See you in Vegas. Cheers

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