FEW DRINKS INSPIRE skepticism quite like the pickleback, the cult Americana-inspired whiskey shot whose signature ingredient can be a deterrent to the uninitiated.
The drink—a slug of whiskey followed by a bracing chaser shot of pickle brine, poured straight from the jar—has gained popularity in the U.S. in recent years as a novel way of making mediocre liquors more palatable.
Now the dive-bar staple is catching on across the Atlantic, with curious tipplers won over by the alchemy that occurs the moment the sweet and sour brine extinguishes the burn of the whiskey, leaving an unexpectedly meaty savor on the palate.
Rather than the anticipated two shots of pain, the drinker experiences something more like a liquid Big Mac.
"The pickle juice acts a natural reset to your throat and taste buds from the harshness of the whiskey," explains Jamie Berger, co-founder of London's Pitt Cue Co. barbecue restaurant, where the drink is the house specialty. To best experience the pickleback, he says, it should be made with "as rough a whiskey as possible."
Mr. Berger claims to have sold Britain's first commercially served picklebacks in 2011, from the Southbank food truck that was the restaurant's predecessor. Word quickly got out, aided in no small part by the drink's novelty. "People would come up and say, 'We want five picklebacks. What are they?' "I am pretty sure (Icons passsim) that I got my copy of Pitt Cue Co. - The Cookbook before John, but he seems to have drunk more deeply from that particular well than I have. Thus, though I have flirted with the notion of brine and booze in the past (further Icons passim) I got my first real introduction to the wonder of the pickleback at his house last weekend. We need to get to the Pitt Cue Co in Soho next time he is up for the weekend. Saturday at noon at worked well for the Lockhart; we should do the same again for the BBQ joint.
In a not unrelated development, I have also finally worked out how to access JC's Nights of Drink and Dance playlist on Spotify.
It's name however is giving me a disturbing image of him dancing round his crib in his pants à la Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Shudder along below: