This Restaurant Takes Oyster Shooters to the Next Level (With Scotch!)

Oysters tend to fall into the two camps many other foods do (here’s looking at you, liverwurst) — you love oysters to that point that every time you pass by a sketchy bar advertising two-for-ones you stop and take a moment to contemplate whether or not health code violations are really just a hang-up in your personal philosophy, or you think they are the unborn spawns of Satan that deserve to be banished to the fiery pits of Mordor.

We here at The Manual fall into Camp No. 1. Served raw with a little lemon or fried or in oyster stew or baked in Oysters Rockefeller, we love the salty little fellas. Today, though, we’re here to talk about a time-honored oyster tradition, and how the restaurant NICO in Charleston, South Carolina, is taking it to the next, intoxicating level.

nico oyster shooter bowmore

Photo by Andrew Cebulka

The tradition? Oyster shooters. How is NICO upping the game? Scotch.

Now, for those that have never taken an oyster shooter, the typical build looks something like this:

  • 1 oyster
  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 1 tsp cocktail sauce
  • 1 lemon wedge

You then build all of the ingredients in a large shot glass and, well, shoot it. Easy peasy.

What you get is a flavor akin to a Bloody Mary made with Clamato. Delicious? Obviously — everything with oysters is delicious (and if you’re still reading, we feel you are of the same mind as we are on this one). Could it be made better? If you ask the fine folks at NICO, the answer is definitely yes.

Instead of vodka, cocktail sauce or straight horseradish, and lemon, NICO’s oyster shooters are served with Bowmore 12 Scotch whisky. (Want to just sip some Bowmore? Try to get your hands on this rare release.)

According to NICO general manager and sommelier Cal Goodell, they chose Bowmore 12 because it “is the perfect introductory Scotch for a non-Scotch drinker.”

On the nose of Bowmore 12, you’ll get some floral notes that melt into vanilla and chocolate on the nose and palate. A gentle peat smoke flavor — perfect to match the briny nature of oysters — is also present throughout each sip of the whiskey.

While you can do the oyster shooter however you please, Goodell suggests the following: “sip the brine, pour the Scotch over the oyster, eat and enjoy the oyster, and finally rinse the shell with the Scotch and shoot.”

Each stage, he says, highlights a different aspect of the flavor of either the oysters or the Scotch and doing them in this order works to showcase why Scotch and oysters go so well together.

We know we’re sold, but do you think you’ll head to NICO for a Scotch oyster shooter next time you’re in town?

If you’re planning to recreate Scotch oyster shooters at home, here are some more great Scotches.