For pickleback lovers, it doesn’t get better than the being able to down a savory, briny shot combo whenever you please. Pickle juice perfectly cuts the sometimes harsh flavor of whiskey by complementing sweeter types like bourbon and mellowing the spice of hearty ryes. But you don’t need whiskey, or even traditional pickle juice for that matter, to make a proper pickleback — just ask the folks at Randall’s Barbecue, a delicious smokehouse and eatery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood, because they have a whole bar menu dedicated to picklebacks.
Randall’s is right next door to The Pickle Guys, which is where the team gets its perfect pickle juice and other pickled treats. Randall’s has created briny chasers for everything from rum to tequila, which inspires us to believe that you can make a pickleback out of pretty much anything you have sitting in the fridge. Check out some of their expert combinations and take note the next time you want to chase a shot with something salty and satisfying.
Amaro & Whiskey + Pepperoncini Juice
If you’re not feeling a shot of straight whiskey, one of our favorite ways to temper the taste is by adding half whiskey and half amaro to the shot glass. Randall’s agrees, and it offers the shot with a piquant back of pepperoncini juice (those light green Italian hot peppers you often see in salads and served alongside to pizza). The amaro gives the shot of whiskey a sweeter flavor, and the extra spice from the pepperoncini juice cuts through the alcohol to give your palate a kick. The combined bite from the whiskey and the brine will wake you up!
Bacon-Infused Bourbon + Slaw Juice
This pickleback combo is like a plate of barbecue in liquid form. Randall’s brines and smokes its own bacon in-house (it’s incredible, by the way) then adds a few strips of the crispy meat to a bottle of bourbon. The bacon gives the bourbon a lighter flavor and mellows some of its hotter notes; in fact, the texture is downright creamy. When all of the cabbage from their vinegar-based slaw has been consumed, the remaining juice gets a second life as the back for their bacon-infused bourbon. It adds a briny sweetness that cleanses your palate and prepares you for a second helping of meaty goodness. (Need bacon? Pick up one of these artisanal bacons)
Rum + Maraschino Juice
We’ve all come across an almost empty jar of syrupy maraschino cherries lurking in the back of the fridge. Most people would toss it after the cherries have been consumed, but the team at Randall’s came up with a plan B. They mix the remaining syrup with vinegar for a sweet, pickled treat. The vinegar cuts the sweetness of the electric red maraschino juice and adds a pleasant tang. It’s a perfect complement to rum, especially if you’re taking a shot of the unaged stuff. The bright red juice looks awesome too, so it’s an especially photogenic pickleback.
Vodka + Beet Juice
This classic combo is a winner. Think of it as an alcoholic version of traditional borscht. Pickled beet juice has this sweet, salty, earthy flavor that’s unlike anything else. Randall’s gets its next door from The Pickle Guys, but you can find pickled beets in most grocery stores, and they’re also pretty easy to make yourself. When paired with vodka, the pickled beet juice gives the neutral spirit an almost creamy taste, even if it’s not the best bottle on the shelf. This pickleback would be a great welcome beverage at your next brunch.
Hennessy + Apple Champagne Vinegar
This pickleback combo was definitely one of our favorites at Randall’s. They pickle apples in Champagne vinegar to give it a slightly sweeter flavor. Hennessy has a naturally viscous, smooth cognac texture, so the champagne vinegar cuts through nicely and gives it a pleasantly clean finish. The apple is very apparent and lingers on the palate. Without it, the vinegary chaser would be too harsh for the Henny. While we really do love the way that Hennessy’s apple, almond, and citrus notes come through with this pairing, feel free to sub in your favorite cognac.
Tequila + Pickled Jalapeño and Pineapple Juice
Maybe tequila burned you one night in college, or perhaps you’re accustomed to the cheap stuff and that’s why you don’t care for the taste. Whatever excuse you give for not liking tequila, this is one way to change your mind about the agave spirit. Randall’s pickles jalapeños and pineapple chunks together, then they use the sweet, spicy, tangy juice as a satisfying tequila back. It’s not so peppery that you need to be a heat fanatic to handle it, and it’s not so sweet that it’s going to give you an instant hangover. This pickled jalapeño-pineapple juice pairs so well with the tequila, one shot will make you forget about the night that the spirit wronged you. We suggest sticking with a blanco tequila for this one.
If all this pickleback talk has made you thirsty, you’re in luck. The good people at Randall’s have shared the recipe for their Pickled Jalapeño and Pineapple Juice so you can make it at home.
Pickled Jalapeño and Pineapple Juice Recipe
- 1 cup fresh, ripe pineapple, cut into 1-inch dice
- 2-3 sliced fresh jalapeños
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- .5 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- Heat your water and vinegar in a non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Once it comes to boil, remove the pot from the heat. Add your sugar and salt. Stir until fully dissolved.
- Allow the brine to cool until lukewarm, about 20 minutes.
- Put your pineapple and jalapeños in a glass or plastic container, preferably with a screw top or snap-tight lid.
- Pour in the brine, affix the lid, and refrigerate for at least 24 hrs before using.
- Strain the brine off for pickle back shots served with your favorite tequila. Use the fruit and chile for garnish.