The Pickleback

By Ed Sikov

Cocktail Chatter

"Are you pregnant?" Dan asked me the other day.

"I'm not sure," I said through the chomp of a pickle - my third in so many minutes - "but I rather doubt it." It's true that Dan and I have been experimenting sexually lately, but I am confident that nothing we've tried would result in either one of us having been impregnated.

"So what's with the pickle obsession?"

"I question the word 'obsession,'" I said after another satisfying crunch. "It's not as though I'm serving you pickle souffles or pickle-tofu casseroles."

"You have successfully turned my stomach," Dan noted with a sour expression on his face. I curtsied and headed back to the refrigerator for another pickle. "It's wintertime," I yelled from the kitchen. "Time to eat preserves and pickles! I think they're supposed to have a lot of Vitamin C." I pulled this theory out of my, um, head. Hey, it sounded plausible.

"You pulled that out of your ass," Dan countered. "It's more likely that you're pregnant."

I shrugged. What difference did it make if I was hauling Claussen's pickles home by the case? There are worse vices, I thought to myself.

That's when inspiration struck: a pickle juice cocktail! I was elated. I'd just invented a hip new drink! It would be an instant sensation - I'd be famous, albeit briefly and only in limited circles. So I hurried to the computer, went online to check whether indeed I'd come up with something new, and was immediately crushed to discover that I'd been beaten to the punch. Apparently "The Pickleback" is already a hipster hit.

The recipe is quite simple, but it's also needlessly exacting in its ingredients: A Pickleback is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice. Although it was only 4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon, I had to have one immediately. Fortunately, we had most of a fifth of Jameson, and of course I had more than enough pickle juice.

Usually I drink Jameson - and all whiskeys, Scotches, and bourbons - on the rocks, but the Pickleback demanded that the shot be served neat. I eagerly poured a shot glass full of Jameson and a twin glass full of pickle juice. (I strained out the bits of garlic and spices with a tea strainer.) I didn't bring them into the living room, knowing I'd just end up being the brunt of Dan's mockery, but instead downed both shots while standing at the kitchen counter. The Pickleback was delicious! The smooth, sweet whiskey found its soul mate in, of all things, salty-sour pickle brine! Who knew?

I've subsequently experimented with other whiskeys and even bourbon; they all work. Why the recipe specifies Jameson is unclear. It's a great combination, but so is Jack Daniels and pickle juice, Knob Creek and pickle juice, and so on.

My stealthily created Pickleback, safe from Dan's critical eye, enabled me to make another one of them without his knowing, so I was a bit looped when I emerged from the kitchen smacking my lips. Dan noticed my heavy-lidded eyes immediately. "Better watch the hooch, honey," he advised. "It's not good for the baby."

The Pickleback

1 shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey (or any sweet bourbon or sour mash)

1 shot of chilled, strained pickle juice (I recommend Claussen's)

Down them in order. Then make another set. Serve, of course, with pickles.

Ed Sikov is the author of the e-book, "The Boys' and Girls' Little Book of Alcohol," a novel with recipes based on his Cocktail Chatter column.

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