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November 20, 2008

Liquor + pickle juice = awesome?

picklejuice, picklejuice, picklejuice!Back in college, I knew a Russian native named Valentin.

Unsurprisingly, Valentin liked vodka. Surprisingly, Valentin liked to chase vodka with chopped pickles.

Did I just trigger your gag reflex? Well, hold on a second and hear me out on this.

Valentin would bring over a bottle of vodka and a jar of dill pickles. He'd chop the pickles into bite sized pieces, take a shot of vodka and pop one of the pickle pieces into his mouth. It's real big in Russia, I hear.

The way I understand it is, pickle juice is a base which counteracts the acid in the alcohol. Maybe it's the other way around. I've never claimed to be a chemist.

After some peer pressure, Valentin convinced us to try it, too. And, by God, it worked.

The pickle taste swept the vodka's sting right away. I was floored. The downside? It's kind of a trade-off: Pickle juice replaces the sharp vodka aftertaste. So if you hate pickles, you're not gonna like this.

I hadn't encountered this phenomenon in Baltimore until last night ...   

vodkaI dropped by the Idle Hour (201 E. Fort Ave.) for a nightcap and to catch up on some South Baltimore bar gossip. Brendan, one of the owners, told me about a recent trip to Pottsville, Penn. (to tour the Yuengling brewery) and then to New York City.

That got him talking about the Pickle Back. From what Brendan said, the Pickle Back was born in a New York City bar. And it's not too far removed from the pickle and vodkas we did back in college.

The pickle back is a shot of Jameson followed by a shot of pure pickle juice. Idle Hour serves them on a fairly regular basis. However, I believe they serve them with Jack Daniels, not Jameson. Brendan, if you read this correct me.

But the brand of liquor doesn't seem to matter. I tried one last night, and lemme tell ya -- pickle juice works like a charm. I can't say that I'd ever order one again, but I'm glad I did it once.

(Sun archive photo of pickles by Kim Hairston. AP photo of vodka bottles.) 

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:07 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Ah great idea! Iwill have to try it tonight. The only thing I use pickle juice for behind the bar is a dirty martini with pickle juice instead of olive and a dash of hot.

I spent a month in Russia and became very familiar with the pickle chaser. Might have to start frequenting Idle Hour, since must bartenders think I am crazy when I request it.

My BFF and I had these at Idle Hour a few months ago - shot of Jack followed by the pickle juice. We were super wary at first, but they were really delicious.

A few years ago, I had a group of customers that were big into what they deemed the "Pickle Power." A shot of Cuervo followed by a chunk of pickle. I think they were from Pittsburgh.

My Grandfather, an immigrant who was fond of his vodka, swore by a shot of pickle juice to settle his stomach on the morning after. It has always worked for me. (Not that I would ever drink to excess...)

“The way I understand it is, pickle juice is a base which counteracts the acid in the alcohol”
Vodka is made up of ethanol and water, which would have approximately the pH of the water, which should be completely neutral. Pickle brine is primarily water, vinegar and salt, which makes it pretty acidic. You would think pickles would make you feel worse, not better! The chemistry makes no sense to me, but I’ll swear it works!

A list of pickle cocktails:
(Why in the HELL do I have that bookmarked, and how did I stumble across it?)

Oh – and Jason – pickles will help you find parking.


My friend swears by dill pickles as a hangover cure, but I've never tried them as a chaser. Very interesting...

Pickle juice can also be used for leg and/or side cramps. Runners and football players swear by it. Also, if you take a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar, you will have the same effect. The taste for each is much to be desired.

I also swear by pickle juice as a hangover cure. I prefer half sour, but I suppose dill would work.

I tried the pickle back with vodka and it is great, a vodka martini made with pickle juice, instead of olive juice, sounds good. I tried the pickle juice with jack and jameson, but with a little less success.

I've been serving pickle backs at my bar in south beach, too! and you can get them at a dive bar also in south beach if you ask (they don't really serve them there, but they have a kitchen which stocks dill pickles and they have no problem pouring out a little of the juice from the jar). Love it!!!!!!

Ah yes...the pickelback. I recall a bad night of karaoke at Nick's Fish House singing their hit "Rockstar" or was it "Far Away"? Maybe I don't recall it.

just got back from a trip to ocean city, md. the pickle pub serves pickle shots-pickle juice and vodka already mixed together. mmmm.........

Heather at Amici's make them once in a while. Smaczna

I prefer my picklebacks at Idle Hour with Pikesville Rye. Everywhere else I like them with Crown Royal. I like to keep it super classy.

We've been doing that shot for years in the Midwest under the name "Eagle Bomb.". I think it started at a bachelor party gone wrong with nothing left but a bottle of crown and condiments. Crown and mustard didn't sound appealing so we mixed it with pickle juice. Pretty awful mix to be %100 honset.. But it is still ordered regularly when with close friends from the bachelor party.

Second Chance Saloon in Columbia does this!

Here in T-Town, Alabama, we call a shot of vodka and a shot of pickle juice a "Redneck Martini". Was at a bike rally once and we ran out of pickle juice, so we started passing the pickles around.

They have the pickle back at the bushwick country club in Brooklyn. They have a slushie machine, you can get Jim beam and coke slushie or a sweet tea vodka slushie.

When I was there they had a special that was a tall boy of PBR + a shot of Old Crow bourbon with a pickle back for $5.

And they have a pretty funny put together mini golf course in back with a PBR can windmill.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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