Liquor + pickle juice = awesome?
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 ...
I 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.)