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Pickle-Flavoured Cocktails: Why They're A Hit & How To Ace Them

pickled cocktail

Pickle-based drinks have emerged as a trend in recent years, as a response to the growing need for creative and unique cocktail experiences. Now, there’s some truth in the fact that this trend caters to very specific taste buds, belonging to the more adventurous souls out there.

How It Started

It’s safe to pin the trend on the United States, a country that adores its pickles and wears this love on its sleeve. In the early 2010s, bars across New York, San Francisco and Chicago, that prided themselves on innovation in their mixology, began experimenting with pickle-inspired drinks. One anecdote traces the origin of the trend to a popular dive bar, where a shot of whisky was chased with a shot of pickle juice, and the customers just loved it! And so began the marriage of cocktails with pickle brine, pickled vegetables — even pickle-infused spirits. 

pickled cocktails 1

How It’s Going

Over time, pickle-flavoured cocktails have become a brunch favourite. Pickle-flavoured margaritas and martinis were quick to pick up in popularity, and social media played quite the catalyst in making the trend go viral. The rest is contemporary cocktail history. 

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What made the pickle cocktail trend catch on though? Apart from the US, pickles are also popular in Canada, the UK, Australia and parts of Europe, where they are a vital part of everyday cuisine. Individual consumers also tend to have their own favourites when it comes to pickles, and there’s a nostalgia factor attached to them. If pickles can make even a bland meal taste a whole lot better, there’s no reason why they can’t do the same for a cocktail! It’s all about combining unusual flavours to produce something unique and different. 

Popular Pickle Cocktails

The Pickleback is probably the most common face of this trend. It involves chasing a shot of liquor or spirit with a shot of pickle brine. Keep in mind that at its most basic, pickle brine comprises vinegar, sugar, salt and water, so these are the flavours you’ll experience. In some bars, you’ll be served a bite of pickle instead of a shot of brine. In both cases, the purpose is to soothe the burn of the spirit and make its aftertaste mellow.

pickled martini

For a more stylised experience, you have the Pickle Martini — a spin on the traditional martini where the olive brine is substituted with pickle juice and a pickle spear. Another well-known cocktail in this genre is the Pickle Rick, inspired by a popular animated TV series. It features a combination of pickle-infused vodka, elderflower liqueur, lime juice and simple syrup. 

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How To Make Your Own

If you’d like to try making your own pickle-flavoured cocktails, here are a couple of pointers from experts: First, don’t compromise on the quality of the pickle juice. You should always pick a pickle juice that is delicious by itself — that really goes a long way. Then you’ll need to think very carefully about what flavours you’re going to create. Pickle juice in itself has a very tangy, mouth-puckering taste, so you don’t want to add more sourness to it. Instead, you’d want to balance it with something a little sweet, like simple syrup perhaps. This will really help balance the taste. 

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Feel free to experiment with spirits. Pickle juice tends to work really well with vodka, whisky and gin, but you shouldn’t limit yourself. At the end of the day, this is a very personal process and let your own tastebuds guide you in this journey. You can also try pickle-infused spirits at some point: slice your favourite pickle and let it sit in a bottle of vodka for a few days. Use this infusion as per the prescribed measure of spirit when mixing a martini recipe or even a Tequila Sunrise!

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