The Pickleback, which is not a Nickleback tribute band, is a relatively new drink combo that matches a shot of whiskey with a pickle brine chaser. Started in 2006 by Brooklyn bartender Reggie Cunningham at The Bushwick Country Club, the concept spread around the United States, Canada, England and in Shanghai.
Recently, Milwaukee got in on the action. Mason Street Grill, 425 E. Mason St., put the Pickleback on its drink menu for $10; it includes a shot of Jameson coupled with a shot of house-made pickle brine.
"You don’t have to like whiskey, but you have to like pickles," says Mason Street bartender, Joe D’Acquisto.
Social media manager Carolynn Buser and I recently went to a happy hour at Mason Street Grill to take "The Pickleback Challenge." As people who enjoy both whiskey and pickles to begin with, we were an easy sell.
The Pickleback – sometimes called the "Piskey Whickle" or "Bartender's Handshake" – is also touted as a hangover drink. The brine has acetic acid in the vinegar, which is an antidiuretic with electrolytes, and the whiskey, of course, is the proverbial "hair of the dog." Together, some say it’s an effective remedy after a night of over-indulging.
The drink is also popular with people who do not normally like the taste of whiskey because the brine neutralizes both the taste and the burn of the booze.
Steve Gilbertson, co-owner of The Standard, occasionally drinks and serves Picklebacks at his East Side tavern. Gilbertson started drinking them a few years ago while traveling and says they are easy to make at The Standard because they already have pickles for Bloody Marys.
"I’m a huge fan of pickles, and I thought it was delicious," says Gilbertson. "So when I came back, I started drinking them, and a few people have picked it up."
Gilbertson says if one person in a group orders a Pickleback, often the whole group will want to try it, too.
"It really cleans the palate," says Gilbertson. "And if you’re drinking with a person who doesn’t like whiskey, it’s a good way to get ‘em past that."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.