it sparks joy cocktail photo by samuel reed

7 cocktails for pickle lovers

Pickles are the superhero ingredient here to save you from cocktail malaise. Sure, we all know about dirty martinis, and anyone who’s cruised a bloody mary buffet has likely dressed up the brunch classic with pickled vegetables. But pickles lend themselves to many cocktails besides the standards.

On a very basic level, pickling is a method of food preservation that uses salt and vinegar, usually combined over high heat, to prevent the growth of rot-causing bacteria. The process also transforms food’s texture and flavor, giving it crispness as well as infusing it with the essence of whatever spices or herbs are boiled with the vinegar and, of course, sourness. 

“When you pickle or brine something … it totally changes the taste,” said Eric Weis, bar manager at the newly opened Edera Italian Eatery in the Central West End. “So, you could have something like a bitter melon, and it can actually turn a little sweet. It just depends on what you brine it with. You can brine it with a little sugar; you can brine it with salt.”

Weis is a big fan of using pickles in cocktails. “My wife [Jentri Alderdyce, operations manager at Brennan’s] and I are pickle freaks. When we do martinis at home, we use pickled onions and spicy pickled asparagus as our go-to. Brine is king,” he added firmly.

Industry veteran Megan Lechner concurs. “Pickled produce is great in a cocktail,” she said. “Usually citrus has to bring all the sour flavors and acidity. Pickled produce allows you to bring in more flavors than you usually have available to hit that sour note. It really adds a nice complexity,” she added.

At Planter’s House, the In a Pickle cocktail outsells every other drink on the menu five to one. Planter’s House co-owner Ted Kilgore developed the hit cocktail in 2010 while tending bar at the original location of Taste by Niche. “The majority of the stuff we did was inspired by what we had on hand or customer requests,” he recalled.

One night, a customer simply told him, “I like pickles.” Thinking on his feet, Kilgore started grabbing ingredients that reminded him of pickles. Gin and elderflower liqueur added bright, floral notes; lime juice lent acidity; velvet falernum gave a hint of spicy clove; and muddled dill and cucumber added herbal and vegetal aspects to the cucumber and rose notes in Hendrick’s gin. Though In a Pickle doesn’t contain any actual pickles, Kilgore believes the drink’s ability to hit many different spots on the palate – a product of his effort to recreate pickles’ complex flavor profile – is what’s made it such a lasting success.

Whether you have an over-abundance of fruits and veggies from your quarantine garden begging to be preserved or you’re looking to branch out from your grocery store’s same-old options, here are a few pickle-forward cocktail recipes to inspire your next home mixology session.

pickled mango mezcarita // photo by samuel reed

Pickled Mango Mezcarita
Courtesy of Megan Lechner
1 cocktail

1 oz. blanco tequila
1½ oz. mezcal
2½ slices pickled mango*
3 Tbsp. pickled mango brine
Juice of ½ lime
Tajín,* to taste

• Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Strain into an ice-filled, Tajín-rimmed rocks glass, pressing the mixture through a fine mesh sieve with the back of a spoon.

*Pickled mangoes and Tajín available at Jay International Foods

It Sparks Joy
Courtesy of Megan Lechner
1 cocktail

1½ oz. pickled beet*
1½ oz. vodka
½ oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
½ oz. lemon juice
Simple syrup, to taste
Lemon twist, for garnish

• In a blender, combine the pickled beet, vodka, elderflower liqueur and lemon juice and blend until smooth. Strain into a shaker, pressing the mixture through a fine mesh sieve with the back of a spoon. Add simple syrup to taste, then add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with the lemon twist.

*Pickled beets available at Schnucks

In a Pickle
Courtesy of Planter’s House’s Ted Kilgore
1 cocktail

1½ oz. Hendrick’s gin
½ oz. John D. Taylor's velvet falernum
½ oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
¾ oz. lime juice
2 sprigs dill
2 slices English cucumber

• In an ice-filled shaker, combine the gin, velvet falernum, elderflower liqueur, lime juice, 1 sprig dill and 1 slice English cucumber. Shake vigorously 20 seconds, then strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with the remaining cucumber slice and dill sprig.

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Tags : Cocktails, Recipes