Summer has arrived, and with it comes sweltering temperatures and ice-cold drinks to make those hot days feel a bit more manageable. While for most, the season evokes quenching flavors like watermelon and strawberries, some bartenders are finding inspiration in a more unexpected ingredient: pickles.
While pickle brine has long been used for Picklebacks, the dive bar staple that’s allegedly hangover-proof, the ingredient isn’t one you’ll typically find in respected cocktail bars. But that’s changing. Recently, NYC bars and restaurants have added pickle-forward cocktails to their menus, and customers can’t get enough. A plus? Pickles contain electrolytes to help with summer schvitzing.
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Pickle Spritz, Chez Zou
Upstairs at Manhattan West’s Zou Zou’s — a Mediterranean spot beloved for its array of delicious dips and spreads — sits Chez Zou. The new cocktail lounge features an impressive drink menu with unconventional and unexpected ingredients, pickle juice included. This innovative riff on the Aperol Spritz calls for pickle brine, verjus, and vermouth, topped with plenty of Champagne for good measure.
- 1/2 ounce pickling brine (recipe follows)
- 1/2 ounce verjus
- 1 1/2 ounces Dolin Vermouth de Chambry
- 3 ounces Moët & Chandon Champagne
- Garnish: pickle spear
- Add all ingredients to a wine glass with ice.
- Garnish with pickle spear.
- 3 large cucumbers (1200 grams)
- 20 grams fresh dill
- 500 grams white balsamic vinegar
- 510 grams hot water
- 20 grams salt
- 100 grams sugar
- Mix ingredients, let cool, and pour over sliced cucumber with a healthy portion of dill.
- Allow to steep in the fridge for 1 day.
Dirty Pickle Martini From The Penrose
The Penrose has long been one of the “hippest” spots on the sleepy Upper East Side, and we think this cocktail may be in part to thank. A simple take on the Dirty Martini, this two-ingredient recipe combines vodka and spicy pickle brine. Shake, strain, and top with a couple sliced pickles for visual appeal (and a snack, of course).
- 2 ounces Tito’s vodka
- 1 ounces McClure’s Spicy Dill Pickle Brine (strained through a fine mesh strainer)
- Garnish: 2 sliced McClure’s Spicy Dill Pickles
- Combine vodka and pickle brine in a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Shake vigorously for 20 seconds, or until the ice is well broken up and the shaker feels very cold.
- Strain into a coupe glass.
- Garnish with sliced pickles on a skewer.
Spicy Brine Margarita From Jacob’s Pickles
Your favorite summer staple just got a salty upgrade. At this Southern-inspired Upper West Side restaurant, which has an entire menu dedicated to pickles, brine never goes to waste. Instead, it finds its way into this take on the Spicy Marg, which calls for jalapeño-infused tequila, orange Curaçao, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and spicy pickle juice. Garnish with a full pickle spear, and enjoy!
- 3 ounces jalapeño-infused Espolon Blanco Tequila
- 1 ounce orange Curaçao
- 1 ounce hot sour pickle brine
- 2 ounces fresh-squeezed lemonade
- Garnish: hot sour pickle spear
- Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice.
- Shake until cold, then strain into a large Mason jar with fresh ice.
- Garnish with a hot sour pickle spear.
Maison Martini From Maison Pickle
Maison Pickle is just a stone’s throw away from its sibling spot, Jacob’s Pickles. Though the restaurant is best known for its French dips, its menu features plenty of pickled items, from onions and crispy artichokes to classic cucumbers. This cocktail takes things a step further, adding the restaurant’s house-made hot sour pickle brine and orange bitters to the classic Martini spec. The elegant drink is served with its sidecar on ice, and some pickled veggies to snack on while you sip.
- 2 ounces Fords Gin
- 2 ounces Dolin Dry Vermouth
- ¼ ounce hot sour pickle brine
- 3 dashes orange cream citrate bitters
- Garnish: pickled crudités
- Add ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice.
- Stir until cold, about 30 seconds.
- Strain into a Nick and Nora glass, and serve the remaining liquid as a sidecar on ice.
- Garnish with pickled crudités.