Give pickle juice a shot

Whiskey and soda, whiskey and coke, whiskey and . . . pickle juice?

Yes, pickle juice. Meet your newest chaser: the briny, salty juice from a barrel of pickled cucumbers.

But not just any pickles. Bartenders know that the leftover brine from a jar of Claussen kosher dills is not going to cut it. The juice has to be homemade or sourced from a gourmet supplier like McClure’s, based in Brooklyn — and usually comes with a shot of Jameson.

Ace Hotel hot spot The Breslin, which makes its own pickles, has taken to offering plates of free pickles to customers, just so there’s enough juice to keep the bar stocked.

“If anyone orders Jameson, I’ll usually throw in a pickle back,” boasts Breslin bartender T.J. Lynch. “I’ve even made some people do a shot against their will. I’m a little sadistic like that. It’s fun to watch them suffer if they don’t like it.”

Brooklyn’s Bushwick Country Club prides itself on being first in the five boroughs to offer pickle juice at the bar. And it may also be the original source of the trend. In 2006, McClure’s was using the bar’s basement for storing its pickle stock. Legend has it that one of the bartenders, feeling adventurous, tried drinking the pickle brine after a shot of whiskey.

Bartenders have been drinking the “pickle back” ever since. In fact, a shot of Jameson followed by a shot of pickle juice is colloquially known as “the bartenders’ handshake” — but until recently it wasn’t something you’d serve to customers.

“People used to look at me like I was a friggin’ Frankenstein,” says Jason Littrell, a barman at East Village cocktail lounge Death & Company, of his early pickle juice shooting days. “Now I have customers coming in specifically to drink pickle backs.”

Pickle juice actually does a remarkably smooth job of cutting the fire off straight Jameson. The two complement each other so well that city watering holes are bracing for a run on pickle juice, says McClure’s co-owner Bob McClure.

“It’s taken the bars by surprise,” says McClure. “They are finding themselves at this crossroads between gourmet food and a product that is going to be used for their drinks.” On the horizon, says T.J. Lynch, is the michelada back — a shot of tequila followed by a shot of beer mixed with lemons, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, hot sauce, black peppers and salt.

Suddenly straight pickle juice doesn’t sound so bad.

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