In Defense of the Pickleback

When it comes to Picklebacks, everyone has an opinion. Its critics hate the chaser for its excessive saltiness and strong vinegar flavor, while its advocates praise its ability to neutralize the harsh flavors of booze. Those who have never tried a Pickleback are often highly skeptical—and we get it. Following a shot of booze with an equal measure of pickle brine is, well, pretty strange. But no matter how you feel about the Pickleback, it’s worth trying at least once. Here are three reasons you should save that brine instead of dumping it down the kitchen sink.

Pickle Brine Will Chase Your Hangover Away (Maybe)

The chaser we know today didn’t gain popularity until 2006, when Brooklyn bartender Reggie Cunningham coined the term “Pickleback” after a customer requested a series of shots followed by brine. While we may never know why this particular customer was so fond of the shot-taking technique, we do know that pickle brine is strongly rooted in Polish drinking tradition. Not only does the electrolyte-packed brine serve as a hangover cure, but some folks swear it prevents hangovers, and drink it alongside their booze to ward off an unpleasant morning after. If that’s not a reason to try out the Pickleback, we don’t know what is.

Picklebacks Make You Look Like Less of a Wimp

The Pickleback may sound like a made-up way to talk people into drinking cheap booze—it kind of is—but the sodium-packed liquid really does what its proponents claim. While someone well-versed in sipping straight booze might not need the help of pickle brine, anyone who can’t stand the taste of whiskey or tequila will benefit from its neutralizing powers. Chasing the strong flavor of liquor with the equally heady brine is surprisingly effective in canceling out harshness altogether—as long as you don’t mind a little vinegar aftertaste. So, if you have trouble sucking down a shot without a helper, request a Pickleback—not only is it the trendy thing to do, but you won’t look like a wimp when you can’t handle that shot of Jack on its own.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Pickle Brine

If you hate pickles and can’t imagine ever actually drinking the brine used to preserve them, don’t fret about feeling left out of this wonderfully weird trend: You have plenty of other options. As long as you can handle the taste of vinegar, you can flavor it with whatever you want—from veggies like okra and green beans to fruits like peaches and watermelon to ultra funky kimchi. Or, conversely, if you are a diehard pickle fan, you can bypass the shot glasses altogether and just infuse your pickles with whiskey—kind of like a koolickle, but so much better.