The Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, is a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.
When you think of cocktail ingredients, pickle juice generally doesn't come to mind (though it's good in a bloody mary). There is a growing trend, however, that pairs pickle juice with a variety of spirits. The term "pickleback" refers to a shot of pickle juice taken after a shot of booze. When the Drunken Vegan heard about the "Tall, Neat & Pickled" at Quincy Street Bistro (6931 Gravois Avenue; 314-353-1588), he had to try it.
Don't be put off by this odd-sounding combination or the fact that pickleback rhymes with Nickleback. And, no, it's not some south-city hoosier custom. Just this past spring, the Drunken Vegan was discussing this phenomenon with bartenders in Los Angeles and in Brooklyn who are pouring so much pickle juice they're struggling to get rid of the actual pickles.
Quincy Street Bistro's take on the drink is fun, offering a shot of moonshine, a shot of housemade pickle juice and a tall can of Busch in a brown paper bag for $9. You can -- and should -- substitute bourbon for the moonshine. Moonshine packs a lot of alcohol heat with very few nuances of flavor, whereas the natural sweetness of bourbon is the perfect foil to the acidic pickle juice.
So how does it taste? Down a shot of bourbon. It's somewhat sweet, with caramel and fruit notes, and a hint of heat. Now slug the pickle juice. It tastes of chile pepper, garlic and spice in bright briny goodness. Now relax with that big beer. There's a hint of malt sweetness, but not much going on here. That's OK. Sometimes a fizzy light-tasting yellow beer hits the spot.
The "Tall, Neat & Pickled" is a good alternative to a beer and a shot. Keep an open mind and give it a try.