Your Summer Cocktails Are In Need Of A Perfectly Pickled Upgrade

Pickled cocktail options
Pickled cocktail options - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

'Tis the season for pickling everything from red onions to eggs. Those pickled products aren't limited to just food recipes, however. Rather, pickled ingredients can be incorporated across various cocktail combinations to upgrade your favorite drinks.

"Using pickled ingredients in cocktails can help provide great complexity and depth of flavor," Jeremy Williams, head bartender at Spanish restaurant MDRD in Grand Rapids' Amway Grand Plaza, told Tasting Table. "If balanced properly, it can be used to add a nice savory element to a cocktail."

Case in point: the Amway has developed pickled cocktails for an upcoming pickleball tournament, the Beer City Open. In making those cocktails, Williams suggests using neutral spirits, such as vodka, which offer a clean slate for getting creative with pickled additions. Likewise, punchier, aromatic spirits tend to be a great bet -- if used properly.

"I've found that more flavorful and aromatic spirits like Pisco, grappa, mezcal, or Haitian rum can stand up to more interesting, pickled ingredients because they can allow more unique flavor profiles to shine if they are harmonized nicely," said Williams. He pickles ingredients with a neutral vinegar, which yields more subtle flavors. "I've also noticed it can help bolster citrus or tart flavors, enhancing the acid component when well balanced." Given Williams' advice, you have no shortage of options when it comes to pickled cocktails. If you're looking for a place to start, however, these combinations should do the trick.

Read more: 13 Liquors Your Home Bar Should Have

Use Pickle Juice For A Spin On A Classic Dirty Martini

Two martini glasses with olives
Two martini glasses with olives - Kristina Maksymova/Getty Images

A dirty martini is a tried-and-true cocktail for good reason. That reason is the drink's use of olive brine, which tends to add saltiness and offset any bitterness in the original cocktail. It therefore balances easily with the cocktail's spirits. Given the qualities of olive brine, pickle juice works well as an easy and natural olive substitution, adding a dirty martini's trademark brine alongside a distinctive pickle flavor.

Enter: the pickle martini, which replaces a dirty martini's olives with pickle juice. To make a pickle martini for yourself, simply add pickle juice to your usual martini recipe -- whether you use vodka or gin -- and garnish it with a speared gherkin and pickled pearl onions. You can also adjust depending on how much you enjoy pickles. For instance, Tasting Table's recipe leans into the pickle component, using an ounce of pickle juice and a garnish of two pickled pearl onions and a gherkin for every 2½ ounces of vodka and ½ ounce of white vermouth. If you're not completely sold on the idea of pickled cocktails, use less — a little can go a long way in elevating your next martini.

Pair Pickled Peaches With Mezcal For Summer Gimlets And Margaritas

Jar of pickled peaches
Jar of pickled peaches - Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images

In the spirit of summer, why not start your pickled cocktail endeavor with fresh produce? You can pickle everything from watermelon rinds to your favorite berries, though for a fun and fresh cocktail twist, try peaches. Peaches pair particularly well with mezcal, as well as other strong spirits like bourbon that offset the fruit's sweetness with bolder, more intense flavors.

In fact, even when they're not pickled, peaches have long complemented drinks like mezcal, creating nuanced cocktails that are both smoky and sweet. When pickled, however, peaches also introduce an element of tanginess, adding yet another flavor profile to standard peaches. You can put this combination to the test in quite a few mezcal-based cocktails. Specifically, a mezcal gimlet -- which combines the spirit with lime and syrup -- works well with added peach flavors, fusing elements of smokiness, saltiness, and sweetness in one glass. For the Beer City Open, the Amway is serving such a gimlet with pickled peach sorbet that maximizes the ingredient's potential.

You can try adding a peach sorbet to your next gimlet or simply utilize the juice of pickled peaches. Alternatively, you can try adding pickled peaches to a spicy mezcal peach margarita. Or if you prefer a different fruit, a pickled mango margarita with mezcal likewise elevates the drink with a sweet and salty balance.

Pickle Jalapeño Brine For Your Next Bloody Mary

Bloody Marys with garnish
Bloody Marys with garnish - Charles Brutlag/Shutterstock

On the surface, pickled foods don't exactly scream "brunch," but what better way to introduce a pickled ingredient to your Saturday morning ritual than through a bloody mary? In its most basic form, a bloody mary combines tomato and lemon juice with Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. If you like your bloody mary's extra spicy, however, try using brine from pickled jalapeños. When pickled, the pepper is spicy but also salty and presents a nice change of pace for whenever you're tired of a standard bloody mary.

As for how much jalapeño brine to add, start with a few tablespoons, and work your way up from there. If you really love the flavor of pickled jalapeños, you can add an actual pepper as a final garnish to your cocktail. The brine, however, mixes best in the actual drink and will blend easily with the other ingredients. At first glance, you won't even know it's in there -- but you hopefully will at first taste.

Mix Pickle Juice Into A Whiskey Sour

Three glasses of bourbon
Three glasses of bourbon - Poem4myself/Getty Images

If you prefer to keep your cocktails simple, you can't go wrong with whiskey and good old fashioned pickle juice. The combination evokes the flavors of the pickleback shot, which follows a shot of whiskey with pickle juice. The pickleback shot has long been successful because of its unique, umami flavor. You can, therefore, adapt this shot combination into a cocktail that's strong yet tangy and lends itself to other flavors. After all, why not skip the dual steps of a shot plus chaser, and mix the two together in your next drink?

For a starting point, try a pickle juice whiskey sour, which, in addition to the named ingredients, also incorporates sugar, lemon juice, and egg whites into the drink. If you're more of a bourbon person, however, you can alternatively make your favorite bourbon cocktails -- hello, mint juleps -- but add a few spoonfuls of pickle juice. Whiskey invites interpretation, so everything from Scotch to bourbon can work wonders with pickle juice; just don't drink all of the variations before playing a game of pickleball.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.