I took my martinis with olives until I read The Hour, Bernard DeVoto's classic homage to his favorite drink. According to DeVoto, misguided drinkers put olives in their martinis because "in some desolate childhood hour, someone refused them a dill pickle and so they go through life lusting for the taste of brine."
Fine. No olives. Yet I still can't resist a martini served with house-made pickles, a cocktail that's increasingly cropping up on local menus. I don't remember being denied any pickles as a kid -- although my parents did make me return a bucket of sour tomatoes I once managed to acquire through mail order -- but I like a pickled asparagus spear or carrot stick alongside my martini.
What I don't like is when the bartender takes the initiative to pour pickle juice in my drink, as recently happened at Brownstone.
"Oh, you got a pickle-tini," David Tindol said with a laugh when I told him about my struggle not to spew doctored gin all over the table.
Tindol, owner of Bob's Pickle Pops in Dallas, sells pickle juice by the liter. Many of his clients are athletes who are fluent in pickle juice research showing the salty elixir inhibits muscle cramps. But he also has a contract with the company that manufactures Jameson, which serves "pickle backs" -- a pickle juice chaser -- at promotional events.
"It's surprisingly pretty good," Tindol says of the whiskey-pickle combo. "The pickle juice kills the burn. It's a lot better than you'd think."
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Pickle juice had a mini-moment last year, when bartenders in big cities east of the Mississippi began mixing the stuff with cachaca and caraway seed liqueur. The Breslin started offering off-the-menu pickle backs, and a few barkeeps plopped Tindol's frozen pickle pops in bloody Marys. But Tindol says the fad hasn't yet made it to Dallas.
"I've been asking for pickle backs at bars around here just to freak them out," says Tindol, who reports his informal attempts at viral marketing haven't led to any additional pickle juice sales.
Tindol thinks the pickle back may have more promise than the pickle-tini, which even fans admit is an acquired taste -- and typically only acquired by those who already like their martinis filthy with olive juice.
"I drink the pickle-tini occasionally at the house," Tindol says. "But you've got to like pickle juice."