A Pickled Surfer at Ditch Plains

EDITOR’S NOTE: As of 2018, Ditch Plains is closed. But the Pickled Surfer lives on!

Yeah, I’ll admit it. The oft-stereotyped hipster has been an easy target in these pages throughout the years.

And no doubt we at Good. Food. Stories. will continue to nitpick away at the mob mentality and quasi-ridiculous trendmongering (hey, it’s New York; we call it like we see it).

But from chaos often comes beauty, and like a sculptor coaxing delicate limbs and faces from rough stone, sometimes an artist can polish a kernel of a good idea into something truly great.

The Pickled Surfer cocktail
Photo: Casey Barber

Take the pickleback, one of those ideas that—like men wearing chest hair-exposing deep v-neck t-shirts and both genders sporting thick black-rimmed glasses when they’ve got perfect eyesight—seem inexplicably wrong at first glance.

A pickleback, for those of you not inclined to frequent the bars of Williamsburg or Ludlow Street, is a shot of whiskey chased with a shot of dill pickle juice. It’s that simple.

And you’d think that someone who’s both a whiskey fanatic and a dill pickle addict would start sucking these things down with abandon, right? No dice.

Pickleback fans claim that the sour brine mellows whiskey’s fiery aftertaste, but that’s not what I tasted. Rather than being more than the sum of its parts, I got no pleasure from the Frankensteinian marriage of these two unwilling partners.

And now for the twist.

The Pickled Surfer cocktail
Photo: Casey Barber

My favorite West Village surf shack Ditch Plains (home of the mac and cheese-slathered Ditch Dog) makes their own bread and butter pickles for battering and frying, chopping into housemade tartar sauce, or topping an already towering burger.

Or even for eating as a side dish, as the brine-inclined often do.

It’s this brine, the sugar- and turmeric-infused neon juice from the bread and butter slices, that Ditch Plains mixes with whiskey to make a cocktail called The Pickled Surfer. (It’s an urban fish shack, get it?)

The Pickled Surfer cocktail
Photo: Casey Barber

Citrus comes to the rescue once again, with a squeeze of lime juice that cuts both the sweetness and the burn for a truly mellow finish to each sip.

Think whiskey sour, but brighter and less cloying. Think margarita, but deeper and more savory.

The Pickled Surfer plays well with fried oysters and clams on a sunny, last-gasp-of-summer day, or with a plate of chicken chili nachos when the first hint of fall is in the air and the first weeks of football hit the airwaves.

And it’s sippable instead of shootable, making this an oldster’s drink for those of us who prefer a slower pace. That’s a trend I can get behind.

pickled surfer cocktail
Pickled Surfer cocktail

The Pickled Surfer (Pickleback Cocktail)

Yield: 2 drinks
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

The Pickled Surfer is a mellow cocktail based on a pickleback - a surprising combination of whiskey, pickle juice and lime that goes down easy.


For the Drink

  • 5 fluid ounces (about 2/3 cup) blended Irish whiskey
  • 3 fluid ounces (6 tablespoons) bread and butter pickle juice
  • 1 1/2 fluid ounces (3 tablespoons) freshly squeezed lime juice

For Garnish

  • 4-6 bread and butter pickle slices
  • 2 lime wedges
  • Old Bay seasoning


  1. Stir the whiskey, pickle juice, and lime juice together in a pint glass.
  2. Fill 2 6-ounce highball glasses with ice.
  3. Pour the cocktail into the prepared glasses.
  4. For each drink, stab a lime wedge and a few pickle slices on a cocktail toothpick and sprinkle lightly with Old Bay seasoning.
  5. Garnish and serve.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 5 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 170Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 319mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 2gSugar: 22gProtein: 1g

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