Why You Should Try Chasing Liquor Shots With Savory Flavors

While chasing strong servings of alcohol with a second, mellower drink can help tame the pungency of the first beverage put back, some restaurants are elevating the experience with unique flavors and ingredient pairings. When thoughtfully matched, a chaser drink can quiet the impact of louder alcohols and be the second guzzle that strategically highlights the subtle tasting notes of the first beverage sampled. 

Back in 2006, when Brooklyn's Bushwick Country Club was asked to store pickles and began serving pickle juice as a joke to drinking customers, the surprise serving was a hit, and briny chasers soon made the rounds at other establishments. Since then, picklebacks, shots of whiskey or bourbon chased by pickle brine, have been spotted on bar menus in major cities like London, San Francisco, and New York City. Meanwhile, in some cultures, vodka has been paired with pickle brine and pickles for centuries.

And then there is the matter of boilermakers, pints of beer served alongside whiskey. Though a traditional boilermaker is to be served in one glass, the shot-and-beer pairing has had serious staying power. Whether pairing bourbon or rye with a lager or matching a scotch with a hoppy IPA, understanding how to match flavors can create a whole new drinking journey to explore.

Restaurants serving unique chasers

Though slamming a shot and gulping down a second drink may sound like a stunt best reserved for college freshmen, many establishments have upped the ante by providing thoughtful pairings. And drinks don't necessarily need to be heavy on the alcohol, either. 

At the New York City's The Standard, the No BAR serves up an entire list of boilermakers, from the more expected combination of beer and Jameson Irish whiskey to a shot of fernet served with Coca-Cola, or summer ale paired with coconut rum. To Food & Wine, one of the bar managers explained that the drinks have become menu favorites. In Brooklyn, an umami-flavored base used to make ceviche doubles as a drink chaser. At another restaurant, shots garnished with hot sauce come served with spicy broth and lime, a concoction first inspired by tired bartenders who started chasing drinks with slurps of French onion soup. 

Yet the one-two formula is by no means prescriptive. Baijiu shots are followed by pints of local draft beer and capped off with a daiquiri cocktail at Toronto's Sunnys. Named a Gunpowder Slap, the $24 three-drink order is served at the start of meals, as restaurant owners want to encourage guests to relax in the space quickly. "In a perfect world, we would give a Gunpowder Slap to every guest when they sit down," co-owner and chef admitted to Food & Wine.

Trying savory shots at home

Though you may not be able to make it to a major city to experience a Gunpowder Slap or uniquely curated drink pairing, you can get creative with combinations in the comfort of your own kitchen. Alternating sips and enjoying two drinks at once can provide a refreshing palate cleanse between sips.

When looking to make delicious drink pairings for yourself, experiment with flavor profiles and lean into salty and savory combinations. If you enjoy drinking martinis dirty or extra dirty, you'll probably appreciate the complexity that briny chasers can offer stronger spirits. Begin by pairing pickle juice or beer with heartier spirits, then let your palate lead the way as you build the bravery to try new tastes. For those who enjoy some kick, Amari and Pilsner or Mezcal and a lager can deliver. Rest assured that if drinkers have found a way to pair spicy Cheetos with tequila and red wine with Coca-Cola, you needn't feel bashful about opening the doors to a whole new Flavortown. If savory flavors aren't for you, try a strawberry and lemon chaser for vodka shots, or follow spicy tequila with fresh Verdita.