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A trio of pickleback shots served on a vintage plate.
Truxton Inn’s new pickleback flight.
Sam Sanchez for Truxton Inn

Where to Find Salty and Briny Drinks Around D.C.

Pickleback shots, half-smoke flavors, and oyster shell-washed vodkas are coming in hot this summer

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Truxton Inn’s new pickleback flight.
| Sam Sanchez for Truxton Inn

Cocktails tend to burst with lots of sweet fruits, florals, and frothy ingredients this time of year. But those thirsty for a new flavor profile are in luck, with more D.C. bartenders showcasing the savory side of cocktails this summer. There’s also an evident uptick in pickleback shots, which can act as quick antidotes to this steamy summer heat (pickle juice contains natural electrolytes via sodium, potassium, and magnesium).

Here are 13 salty, brine-centric alternatives to the typical summer cocktail. For well-made martinis around town, go here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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The Kid at Tail Up Goat 

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The Adams Morgan restaurant’s version of a Gibson ($16) shines a spotlight on red onion pickles — a famed creation at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. The drink mixes brine from homemade Zuni onions with gin and vermouth. On the food side of the menu, Zuni onions are also featured prominently in a briny snack: the crispy salt cod, which the Michelin-rated mainstay has served pretty much since day one.  

A clear cocktail coupe on a wood bar.
The Kid cocktail at Tail Up Goat.
Tail Up Goat

Za’atar Martini at Maydan

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Homemade za’atar olive brine combines nuttiness with salt in this Mediterranean-leaning classic ($15). Sumac-sesame olive oil floats to the top of the coupe, providing some visual excitement.

The Mediterranean-leaning martini at Maydan.
Jen Chase for Maydan

Pickleback Flight at Truxton Inn

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For the sweltering days of summer, Truxton Inn’s new pickleback flight may do the trick to keep electrolytes up. This four-part flight ($10) features a shot of Jameson and three different types of locally-sourced pickle juices, plus a selection of pickles. — Tierney Plumb

A shot of Jameson with a flight of pickle juices and a selection of pickles.

Pickleback Shot at Chicken + Whiskey

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The popular Latin rotisserie bar sends out a no-frills pickleback shot ($6) that pairs nicely with its wraps, chicken tenders, and plantains. The 14th Street NW original sells a minimum of 20 per night, a bartender tells Eater. There’s also a location in Columbia, Maryland, and a second D.C. outpost en route to Navy Yard.

Pico-Back Shot at Republic Cantina

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This Tex-Mex spot’s version of a pickleback shot ($8) swaps pico de gallo juice for the classic pickle brine whisky chaser. The punny take on the briny classic can be enjoyed in between other Tex-Mex staples like spicy margaritas, Ranch Water, and a Beer-Rita.

Velveeta Veltini at BLT Steak D.C.

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Starting Wednesday, July 20, dairy giant Velveeta teams up with BLT Restaurant Group to release an “unapologetic, outrageously cheesy” spin on a martini. Served from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at five BLT restaurants across the U.S., including the one in downtown D.C., for a limited time only ($15). — T.P.

A cheesy cocktail in a martini glass.
BLT Steak has a cheesy new spin on a martini.
Velveeta

Casino Royale at Fiola Mare 

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This Georgetown waterfront institution delivers a taste of the ocean in between bites of its acclaimed seafood selections. This take on a dirty martini uses oyster shell-washed vodka and caper brine ($23). The cocktail is named after a 1953 James Bond novel, and a nod to the detective’s first drink order—the famously self-created Vesper Martini.

The Casino Royale at Fiola Mare.
Christie Allison for Fiola Mare

The Dirty at The Smith

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Penn Quarter’s branch of the New York City-based brasserie doubles down on the “dirty” part of its martini, mixing not just olive brine but also olive bitters with vodka and vermouth ($15).

The extra dirty martini at The Smith.
The Smith

Half-Smoke Rickey at Silver Lyan

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Two of D.C.’s more treasured creations —the hearty half-smoke and gin Rickey — collide at Ryan Chetiyawardana’s experimental bar in the depths of the Riggs hotel. The savory new concoction features fennel seed-infused Fords gin, lime, soda, and a homemade jalapeno “Flat Top” shrub as a nod to the grills used to cook the iconic U Street NW invention. An onion garnish, pickled with sausage spices like mustard, rounds out the $15 drink (with a booze-free version for $11). — T.P.

Two cocktails with onion garnishes.
Bite the onion after a sip to get the full spectrum of the drink’s half-smoke sausage flavors.
Scott Suchman for Silver Lyan

Picklebacks are Gross at Barrel 

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The Capitol Hill bourbon bar pays homage to the whisky and pickle brine combo with a three-pronged approach: a can of Bud Light paired with shots of rye and pickle juice ($12). The briny trio is one of the bar’s “Happy Meals,” which pair beers with shots and toys. 

Antipasti Dirty Martini at Caruso’s Grocery

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Along with heaping plates of saucy pasta and chicken parmesan, this Capitol Hill destination translates classic American-Italian flavors into liquid form. The restaurant’s version of a dirty martini includes tomato gin and olive brine, then topped with a mini caprese-style skewer ($10).

Buoy at Hank’s Oyster Bar

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Head to this reliable raw bar to sip a “Buoy” ($13) — an aptly named gin- and vodka-based dirty martini. If that’s not enough brine for you, classic picklebacks ($8) are also available. Available at all three Hank’s locations (the Wharf, Dupont, and Old Town).

Time & Money at Pink Taco

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Pico de gallo brine is mixed with tequila ($15) at Navy Yard’s flashy Mexican newcomer. The chain’s first D.C. outpost opened just in time for the height of Nats season and the city’s swampy summer weather. Cool down with this salty sipper in between bites of the restaurant’s famously fuchsia fare. 

The Kid at Tail Up Goat 

A clear cocktail coupe on a wood bar.
The Kid cocktail at Tail Up Goat.
Tail Up Goat

The Adams Morgan restaurant’s version of a Gibson ($16) shines a spotlight on red onion pickles — a famed creation at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. The drink mixes brine from homemade Zuni onions with gin and vermouth. On the food side of the menu, Zuni onions are also featured prominently in a briny snack: the crispy salt cod, which the Michelin-rated mainstay has served pretty much since day one.  

A clear cocktail coupe on a wood bar.
The Kid cocktail at Tail Up Goat.
Tail Up Goat

Za’atar Martini at Maydan

The Mediterranean-leaning martini at Maydan.
Jen Chase for Maydan

Homemade za’atar olive brine combines nuttiness with salt in this Mediterranean-leaning classic ($15). Sumac-sesame olive oil floats to the top of the coupe, providing some visual excitement.

The Mediterranean-leaning martini at Maydan.
Jen Chase for Maydan

Pickleback Flight at Truxton Inn

A shot of Jameson with a flight of pickle juices and a selection of pickles.

For the sweltering days of summer, Truxton Inn’s new pickleback flight may do the trick to keep electrolytes up. This four-part flight ($10) features a shot of Jameson and three different types of locally-sourced pickle juices, plus a selection of pickles. — Tierney Plumb

A shot of Jameson with a flight of pickle juices and a selection of pickles.

Pickleback Shot at Chicken + Whiskey

The popular Latin rotisserie bar sends out a no-frills pickleback shot ($6) that pairs nicely with its wraps, chicken tenders, and plantains. The 14th Street NW original sells a minimum of 20 per night, a bartender tells Eater. There’s also a location in Columbia, Maryland, and a second D.C. outpost en route to Navy Yard.

Pico-Back Shot at Republic Cantina

This Tex-Mex spot’s version of a pickleback shot ($8) swaps pico de gallo juice for the classic pickle brine whisky chaser. The punny take on the briny classic can be enjoyed in between other Tex-Mex staples like spicy margaritas, Ranch Water, and a Beer-Rita.

Velveeta Veltini at BLT Steak D.C.

A cheesy cocktail in a martini glass.
BLT Steak has a cheesy new spin on a martini.
Velveeta

Starting Wednesday, July 20, dairy giant Velveeta teams up with BLT Restaurant Group to release an “unapologetic, outrageously cheesy” spin on a martini. Served from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at five BLT restaurants across the U.S., including the one in downtown D.C., for a limited time only ($15). — T.P.

A cheesy cocktail in a martini glass.
BLT Steak has a cheesy new spin on a martini.
Velveeta

Casino Royale at Fiola Mare 

The Casino Royale at Fiola Mare.
Christie Allison for Fiola Mare

This Georgetown waterfront institution delivers a taste of the ocean in between bites of its acclaimed seafood selections. This take on a dirty martini uses oyster shell-washed vodka and caper brine ($23). The cocktail is named after a 1953 James Bond novel, and a nod to the detective’s first drink order—the famously self-created Vesper Martini.

The Casino Royale at Fiola Mare.
Christie Allison for Fiola Mare

The Dirty at The Smith

The extra dirty martini at The Smith.
The Smith

Penn Quarter’s branch of the New York City-based brasserie doubles down on the “dirty” part of its martini, mixing not just olive brine but also olive bitters with vodka and vermouth ($15).

The extra dirty martini at The Smith.
The Smith

Half-Smoke Rickey at Silver Lyan

Two cocktails with onion garnishes.
Bite the onion after a sip to get the full spectrum of the drink’s half-smoke sausage flavors.
Scott Suchman for Silver Lyan

Two of D.C.’s more treasured creations —the hearty half-smoke and gin Rickey — collide at Ryan Chetiyawardana’s experimental bar in the depths of the Riggs hotel. The savory new concoction features fennel seed-infused Fords gin, lime, soda, and a homemade jalapeno “Flat Top” shrub as a nod to the grills used to cook the iconic U Street NW invention. An onion garnish, pickled with sausage spices like mustard, rounds out the $15 drink (with a booze-free version for $11). — T.P.

Two cocktails with onion garnishes.
Bite the onion after a sip to get the full spectrum of the drink’s half-smoke sausage flavors.
Scott Suchman for Silver Lyan

Picklebacks are Gross at Barrel 

The Capitol Hill bourbon bar pays homage to the whisky and pickle brine combo with a three-pronged approach: a can of Bud Light paired with shots of rye and pickle juice ($12). The briny trio is one of the bar’s “Happy Meals,” which pair beers with shots and toys. 

Antipasti Dirty Martini at Caruso’s Grocery

Along with heaping plates of saucy pasta and chicken parmesan, this Capitol Hill destination translates classic American-Italian flavors into liquid form. The restaurant’s version of a dirty martini includes tomato gin and olive brine, then topped with a mini caprese-style skewer ($10).

Buoy at Hank’s Oyster Bar

Head to this reliable raw bar to sip a “Buoy” ($13) — an aptly named gin- and vodka-based dirty martini. If that’s not enough brine for you, classic picklebacks ($8) are also available. Available at all three Hank’s locations (the Wharf, Dupont, and Old Town).

Time & Money at Pink Taco

Pico de gallo brine is mixed with tequila ($15) at Navy Yard’s flashy Mexican newcomer. The chain’s first D.C. outpost opened just in time for the height of Nats season and the city’s swampy summer weather. Cool down with this salty sipper in between bites of the restaurant’s famously fuchsia fare. 

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