Adam Staniszeski of Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar had never tried pickled herring before Carl Moberg (Webster's Wine Bar) challenged him to create a cocktail with it. "I absolutely hate it," Staniszeski says of the pickled fish. "No offense to the people who do like it, but it's pretty bad. It's really tough to make into a cocktail, that's for sure."
He toyed with the idea of encasing bits of pickled herring in ice cubes, making a drink that would become progressively less palatable as the ice melted. Instead, he ended up taking his inspiration from the foods and flavorings that herring is typically paired with, like rye bread, sour cream, dill, lemon, and caraway.
Rye whiskey was a natural fit; Staniszeski used Templeton Rye because he thinks it has a dill-like flavor, which he amped up with a dill tincture. He also made a tincture of the pickled herring, which was too strong to mix directly into the cocktail but found a use in the "fake vermouth" he made: simple syrup steeped with bay leaf, anise, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and wormwood and combined with reduced rosé wine, gin, and the pickled herring tincture.
To make the drink extrafishy, Staniszeski rimmed the glass with his pickled herring tincture and garnished it with pickled herring two ways: beer battered and lightly seared. Surprisingly, he says, the cocktail isn't bad; he compares it to a "salinity-based manhattan." Watch out for the garnish, though. "Once you eat pickled herring," Staniszeski says, "that's all you're going to taste for the rest of the day."
Stay in Schools
Who's next: Staniszeski has challenged Laura Green of the new Bernie's Lunch & Supper to create a cocktail with Flamin' Hot Cheetos.
Stay in Schools
1.5 oz Templeton Rye
.5 oz AnCnoc Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
.75 oz pickled herring vermouth
1 dropperful of dill tincture
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, and stir. Rim an ice-filled glass with pickled herring tincture and strain cocktail into the glass. Garnish with beer-battered pickled herring, lightly seared pickled herring, and a twist of lemon and dill.