Matthew Kelly / Supercall

Entertaining
3 Oyster Shooters That Celebrate the Glory of Briny Booze

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History doesn’t tell us who the weirdo was that first cracked open an oyster and ate the briny, cold, tongue-like creature they found inside, but we can’t thank them enough. There’s also someone else we’d like to thank: the person who decide to open up an oyster and add booze.

Some peg the oyster shooter to a miner who dropped by a San Francisco restaurant in the 1860s and asked for a platter of raw oysters, an array of condiments and a glass of whiskey. According to legend, after the miner slugged down most of his whiskey, he dropped the oysters into the glass along with some Worcestershire, horseradish, ketchup and vinegar and called it an oyster cocktail. Others trace it to 1700s New Orleans where bartenders dressed up the working class mollusk with shots of alcohol, seasoned with tomato juice and Worcestershire.

Though seen as gauche in some circles, we believe oyster shooters are anything but. Provided they’re done right. When executed with care and thoughtfulness, the nuanced flavors of an oyster are not obscured, but elevated. Plus, they’re just a damn good time. “It’s a fun experience,” says Paul Taylor of Washington DC’s Eat the Rich. “It’s a great way for a group to interact.” Taylor presents most of his oyster shooters traditionally: with both oyster and booze sitting in a shot glass together. Many of his shooters are inspired by classic cocktails (the G&O, for example, is a take on a Salty Dog made with briny Olde Salt oysters, gin and grapefruit-ginger cordial), but the most popular is a riff on a popular shot: the Pickleback. Eat the Rich’s Oyster Back is served in two shot glasses: One filled with rye whiskey, the other with pickle brine and a mild, creamy Barcat oyster. “The shot has savoriness, salinity and a tart bite—it’s everything you get from having an oyster with mignonette sauce,” Taylor says. “It’s sort of a match made in heaven.”

While Taylor treats oysters like cocktail ingredients, using their salty-savory brine to flavor mini drinks, other bartenders opt to serve their oysters on the side, still in the shell, to be taken then chased with a curated shooter. “I never enjoyed the idea of an oyster at the bottom of a shot glass,” says Jason Mendenhall of NYC’s The Wayland. “It’s my bar, so we made the oyster shooter the way I like it.” He serves a Blue Point oyster on the half shell on top of a shot of shallot-infused mezcal and pickle brine. “It drinks like a smoky agave mignonette,” he says. Mendenhall isn’t alone in his conviction that oysters should be served next to—not in—a shooter. California mini-chain Hungry Cat serves their oyster shooters as oysters on-the-half-shell with cocktail shots. One of their most popular options is a take on a classic shooter in the form of a Tabasco-dashed oyster with a Maryland spice-rimmed shot glass filled with vodka and lemon juice.

No matter how you take your oyster shot—in a single glass, in two parts or even directly from the shell (Taylor recommends simply pouring a few drops of single malt scotch onto an oyster before sucking it back)—the old-school bar snack/sipper is worth your time. Here’s three recipes for making your own at home.    
 

Matthew Kelly / Supercall
While oysters are traditionally served with a vinegary mignonette sauce, Jason Mendenhall of NYC’s The Wayland serves his alongside a smoky, tangy shot of shallot-infused mezcal and pickle juice. At The Wayland, the oyster of choice is Blue Point, but Mendenhall says any smaller, slightly briny oyster will work. When it comes to oyster-eating etiquette, Mendenhall says you’ll get more flavor if you chew the oyster before shooting the mezcal shot—but slurping is also absolutely acceptable. “Slurping an oyster is awesome,” he says. “Nothing wrong with that.”

The Essentials

Pickled Shallot Mezcal
Oyster
Lime Wedge
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
Inspired by the massive success of the Pickleback shot, Paul Taylor of Washington DC’s Eat the Rich thought, “Why not add an oyster?” Voila, the Oysterback was born. Taylor likes to use Barcat oysters in this shot. Sourced from the Rappahannock River, these oysters are sweet and creamy—a perfect complement to the salty pickle brine—but any mild oyster will do.

The Essentials

whiskey
Oyster
Pickle Brine
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
Simple, clean and classic, this vodka-based oyster shooter from Southern California’s Hungry Cat restaurant is an eye-opening start to a meal, night, vacation, Netflix session—anything, really. It’s essentially a deconstructed Bloody Caesar. Shuck open an oyster, dash on some hot sauce and chase it with a shot of chilled vodka and lemon juice.  

The Essentials

Vodka
lemon juice
Oyster

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