Pickleback Chicken Wings

Inspired by pickleback shots, these chicken wings are tangy, sweet and highly addictive.
pickleback chicken wings

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Inspired by pickleback shots, these chicken wings are marinated in pickle juice before being seasoned with bourbon, honey, and Smoke Kitchen’s Honey Garlic rub, which gives these wings the perfect balance.

And, considering how easy these wings are to make, they certainly pack a lot of flavor. The key is in the marinating – time definitely equals flavor.

Grill them over high heat and serve with ranch. As soon as you take a bite, you’ll note the pickle brine flavor with a sweetness from the rub.

Pickleback Chicken Wings

Ingredients you’ll need

  • Chicken wings – I like to use a mix of drums and flats, separate if they’re whole. 
  • Smoke Kitchen Honey Garlic Rub
  • Pickle juice – Any pickle juice will work; you’ll need 2.5 cups, so I suggest finding a bottle of pickle juice vs using the juice from a pickle jar.
  • Bourbon – Any bourbon will work, use your favorite
  • Honey

Equipment you’ll need

  • Charcoal GrillI like direct heat for my wings, so I prefer a charcoal grill to a smoker. Any cooker will do, it may just alter cooking times.
  • Wire rack – with a baking tray underneath to catch any drips.
  • Paper towels
  • BBQ tongs
  • Instant read thermometer

What are pickleback wings?

Pickleback wings are inspired by the pickleback shot, which is a shot of whiskey chased with a shot of pickle juice.

These wings are marinated overnight in pickle juice before being seasoned with a mix of bourbon, honey, and spices to bring out maximum flavor. 

What kind of grill to use

For the perfect wing, you need crispy skin with a juicy inside. To achieve that, I prefer using a charcoal grill to cook my wings over direct heat. 

Cooking over direct heat will help you get crispy skin while caramelizing the rub, and by cooking at the right temperature (350-375°F), you can maintain a juicy, perfectly cooked inside. 

If you prefer to use a smoker, like a pellet smoker, I would recommend finishing off your wings over high heat or in the air fryer to get the skin crisp. 

How to make Pickleback Chicken Wings

1. Marinate

Remove the chicken wings from their package. Pat them dry with paper towels, and cut them into flats and drums if they are not already. 

Place them into a bowl or gallon-sized ziploc bag. Pour in enough pickle juice so they are all completely covered.

a glass bowl with wings marinating in pickle juice and a bottle of pickle juice in the background
For 2 lbs of wings, I used 2.5 cups of pickle juice.

To achieve that pickleback shot taste, you need to marinate overnight. If you just found this recipe and really want to make it tonight, you’ll need to marinate for at least four hours.

2. Brine

Dry brining dries out the skin, which helps it to get crispy and caramelize while cooking.

Remove the wings from the pickle juice and pat dry with paper towels. 

wings on a wire rack with a bowl of marinating wings in the background
The wire rack will help air circulate under the wings while in the fridge.

Place wings on a wire rack. Leave them uncovered in the fridge for 3 hours. This will help dry out the skin. The dryer you get them, the crispier they will be.

3. Season

In a bowl, add the wings and bourbon, and give it a good mix. The bourbon adds flavor here and also serves as a binder. 

pickleback wings with seasoning in a metal bowl

Add in Smoke Kitchen Honey Garlic Rub and honey. Give them a toss and make sure everything is evenly coated.

Because the honey is sticky, I prefer to mix them with my hands (with a glove on for easy cleanup) compared to mixing with a spatula

4. Fire up the grill

Fire the grill up to 350-375°F.

For wings, I find charcoal grills to be the best because you get crispy skin from the direct heat without overcooking them. However, if you have a preferred grill to use for wings, use that.

raw pickleback wings on a charcoal grill

Cooking at 350-375°F, wings will typically take around 30 minutes to cook. Make sure to give them a flip halfway through so they cook evenly or flip as needed so one side doesn’t burn.

Wings are safe to eat when an internal temperature of 165°F is reached. However, I prefer my wings at an internal temperature of 180°F. Once they’ve reached your desired internal temperature, remove them from the grill.

cooked pickleback wings on a charcoal grill

5. Serve

Place wings on a platter and garnish with pickles and fresh dill. Serve with ranch or blue cheese sauce.

a pickleback wing dipped in dressing being held by fingers

Can you ever get enough wings?

pickleback chicken wings

Pickleback Chicken Wings

Chicken wings marinated in pickle juice, coated in bourbon, BBQ rub, and honey then grilled to crispy perfection.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Marinate: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 378kcal
Author: Brian Gerwig


  • 2 lbs chicken wings
  • cups pickle juice
  • 2 tbsp Smoked Kitchen Honey Garlic Rub
  • 3 tbsp Bourbon
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • pickles to garnish
  • dill to garnish


  • Separate your wings into flats and drumettes using a sharp knife.
  • Place the wings into a bowl, cover with pickle juice, and marinate for a minimum of 4 hours up to overnight.
  • Remove wings from the marinade and pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Place wings on a wire rack. Leave them uncovered in the fridge for 3 hours. This will help dry out the skin. The dryer you get them, the crispier they will be.
  • Put the wings in a bowl, add the bourbon, and give them a good mix.
  • Add the rub and honey and mix until they are well coated.
  • Fire up your grill to around 350°F.
  • Place wings on the grates and cook for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is at 180°F and the skin is nice and crispy. Flip every 5-10 minutes to ensure they cook evenly.
  • Remove the wings from the grill, place them on a serving plate, and garnish with pickles and dill, and serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing on the side.


Calories: 378kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 94mg | Sodium: 2308mg | Potassium: 210mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 233IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 2mg
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