Upon first inspection, the garnish floating in the Tuxedo cocktail that legendary bartender Julie Reiner ordered at New York’s The Grill looked awfully like an olive. Small, slightly oblong, green—basically what you’d expect to find in the classic Martini riff. But to her delight, however, it wasn’t an olive at all, but something even better: a Tomolive.
“They’re basically pickled tomatoes and they look like olives but you bite into them and it’s a tiny, pickled tomato—and it’s delicious,” says Reiner, owner of Brooklyn’s award-winning Clover Club and co-owner of Leyenda. “They’re so good, I was mind blown.”
On the palate, the Tomolives have a sharp burst of acidity and texture-wise they have an enjoyable snap.
The Tomolives are just one of the many pickled veggies packaged under the Old South label and made at the Bryant Preserving Company in Alma, Arkansas—including Brussels sprouts, garlic, and even watermelon rind.
After Reiner tried the Tomolive for the first time, she was hooked. She credits Thomas Waugh, the beverage director for the Major Food Group, which owns The Grill, and her former employee at Clover Club, for discovering the ingredient.
“He’s probably one of the best drink makers out there that I’ve experienced,” says Reiner. “He’s very thoughtful in the way that he creates things and the minutiae that goes into a cocktail. So I texted him and said, ‘I need you to tell me where to get these things.’”
His reply: Amazon. She wasted no time ordering four jars for $20.
“I don’t love olives at all, but I love the idea of them in a Martini,” says Reiner, adding that when she drank Waugh’s Tuxedo and then ate the Tomolive, it was like an epiphany: “This is what I always wanted the olive experience to be for me. You take a bite of it and it really does enhance the next sip of your drink in the same way that I think it does for people who love olives in the Martini.”
Since stocking up on the pickled green tomatoes, Reiner has been trying them out in a variety of cocktails, particularly, of course, in Martini variations: “Something pickled in a Martini is always nice,” she says.
For Clover Club’s spring and summer menu, she’s working on an alcohol-free recipe that uses Seedlip, Tomolive juice, and the Tomolive as a garnish—kind of like a booze-less Dirty Martini. She’s also been loving the olive look-alike in Martini variations using sherry: “Pickles and sherry are really nice together,” she says.
Reiner’s obsession with Tomolives is unlikely to end anytime soon. “Most of the people I’ve mentioned Tomolives to don’t know about them,” says Reiner. “I feel like they’re not very widely used, but they should be.”