The act of shooting an oyster and downing a shot are superficially similar—both often end with an overturned vessel on the bar. But where the latter can be sipped or lingered over, if desired, eating an oyster is inevitably a fleeting affair.
At Chicago’s Sink|Swim, the seafood-centric restaurant from Scofflaw Group, however, the short-lived ritual is drawn out by creating a portmanteau of the two. Before depositing the spent shell, guests are offered a pour of grappa or Old Tom gin, to be sipped directly from the shell.
The practice, known as resentin, has roots in the Veneto region of Italy, where a few drops of grappa, sambuca or brandy are traditionally added to the final sip of espresso to rinse the glass (resentin translates to “little rinse” in the regional dialect). Elsewhere in Italy, the practice is known as pusacaffé, recalling the French Pousse Café, or “coffee pusher,” a connection that hints at the possible origins of the practice. Resentin, however, takes the notion of the post-coffee liqueur a step further with its two-birds-one-stone approach. It was after experiencing this himself on a trip to Italy that Matt Danko, the opening head chef at Sink|Swim, decided to carry it over to oysters.
At Boston’s Island Creek Oyster Bar they’ve embraced a similar practice with their “Pearls”—a section of the menu featuring oyster-friendly spirits by the ounce, which guests are encouraged to transfer to their spent oysters shell to slurp back. While it does lend a subtle brininess to the sip of spirit—which works particularly well with mezcal and tequila as well as grappa and gin—the practice’s appeal lies largely in its inherent indulgence.
“It’s kind of a reward for finishing the oyster, which no one needs an award for anyway,” says Scofflaw Group’s bar director Danny Shapiro, “It’s just a nice, decadent touch.”