Over the years, many condiments have developed cult followings. Their flock liberally apply the sacramental sauce, seasoning or spread to unsolicited foods with reckless abandon. There are ranch dressing fanatics who take French fries and pizza on a stroll through Hidden Valley, and ketchup devotees who find eggs unpalatable without a helping of Heinz. For restaurateur Steven Yeng, the condiment at the altar of obsession is peanut butter.
Yeng put his obsession into practice when he began adding peanut butter to hot wings over a decade ago at his Ocean Beach restaurant, OB Noodle House. His affinity for the spread even led him to create the peanut butter whiskey shot, which became a surprising hit and established a legion of devotees. The unexpected success of that drink inspired Yeng and his wife Brittany to bottle it up for the masses.
Made using real peanuts, Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey is as crazy as it sounds. It’s the answer of “why not” when someone asks, “why?” With its surprising sweetness, smooth finish, and obvious peanut butter flavor, this American whiskey proudly bucks convention as the black sheep of the whiskey aisle.
We sat down with Brittany Yeng, co-founder of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, to find out how her husband’s obsession with peanut butter led to the first-ever peanut butter whiskey, and how it’s turning skeptics into converts and welcoming those who go against the norm.
Brittany Merrill Yeng, Co-Founder of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
Q: Why did your husband first start making peanut butter whiskey shots?
My husband’s favorite thing is peanut butter. He puts peanut butter on everything you could possibly imagine. Stuff that doesn't seem like it would taste good together. And so, he made a peanut butter whiskey shot, and it really started taking off.
He bought a bar right across the street and ended up making that his number one selling drink. The peanut butter whiskey shots were out-selling the next shot—five to one. It was just so popular. People were coming from all around the country, the world, everywhere, and were just like, "Oh, I want to try that."
Q: Why do you think the peanut butter and whiskey combo goes well together?
We like to think that there's nothing more American than peanut butter and whiskey. There is that initial shock value that most people think they won’t combine well. But I think that's really what makes them work together so well— they are very different. Peanut butter is a wonderful flavor that has such a great combination of sweet, creamy, and savory. All of those flavors that can make you addicted to food are all there, and you have that punch of whiskey. Your mom doesn't have to cut the crust off of this one.
Q: How would you describe this whiskey to someone who’s never tried it, or who might be a little skeptical about trying it?
We say, tasting it is believing it. There definitely is a peanut butter-forward flavor. You have that smooth, creamy, savory peanut butter. It's kind of more like a peanut butter cup flavor that really balances the bold bite of whiskey.
Q: What do you say to the detractors, or the whiskey purists who dislike the idea of peanut butter-flavored whiskey?
It's fine if it's not for everyone. But don't make any judgments until you try it. My group of friends were not whiskey drinkers at all. They're wine drinkers. And they were like, "I'm going to try this. I'm going to pretend to like it." Then, to see the shock on their faces when they're like, "This is good. I like whiskey!" I think it's amazing to see people convert. And on the flip side, there are people that are pure whiskey drinkers. The idea of smoothing over their fine whiskey with peanut butter is just sacrilegious or something.
But, you know, there's something unique about peanut butter. You don't really see peanut butter in the beverage industry. So that aspect has intrigued them. And they try it and they're like, "Whoa, I actually do enjoy this." We're not trying to be everyone's favorite drink. But we've found something that's just like peanut butter itself. It's something that most people enjoy. Lately, I've especially seen peanut butter being enjoyed more adventurously than it has been in the past. It's not just the peanut butter and jelly sandwich anymore.
Peanut butter and Jelly Old Fashioned
Q: What’s your favorite drink recipe, or favorite cocktail to make with it?
Honestly, you could just do it plain with a smoked sea salt rim. That's kind of fun for people who aren't whiskey drinkers. It really is probably one of the only whiskies you can add a salt rim to and it still tastes good.
Another way is just adding a splash of cranberry juice. Adding that little bit of tartness. I don't know what flavor profile you'd be missing when you have peanut butter, whiskey, and a little tart cranberry with it. We just call it a PB&J shot, and people love that. We have some more complex recipes but honestly, sometimes simpler is better. The other thing is just adding it to your morning coffee.
Q: How did you come up with the name Skrewball for this whiskey?
My husband and I don't look like your typical whiskey makers. He's Asian and I'm a woman. We're both pretty young and we're from California. Basically, all of the things that would say, “We’re not whiskey makers.” It was really an homage to the employee culture that we had created in the restaurants. I think there were people that really didn't fit in in other places. We just allowed them to be themselves and they became our best employees.
Skrewball is having fun, making fun of yourself, and being yourself. We have the black sheep as the logo with the legs that are dripping from the peanut butter cream. Usually, if you see a black sheep it's kind of a negative connotation, and it's off to the side as an outcast. I think that this is really just owning who you are.
We found that when you own who you are and have fun, that you attract other people and you find out that you're not as alone as you think you are. And so it's really at the core about having fun and being yourself.
To the black sheep in all of us—cheers!
For drink recipes featuring Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, click here.
Photos courtesy of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey company.