WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
In a world of overly sweet infusions, one crafty craft brewery knocks its flavored spirit out of the park.
By Anne Miller
Would you like to drink the alcoholic insides of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup?
Please note, there is only one answer to this question, and it’s not No. 2.
One of the nation’s most successful craft breweries, Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, launched a spirits line a few years ago, and among the highlights is a peanut butter vodka. At their brewpub location just a few blocks from the ocean in Rehoboth Beach, Del., they pair the peanut butter tipple with chocolate (of course) as well as fruity vodkas for a drinkable peanut butter and jelly. Or with milk and a coffee liqueur — think of a bastard White Russian.
They pair the peanut butter tipple with chocolate (of course) as well as fruity vodkas for a drinkable peanut butter and jelly.
Vodka wasn’t always such a highfalutin drink. Brown University history professor Patricia Herlihy, author of the new book Vodka: A Global History, says the clear elixir originated several centuries ago in Poland and Russia, where many drink the tasteless, odorless alcohol from shot glasses (as does she). James Bond’s character sparked America’s vodka trend in the 1960s. But the beverage’s relative lack of character is part of why it lends itself so well to infusing and mixing, she told the Brown Daily Herald.
In the world of branded pours, there’s something refreshing about pulling up a stool in a wood-paneled pub that smells of the ocean, seafood and hops and placing an order for an unusual sweet treat that you can’t buy anywhere else. (Yes, there is at least one other peanut butter vodka familiar to OZY, but it’s just not the same). Today, of course, vodka abounds with flavor, from the Little Black Dress vodka marketed to women to a sinus-clearing horseradish vodka.
Dogfish distiller Alison Schrader’s experiment with peanut butter and vodka initially met with resistance from her general manager, she says. But her co-workers embraced it, and their championing of the spirit eventually turned the GM their way.
And in the four or so years since, the peanut butter vodka has become their best-selling spirit, better even than the honey brown rum, which has earned top marks from the American Distilling Institute. The vodka is sweet, but not overly so, and very much like drinking a fiery version of the inside of a peanut butter candy.
But don’t look for the bottles in stores. It’s brewed in batches so small that lables were hand-marked early on. The bottles are sold at the pub and the brewery, in nearby Milton. The closest city, Wilmington, lies more than hour north — in winter the drive from Washington, D.C., takes a bit under three hours; in summer’s high season, potentially hours longer.
Don’t look for the bottles in stores. It’s brewed in batches so small the labels were hand-marked early on.
Marketing Manager Maria Grieshaber says please don’t call them, they won’t ship it. You can’t buy it online. In fact, they rarely talk about their infusions in the press, she says, for fear of more attention than the staff can handle.
“It’s something we’d love to grow,” she says of their spirits distribution, but juggling bicoastal beer sales keeps them busy enough.
So until that glorious day when the ice cubes align and the silky sipper that is Dogfish’s peanut butter infusion can emerge beyond Delaware, a dreamer’s best bet is to hop a ride to the Delaware beach, book a room within walking distance of the company’s brewpub and enjoy.