If you’re like me, you’ve spent hours in your basement when you were young dreaming up inventions, concoctions, and otherwise absurd innovations to make your life better. What if my toothbrush was also….a phone? What if cars ran on cheese? What if pizza could also… get you drunk? Well, thanks to the technology of 2017 and the mind behind 451 Spirits, dreams do come true. That’s right. Chad Kessler, the owner/artist/skater/alchemist behind this Columbus craft distillery, has partnered with Mikey’s Late Night Slice to bring the people of the midwest the first ever Pizza Whiskey. We had the privilege of sitting down with Chad to ask him a few questions about 451 Spirits and his soon-to-be-famous Pizza Pie’Chuga Whiskey.
What inspired you to create Pizza Pie’Chuga Whiskey?
So the idea comes from mezcal—basically tequila’s smoky great grandfather. There’s a style called pechuga which they make down in the rural parts of Mexico for special occasions. They will put fruits and seasonal nuts in the still and then hang a chicken from the neck of the still. That fat will cook and render and fall down into it. The meatiness of the chicken then offsets the sweetness of the fruit. So my idea was that… except pizza, so Pizza Pie’Chuga.
What did your friends say when you told them about this idea?
“Are you serious?!” … I reached out to Mikey’s right away because they do off the wall pizzas, and I love their stuff. Everybody knows who Mikey’s is, but hardly anyone knows who we are. So we wanted to do something collaborative and co-branding to help get our name out there.
What was the hardest part when it came to the actual production?
It was surprisingly easy! Yeah, I got really lucky. I had the idea; I was joking around, so one day I went and bought some Mikey’s, threw a couple slices in the still (ate a slice, obviously), just in some white whiskey. I got a hint of pizza but not enough. So I was working on gin at the same time, so I asked myself, “what are the base flavors of pizza?” I added sundried tomato, garlic, basil, pepperoni, and parmesan, and the first test batch I did came out perfect!
Have you invented any cocktails with the Pie’Chuga yet?
Mikey’s actually put together a whole cocktail menu for us using riffs on classics. Of course a Bloody Mary makes sense, but there’s also a Margarita (Pizza) cocktail too. I never thought pizza and citrus would work well together, but it was surprisingly good.
What is a good pairing for this drink? The ideal meal?
Beyond pizza, it would probably taste great with some Mexican food because of its inspiration.
What has been the best part of owning a distillery?
We are at a nice size where I can get creative and do weird stuff like the Pie’Chuga, but the whole goal when I started this was to make stuff that others weren’t making. I don’t want to make more bourbon; I don’t want to make more vodka. I think there is enough of that out there. So we are small enough, and we don’t owe any investors any money. Just to get creative, play around, make new styles of things has been the best part.
What is next for the future of 451 Spirits?
So we are taking it slow. We aren’t trying to grow too big for our britches. The pizza whiskey was the first of the one-off products we are wanting to do. The whole idea is that, being small, we have our six core products– two whiskeys, two rums, a gin, and an absinthe. Those we are always going to make, but we can take time away from production to make one-off products. The first one I wanted to be completely out there, but we will definitely be making some more normal stuff.
What is another company you would love to partner with and why?
I am pretty open! I’ve talked with a distillery in Scotland because I love smoky scotch. I actually emailed someone from Brothers Drake. We are currently collaborating with Wolf’s Ridge and another with RAM Brewing. They have our barrels filled with their beer, and we will eventually take them back and finish our whiskey and rum in the beer-seasoned barrels.
Anything you would like to say to the students on OSU’s Campus?
Learn about what you’re drinking! Don’t just smash shots! We offer workshop tours where we get to educate people about what we are making, why we make it the way we do, so people can hopefully come away understanding more about what they’re drinking.
Whether you are looking to try new things or you just want to tell people you tried pizza flavored whiskey, the Pizza Pie’Chuga Whiskey is certainly a drink worth checking out. You can score a glass (or shot) of this legendary whiskey at any of Mikey’s Late Night Slice locations, and if you happen to love it enough, you can pick up a bottle of it at 451 Spirit’s headquarters in Clintonville! ■