People always ask us how we got started in the latte business, so here’s the story of how the Whynatte came to be:
It all started with a hungover morning in Santa Cruz, CA. The Summer of 2004. Andy and I were out visiting my old roommate Wyatt, who had just picked up a fancy new espresso machine. We’d been out drinking all night, and we woke up feeling pretty worked over. Wyatt was in the kitchen making lattes, and Andy and I were laid out on the sofas.
Half joking, Andy says to me, “how much would you have to get paid to drop a shot of Jager in that latte?” To which I replied, “Why natte?”
With that, I dropped an ice cold shot of Jager into a piping hot latte, pounded it, and the first Whynatte was born.
Here’s video of Wyatt drinking one that day (needless to say, iPhones didn’t exist):
That night, a bunch of us went to a bar named Clouds, in Santa Cruz. We convinced our server, Mary, to make us Whynattes. She looked at us like we had beaks when we told her that we were going to drop Jager shots into piping hot lattes, but she eventually obliged our request.
One afternoon, in the Summer of 2006, I pondered the future of the Whynatte. Everyone who tried a Whynatte loved it, and it was totally unlike anything that was currently on the drinking scene. A cold shot of Jager dropped into a piping hot latte. A Whynatte. On a whim, I went online to see if www.whynatte.com was available, and sure it enough it was.
I bought it, called Andy, and said, “I bought a website,” to which Andy said, “what is it?”
“Whynatte.com,” I explained.
“What are we going to do with it?” asked Andy.
“We’re going to make the Whynatte into a drink that people order by name,” I said.
It all started off innocently enough, we’d created the Whynatte cocktail, and our mission was to make it into a drink that people ordered by name. Think about it – the “Kamikaze,” or the “Buttery Nipple,” I mean someone had to name those drinks, and now you can order them from coast to coast and it’s the same recipe.
I called up my brother, who’s now Whynatte’s Creative Director, and asked him to build a website dedicated to the Whynatte. He agreed, and the first incarnation of the Whynatte website was a blog. We sat down with a few chalupas and hammered out a logo:
So now had a website and a logo, but how to make the Whynatte into a popular cocktail that people order by name? Andy and I decided that the best way to get the word out was to visit different bars, get the bartenders to make Whynattes, snap photos, and post them on the Whynatte blog:
The Whynatte became an underground phenomenon, and Whynatte drinkers around the country took lattes into bars, so that they could drink Whynattes
Bars around Atlanta started serving the Whynatte by name:
Then, in November 2006, the Whynatte was mentioned in Rolling Stone Magazine. That was flat out insanity:
To continue spreading the word of the Whynatte, Andy and I started throwing a weekly Thursday night Whynatte party at El Bar. It started modestly, with a small group of Whynatte aficionados, and a box filled with latte…
…which quickly turned into two boxes of latte, and then three boxes of latte. We soon outgrew the boxes, and had to move onto gallons:
To offset all of the money we were spending to brew latte for the parties, we started selling Whynatte clothing:
Pounding lattes until 4am every Thursday night started to take its toll, so we started throwing monthly Whynatte parties at various bars around the city. On the day of a party, we’d typically spend about 8 hours brewing latte in my kitchen. Eventually we landed an unpaid high school intern to help us brew the latte (he has stock options):
We had to buy a bunch of church style urns to keep the latte at the proper temperature. I managed to get this particular urn from my grandmother’s basement:
The monthly parties were a blast, and they really helped introduce a lot of new people to the Whynatte. Once, we did a full scale Whynatte party at Ma Li, a Thai restaurant in Virginia Highlands:
We also threw a smorgasbord of rooftop parties with the fellas from Esperanza, who still help out with a lot of our design work. We had an ongoing battle to see who could make the bigger banner (we won):
While the Whynatte movement was growing legs, there was still one tiny problem: We had created a brand around the Whynatte, and a market for latte as a mixer, but we didn’t actually have a product. The Whynatte was a brand with no product, which given the fact that this whole thing started as an inside joke, shouldn’t really come as a big surprise. We never set out to make Whynatte a business, we just wanted to make it a cocktail that people ordered by name.
Regardless, we were spending more time on the Whynatte than we were our real jobs, and it came time to either let it go, or figure out how to make it our real jobs. We knew that we needed our own latte, specifically made for mixing, we just had no clue how the hell to make it.
While perusing the mustache classified ads, we stumbled upon Jim Natoli, who’d spent over twenty years developing beverages with the largest beverage company in the world. Jim knew how to turn our vision of the Whynatte Latte into a reality. Jim put his money where his lactose was, and joined the company:
After over a year of taste tests, finally the day came when we traveled to an enormous dairy manufacturer in Cabool (Missouri) to make our first batch of Whynatte Latte. It was pretty overwhelming to see tankers of milk being brought in to make the Whynatte. It gave much relief to our high school intern who no longer had to make the latte in my kitchen:
Then, on a rainy night at the Days Inn in Cabool, we prepared the first ever Whynattes using the Whynatte Latte as we know it today. It had been over 4 years since that first Whynatte was consumed in Wyatt’s kitchen, and we were now ready to share the Whynatte with the world: