If you're the sort of person who has lost count of the number of times you've watched Dan Aykroyd's Julia Child SNL skit on YouTube, find yourself lurking at House of Blues to try and catch a glimpse of the actor, have seen Driving Miss Daisy an otherwise inexplicable number of times, and have become a fan of Crystal Head Vodka not because you like drinking booze out of a skull -- although there's a definite charm in that -- but because the stuff is brought to you by Akyroyd himself, then you have someplace to be tomorrow. Akyroyd will be at The Wine House tomorrow evening, from 6-8 p.m., to autograph those cool skull-shaped bottles of his vodka. No, he will not sing Blues Brothers tunes, although if he suddenly decides to host a vodka tasting, I guess anything is possible.
We caught up with the actor-musician-writer-distiller recently and asked him a bunch of questions, the first of which, of course, being Why Are You Making Vodka Anyway? Turn the page for the answers, plus a recipe for a Cranium cocktail. (Editor's note: as this interview was conducted via email, the exclamation points were supplied by Aykroyd.)
Squid Ink: So how did you get into the spirit world, as it were? Before vodka, you became interested in wines and have your own label, Dan Aykroyd Wines. How did that come about?
Dan Aykroyd: It started when I brought Pátron tequila to Canada. At first we couldn't get Pátron to Canada, so we spoke to Diamond Estates Wine & Spirits and got them involved.
As it turned out, they also have four vineyards in Niagara producing really great reds and really powerful world-class whites. One of the executives said, "While we're doing Pátron, why don't we develop a line of wines?" So through the Pátron distributorship, I bought part of the Diamond Estate and I'm now an owner of the four vineyards as well.
SI: Why the bottle, which is in the shape of a skull? There must be a backstory to that.
DA: The Crystal Head Vodka originates from an idea my friend artist John Alexander had. He's been going to the Mexican "Day of the Dead" celebration for some time. He has been putting skulls in his artwork for years. He wanted put tequila in a glass skull. It was a brilliant idea, but I'm the importer of Patron into Canada, so that would be like Pepsi salesman drinking Coke.
Then it hit me -- let's bring back the Mitchell-Hedges skull that was found in the Yucatan. Then I thought, "Why not use a liquid that is a pure spirit?" and we created Crystal Head Vodka.
The story behind Crystal Head Vodka is one of positive spiritual energy. Thirteen of these polished skulls have been found on our planet. Eight are in the possession of individuals and institutions. Five are missing. Of the eight each one is unique. Some are green, orange, cloudy and crystal clear.
The origins of the skulls are controversial. However, everyone agrees that these beautiful pieces are symbols of enlightenment and hope for a better future. They are believed to be between 5,000 and 35,000 years old and appear to have been carved over a period of several hundred years - but they don't bear any tool marks. Their very construction defies common logic.
SI: The vodka is distilled through diamonds? Can you tell us about that?
DA: Crystal Head Vodka is quadruple distilled, then triple filtered through polished crystals known as Herkimer Diamonds.
The filtration is the final and most important step in production. Herkimer diamonds are quartz formations, or crystals that are mined in Herkimer, New York. New age belief systems claim that Herkimer diamonds emit positive energy.
Crystal Head Vodka is a pure spirit free of any additives such as sugar, glycerin, or citrus oil.
SI: So how much of the New Age belief system do you personally follow, if we may ask?
DA: I am a spiritualist, a proud wearer of the spiritualist badge. My great grandfather was a correspondent with Arthur Conan Doyle, who was an author involved with the mediums and channeling activities that were going on at the time. I am a long-standing believer that there is more to these four dimensions that we live in.
SI: Do Canadians drink a lot of vodka? And if so, might vodka consumption have had something to do with the invention of curling, which, if we may say so, is a perfectly baffling sport.
DA: About as much as anywhere else!
SI: You've chosen to go into the wine and spirits profession instead of, say, politics like another SNL alum. Would you ever run for public office?
DA: My acting career, Crystal Head Vodka and other liquid libation projects keep me very busy!
SI: So we're a food blog, and therefore we feel obliged to ask you about Julia Child. You did perhaps the best impersonation of Child ever on SNL. How did you get into character for that? Did you ever meet Child?
DA: That skit was a lot of fun. I was able to prepare by watching episodes of The French Chef -- she had such a vibrant personality I had to just go for it. I was very happy that the piece went over well.
SI: Do you cook in real life?
DA: I can pull things together. Lamb chops and roasted potatoes with a Shiraz -- I'm a good grill chef.
SI: Where do you like to eat (or drink) when you're in Los Angeles? I'm assuming the House of Blues, although I could be wrong. Any place else you particularly like?
DA: Anywhere where I can order a Crystal Head Vodka!
From: Dan Aykroyd of Crystal Head Vodka.
Makes: 1 drink
1 1/2 oz. Crystal Head vodka
cranberry juice to taste
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slice of blood orange
1. Pour vodka and cranberry juice over ice in a tall glass. Add a splash of grenadine (unstirred) on the top. Garnish with blood orange slice.
Dan Aykroyd bottle signing at The Wine House: 2311 Cotner Avenue, Los Angeles; (310) 479-3731. Thursday, May 27th, from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.