Inside The Magic Castle With Dan Aykroyd & Crystal Head Vodka

Imbibing with a bonafide legend.….

Crystal Head Vodka was created for creatives, by creatives.

In 2008, legendary actor and comedian, Dan Aykroyd co-founded Crystal Head Vodka. Manufactured in Canada, its vodkas are quadruple-distilled, filtered seven times and packaged in an iconic crystal skull bottle, designed by renowned American artist and cofounder John Alexander

Today, the brand routinely partners with artists and encourages the community to express creativity in new mediums. Crystal Head Vodka recently teamed up with American graffiti artist Risk Rock, and other renowned creatives to paint bottles donated by the brand.

These one-of-a-kind bottles were on display recently at a private event hosted by Dan at the infamous Magic Castle in Hollywood. Guests were treated to curated cocktails by lifestyle expert and mixologist, Paul Zahn, a Q&A discussion with Dan and Risk, and of course, lots of magic.

Risk Rock, Dan Aykroyd (Photo by Dustin Downing)

Crystal Head Vodka’s iconic skull bottles were designed to represent life, power, and enlightenment–themes that resonate strongly with Risk.  The artist embodies tenacity and recognizes that the art world mirrors this relentless grind and views the skull as a powerful symbol of life’s duality and intricate juxtapositions. The parallels between Crystal Head Vodka and art share creativity, inspiration and quality.  

The brand uses only the highest-quality ingredients and pristine water from Newfoundland, Canada, to create unique, additive-free, ultra-premium vodka expressions. As a distinctive finishing touch, Crystal Head Vodka is filtered through layers of Herkimer Diamonds. Crystal Head Vodka produces three expressions of vodka: original, made from locally sourced Canadian corn, Aurora, crafted from English wheat, and Onyx, crafted with Blue Weber Agave sourced from a single farm in Mexico.

Crystal Head Vodka is now sold in over 75 countries around the world. Loop Magazine caught up with Dan at the event and chatted about the brand’s origins, how he thinks the cocktail scene has changed over the years and his sophisticated drink of choice. Check out the exclusive interview below. 

Risk Rock, Dan Aykroyd (Photo by Dustin Downing)

Loop Magazine: Thank you so much for inviting us to the Magic Castle. It’s one of the most historic and infamous venues in all Los Angeles. Plus it’s rumored to be haunted.

Dan Aykroyd: It’s been known that there are some presences in this building. And the practitioners of magic of course walk between the realms, and this is a sacred space for walking between the realms.

LM: So let’s talk about Crystal Head. The brand has been around for awhile, so let’s talk about how the concept came about because it really is unlike any other vodka on the market. 

DA: Thank you, I mean we certainly believe it. It certainly has none of the additives that are common through the vodka industry. I don’t name names or brands, but I believe we are the first ones to strip out the glyceride, the limonene and the sugar from out fluid. So that was primarily why I wanted to get started in it because I didn’t like the taste and smell of many of the products. They either tasted like nothing or they smelt like perfume or they were very rough. And I began to inquire why, where’s the good old clean ethyl alcohol flavor of the mash or whatever you’re using as mash, where’s it gone? And I came to the knowledge through researchers that in order to mask the alcohol flavor, the scent, that manufactures use glyceride, anti-freeze citrus oil. cleanser and sugar.

And so my partners and I thought, “Wow. What do we do? What would it taste like with beautiful Newfoundland water and peaches and cream corn mash, and if you just married those two, did super super filtration, what would you come out with?” The first test we had was so clean and so clear and so pure. It was just like drinking water and we thought, “This is gonna work. We’re going to change the industry.”

LM: Beyond just the really cool bottle, it’s a stand alone vodka on its own. But tell me how the bottle came about. Because that’s what makes people buy it originally; the taste is what keeps people coming back.

DA: Well we wanted to sell the concept of enlightened drinking, an enlightened thinking; that you could know how the product didn’t have these additives, that there would be a purity aspect to it.

And the heads are very pure, they were used by native tribes like the Aztecs and the Navajo and the Mayans who used them as crystal balls, they were sacred relics. And we thought, “We’re going to put the vodka in here, and surely people will know, when we put this on the shelf that there’d have to be something beautifully clean inside it.” You couldn’t put a polluted, oil filled, additive filled fluid in these beautiful bottles. It would be blasphemous.

We connected to the consumer on that level and here we are a decade and a half later, almost, and 78 countries around the world and millions of bottles sold and we are bar chefs favorites everywhere because we are the blank canvas without citrus oil without limonene without sugar. Let the bartender add sugar! Let the bartender add the citrus he wants! And as far as glyceride, you’ve got a beautiful fluid, why do you need to add viscosity? I have peaches and cream corn with the water, you just took it straight, it just finishes off beautifully, naturally, oily…naturally oily, healthier. 

LM: What is your cocktail of choice or do you like to enjoy your spirits neat?

DA: I like people to try out drinks for me, but I think my go-to is just a simple Long Island Railway 1954 Star Bar Cart Martini. Imagine going into Manhattan, 10:30 in the morning, you’re an advertising executive going into work in 1955. And they would serve you a bar cart martini which would be a hand shaken up in the tumblr and served with olives.  And again, it just drinks so pure, it drinks pure like water. 

LM: How you have seen the cocktail industry and the nightlife scene change over the years? 

DA:Well there are few places now that have classic cocktail bars like Harry’s in Paris and or The Ritz. There are a lot of great hotel bars that have traditions. You have a lot of famous bartenders that do this. But I think mainly what’s happened now is that drinks are not being poured in quality, and they are not being poured for quality. They are being poured for quantity and drinks are being poured more in volume than they are in taste appreciation. So the classical cocktail bar of old is now being replaced by the dance club where spirits are not treated as a recipe. It’s just volume consumption, so I think the trend is now to the larger  dance clubs but it’s nice to find a good old fashioned cocktail bar….

LM: Here in LA, Musso & Frank is known for having the the best martinis.

DA: That’s true, that’s pretty good. Yeah I like that one. 

Launch the slideshow below to see more photos of the Crystal Head Vodka event at the Magic Castle

Risk Rock
Dan Aykroyd
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Photos by Dustin Downing