A co-founder of Deep Eddy Vodka who worked with whiskey for awhile is back in business with his favorite spirit, launching Goodnight Loving Vodka this month with a retro design.
Gary Crowell was one of the visionaries behind what has become a multi-million dollar vodka company in Deep Eddy. He wants his new brand to represent a throwback to the clear spirit's heyday — the late 1960s, early '70s — when the three-martini lunch and classic cocktails featuring vodka flourished. Both the bottle design and the design of an upcoming tasting room in the Hill Country nod to that time period.
"It'll be unlike any tasting room experience in the Hill Country today," he said, noting the main tasting area is accessed through sliding back a bookcase at the front entrance. "I call the look 'mid-century modern meets Marfa modern.' We're not trying to recreate 1968, but we do want to make you feel nostalgic for it."
The tasting room is under construction now. Designed by local firm McCray & Co (also behind the look of Picnik, Ramen Tatsu-Ya and other Austin businesses), it will open early next year off Fitzhugh Road, the location of other beverage companies like Jester King Brewery and Treaty Oak Distilling. But you can get a taste of the clean spirit before that: Goodnight Loving Vodka releases into area liquor stores and bars this month, with a launch party at the end of November.
Crowell has teamed up with longtime friend and businessman Tim Osburn to create the vodka, the sole product of their Austin Vodka Company. It is distilled from corn and proofed with an essential ingredient: the pure water of an artesian spring on Osburn's family ranch that flows at about 300 gallons per minute. The ranch is on the James River, which runs through Kimble and Mason counties, but Crowell was intrigued by the spring water in particular to use in vodka.
"The water is about 1,000 years old, and because it's from pre-industrialization times, it's very pure," Crowell said. "It is limestone filtered with bicarbonates, a process responsible for giving it a really great taste, which is what you taste when you have vodka. It is so important to have good water when you're making vodka."
The Goodnight Loving co-founders source the water together, heading to the ranch with a couple of huge jugs and a hose and pump once a month. Once the water is added to the vodka, it's then filtered six times through charcoal pads. The filtration is crucial, Crowell said, to take out the alcohol burn; filter it too much, however, and the character of the water is lost.
A lot of people might discount vodka for its seemingly tasteless profile, but the spirit that Crowell calls a chameleon — making it ideal in both spirit-forward drinks like martinis and in more ingredient-driven cocktails like the Screwdriver — is actually more complex than that. Goodnight Loving Vodka is an example of the spirit done well, he said.
"It's a pretty basic spirit, but it's hard to get right because of the simplicity of the ingredients and the process behind making it. It's all about quality and preparation. We really think we nailed it," Crowell said.
He and Osburn met because their sons were friends and both in Boy Scouts, and the two men became Scout leaders who would sometimes camp on the ranch, introducing Crowell to the artesian spring water. Osburn doesn't have the background in booze like Crowell; instead, he's an adventurer who doesn't stay still for long. He has reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro twice, finished the grueling Texas Water Safari twice and completed Marathon Des Sables, the distance of six regular marathons.
His adventurous streak is something Crowell admires. But you might say Crowell has one of his own — he helped to lead two Austin booze companies into successful enterprises and aims to do it a third time. In addition to Deep Eddy Vodka, he served as the CEO of Nine Banded Whiskey for a few years, where he also emphasized the importance of water in making a good liquor product.
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Like Nine Banded, Goodnight Loving Vodka is made using already produced distillate that Crowell and Osburn then proof, filter and bottle. The water is key, so much so that the vodka was named for it.
"Goodnight Loving is the name of the spring, and it feels very period correct. It's memorable," Crowell said.
You'll be able to taste it in a variety of cocktails once the 3,000 sq. ft. tasting room — complete with an even larger, 7,000 sq. ft. courtyard outside — opens. The cocktails will rotate seasonally, and many of them will be the classics that "our parents grew up with and know," he said.
Find Goodnight Loving at stores like Spec's, the Austin Shaker, Austin Wine Merchant and Davenport's Liquor with a suggested retail price of $19.99. It's also served at local bars and restaurants like tropics-loving the Last Straw.
For more information, visit facebook.com/goodnightlovingvodka/.