Cool cats get nine lives, and they don’t get much cooler than Dan Aykroyd, who has lived a thousand lives it seems, changing the face of comedy as a founding member of Saturday Night Live, bringing blues music to the mainstream via radio shows and live venues, spearheading high-profile campaigns into paranormal phenomena, and launching Crystal Head Vodka, a high-end, pure spirit earning worldwide praise from connoisseurs, mixologists, and laymen alike. Whether the 59-year-old Aykroyd is living a hero’s journey or answering the call of the wild, he’s certainly living his bliss, and we’ll drink to that.
The Aykroyd family has a long history with the supernatural, which led you to create the Ghostbusters franchise. Tell me about that.
Personally, I don’t have any psychic gifts, but my family has been deeply involved in Spiritualism. My father wrote a book on the subject, History of Ghosts. More than anything, this whole world of spiritualism and the paranormal, is entertaining to me. I’m an entertainer, so I like to be entertained, and whatever else it might be, Spiritualism is great entertainment. I’ve never had an (otherworldly) experience, but I am a believer.
In some ways, it makes perfect sense that you are now in the spirits business.
The insights probably stop at 10 shots of vodka, but yes, I like the occasional screwdriver, and I was looking for a vodka that provided a blank canvas or a virgin slate, a pure spirit, to work with. Couldn’t find one. Had to make it.
How is Crystal Head different from other vodkas?
Most vodkas don’t really taste like vodka! They have these additives which first, disguise and mask the flavor of the alcohol and second, produce a viscous, oily, front of the mouth feel, which is very artificial, and third, they add a sweetness. To achieve this, three things are traditionally added to many of your commercial vodka products, and they are the following: Glycol, which was used in World War II on the Griffin and Merlin engines of the Spitfire; it’s a straight coolant; number two, citrus oil, which my local Western Exterminator uses as a bug exterminant, and which is also a caustic cleanser once promoted in infomercials by Billy Mays, God bless him; and number three, they add straight, unrefined sugar, sometimes full of microbes, and you just don’t need more sugar molecules in your alcohol. So we decided to take a shot, so to speak, and change the industry. It’s not what we put in Crystal Head Vodka; it’s what we don’t put in it.
So far, so good, right?
We’re a double-gold award winner in the World Spirits Competition. We’ve sold two-million bottles. We’re on a mission to visit every bar in America because once people have tried us, they don’t go back. We’re offering people a pure, unadulterated spirit, which is probably a good metaphor for what people today are craving.
No matter what you’ve accomplished in this life, you seem intent on following your bliss wherever it takes you.
(Laughs) It’s true. I’m having so much fun. It’s enlightening. It’s creative. And it’s all about relationships. When you make a movie, you meet 150 people for four months, you fall in love, and then you have to leave and you hardly ever see them again. In this industry, you’re seeing the same people all the time. They become friends. In my career, I’ve put some good visuals in peoples’ eyes. I’ve put some good sounds in their eyes. Now, I get to actually place something on peoples’ tongues. I’ve done a whole assault on all of your senses.
We’re just waiting for Dan Aykroyd to smack us.
That tactile thing, yeah. You’ll get a little spark on the finish of Crystal Head.
How does your work in the spirits industry compare to your work in film and television?
You certainly have more control (with spirits). As (Oscar-winning filmmaker) Bob Zemeckis says, in the film business, you show up with your vision in mind and then take nine steps backwards because you have to be practical and you have to be collaborative. Filmmaking is a series of compromises, and the results are often less than perfect. With Crystal Head, there is no compromise.
That said, we’re looking forward to seeing you return to the big screen this summer in The Campaign with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis.
America’s going to be so happy to see this movie. All of this election stuff going on in America, this movie completely nails that. I only go out the door for movies that I really love, and I went quickly when I got this call. I’ll get up for superstars doing great work.
You’re a living legend, enjoying success in more realms than most of us can even imagine. Any words of wisdom?
As long as everything’s in moderation, we don’t draw any blood, and remain considerate of others and compassionate to those who are less fortunate, then we’re doing all right. And we should have fun when we can get it. No more loud pipes on the Harley. I use a conventional muffler now. I don’t want to bother other people with my fun.
The Crystal Driver Recipe — Dan Aykroyd’s Preferred Beverage
2 oz. Crystal Head Vodka
2 - 3 oz. Freshly Squeezed Tangerine or Clementine Juice
Add Crystal Head Vodka into a cocktail glass filled with ice. Slowly pour in freshly squeezed tangerine juice. Garnish with Blood Orange slice.