Urban Nigths

Goodnight Loving Vodka, Gary Crowell and the Golden Age of Austin’s Spirits

Goodnight Loving Vodka, Gary Crowell and the Golden Age of Austin’s Spirits

Goodnight Loving Vodka is already part of Austin, in love with the liquors that sprout in its streets. The Texas capital is becoming a reference in the world of spirits. One of the faces behind this alcohol revolution is Gary Crowell. After successfully launching brands such as Deep Eddy and Nine Banded Whiskey, he offers us a sweet temptation: return to the flavors and cocktails of the 70s. Come with us to visit a lost era of endless nights.

Gary is a pioneer of alcohol. Also, an alchemist obsessed with achieving the best possible combination to guarantee amazing flavors. These premises placed Deep Eddy as the icon of the city in a tough struggle with Tito’s. After venturing into the field of whiskey or supporting brands like Mezcal Santos, he takes up one of his passions: vodka.

Bottles
Photo by David Brendan Hall

This distillate has found in Austin, an unexpected oasis that has irrigated its inhabitants with unspeakable delights. With Goodnight Loving Vodka, he has opted for a more natural and artisanal process. He also aims to make the consumer part of the experience both in the glass and outside of it, with the inauguration of a spectacular garden in his distillery a few months ago. There, you can taste this fabulous liquor and soak up the benefits of the brand.

We spoke to Gary to learn about the hidden face of the bottles that decorate our most memorable nights.

Gary Crowell
Gary Crowell (standing on the right side) in the Goodnight Loving Vodka Launch Party. Photo by David Brendan Hall

Tell us about yourself before creating amazing spirits.

I went to Texas A&M studying construction science and spent the first 10 years of my career building homes in Houston and Austin. Since then, I have worked in IT at IBM and in the wine lifestyle business

 How did you start in the spirits production?

I approached Chad Auler of Savvy Vodka about the business idea that became Deep Eddy. I learned pretty much everything I know about the business and how to produce spirits from him and his right-hand man, Boose Nobles.

Was your grandmother Dora your inspiration?

Yes!  Her story is legendary in my family, and I always thought it was really cool that she made spirits during Prohibition.

How was the era of prohibition lived in the United States? Did the ban inspire the way small producers work now?

For the most part, folks kept on drinking, just privately.  People still got their booze. The ban really consolidated the spirits industry- seven distilleries survived Prohibition and made most of the spirit alcohol in the US until 20-25 years ago. The explosion in craft spirits has really happened in the last few years.

Vodka

What do you like about vodka?

Its ability to take on the character of what it’s being mixed with- it is infinitely flexible. Having said that, my favorite drink is a good vodka martini.

What qualities should good vodka have?

Vodka should consist of perfectly distilled ethanol and quality water, filtered properly, and nothing else. It should have a clean nose, with no burn on the backend.

Is it a good time to break with the tradition? Are people more predisposed to drink something different?

The explosion of craft spirits, and the resurgence of cocktail culture has really created a moment in the US where most consumers are wanting to try new spirits and cocktails, all while rediscovering old favorites.

How was the golden age of cocktail between 1968-1973?

It was the era of amazing dinner parties at our parents’ home, accompanied by great sprits and cocktails. Before the mid-70s, wine was not really consumed as much as spirit alcohol and beer.

Has the sophistication of that era been lost?

The US became much more casual as time went on, but I think that trend is reversing. There are lots of great establishments that treat the cocktail experience with reverence, with bartenders innovating great drinks.

Cocktail

Is water essential in creating a good vodka?

Vodka has only two ingredients, both are key to a great vodka. Water is a large component of the taste profile. Great water leads to a great vodka.

Why did you choose Texas spring water?

The artesian spring we draw our water from is extremely pure and high in mineral content. It is one of the reasons Goodnight Loving Vodka is so smooth and clean.

What is the process in designing a bottle for a new drink?

I have a design team that I’ve worked with for several projects. Cody Haltom has a great design sensibility and really works to understand what the ethos of the brand is.  He then delivers several design options that reflect that vibe. We then select a couple of options and explore those.

Once we have what we think are one or two winning designs, we have the package physically produced so we can hold it in our hands and really see if it has the right feel. We might make 4-5 tweaks to that, producing a new glass each time. Once we are happy with the final sample package, we then produce the bottle.

Goodnight Loving Vodka

What is the best vodka in the world for you?

My favorite for years was my former partner Chad’s vodka, Saavy. It is unfortunately not made anymore; Goodnight Loving Vodka is now my favorite. Not because I make it, but because it’s so smooth and tasty.

What do you like the most: Scandinavian, Russian or Polish vodka?

Of the three, I prefer Russian.

How was the creation of Deep Eddy? And Goodnight Loving? Which one was more complicated?

Both were very fun and interesting. Deep Eddy was a bit more complicated as we first went to market with a flavored (sweet tea) vodka. That took a few more ingredients and a bit more processing.

Is Austin going to become an important focus for cocktail and spirits?

Austin has really come to the forefront in the craft spirits industry in the last few years. I don’t see that slowing down at all. Great bars, run by amazing mixologists, seem to open with increasing frequency. I sincerely think that will continue.

Vodka Garden
Goodnight Loving Vodka Garden.

What are your favorite places in Austin?

I love a lot of the old school Austin bars like Deep Eddy Cabaret and Lala’s. We go to Justine’s regularly, and enjoy the cocktails (and food) at L’Oca d’Oro and Kemuri Tatsu-Ya.

What cocktails are your favorites?

My all-time favorite has to be a well-made dirty martini. I’m also a huge fan of the tiki resurgence going on and enjoy a great glass of whiskey when I can.

In which city do you drink the best cocktails?

Austin has an amazing cocktail scene, which my wife and I partake in on a regular basis. We love the cocktail culture in New Orleans! We also spend a good deal of time in Marfa and have had some great drinks there.

More Drinks and food in Foodie Moon

Goodnight Loving Vodka

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