Tuesday, October 26, 2010

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Crystal Head Vodka Cut Down to Size

“Oh, well, would you look at that?”

Dan Aykroyd is holding my skull in his hands. A genuine smile of surprise seems to play across the actor’s face. I admit that he’s not the first to cradle that heavy orb. His touch, though, is more gentle than that of the craftsman who had taken a saw to it a few days earlier. Right through the forehead he had cut it, a freehand slice that took the top clean off.

Finished mug
Of course, it’s not my own actual head the Ghostbusters star is holding: it’s his. Or, rather, it’s one of his brand. He was in town this weekend signing skull-shaped bottles of Crystal Head, his 80-proof Canadian vodka. The bottles are shaped like human skulls and are so solid you could bludgeon opponents with one in a bar fight. Unlike those who were snapping up bottles from the store's stock, I’d brought my own, slightly altered by a local company that does such things.

I was expecting a crowd. I was not expecting a crowd of hundreds queued up outside a San Diego grocery store, waiting for a chance to plunk down $45 (it was on sale) for a bottle. The line stretches further past a Crystal Head RV than I can make out. When I ask him about its popularity, Aykroyd says that Crystal Head had recently produced its millionth bottle. That’s a lot of glass skulls knocking around the planet.

A matronly woman buys eight. Aykroyd signs them all and poses for pictures. A younger man asks him to sign one for his brother’s upcoming 21st birthday. Done. The former Saturday Night Live comedian is all smiles and charm, working his way patiently through the line while support staff break sweats to open cases, maintain displays, and keep order. I don’t think to ask how many bottles are on hand. Hundreds, surely. A thousand? Possibly.

On the table at BottleHood
But I don’t see any others like mine. Earlier that week, I’d taken an empty Crystal Head bottle to Steve Cherry, co-founder of the San Diego company BottleHood. Cherry’s firm cuts glass bottles and fashions them into drinking vessels, lighting fixtures, candy dishes, candleholders, and even jewelry. He’s a regular at my neighborhood farmers’ market. I’d given him empty bottles before and wanted to see what he could do with one of Aykroyd’s.

His crew turned it into one of my favorite new tiki mugs.

Of the hundreds of brands of cut BottleHood sells — the jelly jars made from Dublin Dr. Pepper bottles, the Patron candy dishes, the drinking glasses of Mountain Valley water — Crystal Head is one Cherry can’t keep in stock. You want an 18-oz Crystal Head drinking vessel? You have to bring him the bottle.

Unless Aykroyd pulls up in that RV with a skid of empties.

Goes well with:
  • BottleHood shows up every week at San Diego markets, so we locals are fortunate enough to browse the rotating offerings. but if you're nowhere near, check out their website. They ship. 
  • Crystal Head's website.

5 comments:

Rick said...

So sexy Rowley. How much did the alteration cost?

Tony Harion said...

This is THE million dollar post, my friend!

Imagine if you sold a product that people bought for the bottle, but they never open the darn bottle because it looks too cool. So you pretty much only sold it once for every person…. Just imagine…

Well, how do you get people to empty these bottles?

Drink the expensive liquor?
Hell no!

Cristal head tiki mugs?

Hell yeah!

Problem solved!

Just call Mr. Aykroyd Monday to go pick up your check.

Craig Hermann said...

Complete and total brilliance. I now want to see that mug in full color garnish and crushed ice / froth glory!

Camper English said...

That is the awesome. I was looking up glass cutting tools on Amazon.com but they all looked weak and janky.

Matthew Rowley said...

So I'm not the only one who likes this? Nice. Though I'm fairly certain I've never seen "So sexy Rowley" in print before.

Rick ~ Steve did not charge me for the work. We bartered. I gave him a clutch of St Germain minis (Belle Époque shot glasses, anyone?), some Stone Brewing bottles, and various unusual soda bottles from my travels. I did, however, ask him what something like that would run and he ballparked it at $50 for the amount of labor that goes into cutting, sanding, polishing, etc.

Tony ~ It's clearly a fantastic execution. Hundreds had come to see Dan Aykroyd, but every single one of them looked — repeatedly — at the skull as they filed past my watching point. I hadn't had that many lustful eyes turned my way since I spoke about moonshine with a collection of Mason jars behind me at the podium in Oxford, Mississippi.

Craig ~ It is not my intention for the inside of that mug to stay dry. Oh, there will be rum. I'm even wondering how an excess of hot chocolate will look, replete with a crown of half-melted ho-made marshmallows.

Camper ~ I'm with you. The craft-store bottle cutters just don't yield the same caliber of results. I had a bottle cutter as a kid and, while it was serviceable, it was essentially a glass cutter mounted on a metal stand. Rotate the bottle to make the cut. BottleHood saws are akin to what Waterford crystal cutters use: diamond blades, water bath. I asked my mom to keep an eye out in my folks' basement for the cutter I had as a kid, but I'm not getting this quality of work out of it. In fact, I doubt the skull could be cut on one of them. Ah, well.