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July 19, 2019

A Q&A with the Founders of Haus

Words by Team Haus
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What’s the story behind Haus?

W: We were looking for a better way to drink. 

H: Woody and I have both spent the last decade as entrepreneurs — and we have always been career-oriented people. We are always either working or out doing something related to work. Drinking, for better or worse, is a big part of that. 

You have happy hours at work, networking events, business dinners, etc. While we love the ritual of drinking (we are winemakers, after all) and how it brings people together, there were a lot of downsides — it was affecting our sleep, our health, how we felt the next day. We thought to ourselves, we know a lot of people with this dilemma — why aren’t there better options out there for us? 

W: I have spent the last decade working in wine and spirits, and I know just how bad wine and liquor can be for you. It’s not just the alcohol making you feel bad — your nice bottle of wine might be full of fruit concentrate, artificial flavors, acids and sulfurs, even milk, eggs or clay. Your favorite liquor might have more sugar than you’d feel comfortable eating in a week. Most people have no idea.

H: We wanted to make something totally different. Something with lower alcohol and lower sugar than what’s out there today. Something with no sketchy or artificial ingredients. We wanted something that was sophisticated and complex but also easy and approachable. We wanted something that we could drink all night without getting a hangover the next day.

W: That’s what eventually led to Haus.

 

A hand reaches for a box of Haus on a shelf.

 

How did you even know where to start?

H: We already knew there was a type of alcohol out there that checked all of these boxes: apéritifs. They’re low-alcohol liquors that have been a staple in European drinking for centuries. 

W: I discovered apéritifs when I lived in Berlin in 2009. 

In Berlin, you go out a lot — and you need a way to survive all of that time drinking. I'd regularly hang out with friends until 7 or 8 in the morning. Soon into living there, I discovered the Americano — an apéritif cocktail with Campari, vermouth and soda water — and I'd drink those all night. They allowed me to be present and participate in the drinking culture without getting too drunk or ruining my day after. It showed me there's a much better way to drink, and it wasn't about getting drunk — it was about being present and connecting with friends.

Years later, I had taken over the family farm in Sonoma County and had an excess vintage of chardonnay and meyer lemons I needed to do something with. I knew those things could be the main components of an apéritif, so I started tinkering with recipes of my own.

H: Woody’s previous apéritif projects were in some of the best restaurants and cocktail lists in America. That said, we kept finding that bartenders would just sprinkle us into complicated, sugary, high-alcohol cocktails instead of just letting the product shine on its own, as they do in Europe. This inspired us to create Haus, and properly introduce apéritif culture to America.

 

Woody Hambrecht mixes and makes aperitifs on a wooden table.

 

What do apéritifs typically taste like? How are they made?

H: There’s a high likelihood that you’ve had an apéritif before and just didn’t know it. Ever had a Martini? Manhattan? Negroni? Aperol Spritz? You’ve had apéritifs.

W: The best-known apéritifs in America are Aperol, Campari, and Dolin. They often have a bitter profile, but are also sweet for balance. They are often made with a fermented grape base, which is then fortified with other herbs, fruits and botanicals to complete their complex flavor profile. 

H: That said, for Haus, we wanted to make something that tasted a little different than traditional apéritifs. We have probably tried over 100 different apéritifs in our research for Haus, and we felt that everything was way too sweet and way too bitter. While this might be right for the European palate, we wanted to create a recipe that was not only easier to drink, but better for you. 

W: We ran lab tests on our recipe to see how we measured up against other popular apéritifs, and we have 80% less sugar than Aperol. And in our humble opinion, it’s way more delicious.

 

“For Haus, we wanted to make something that tasted a little different than traditional apéritifs... we wanted to create a recipe that was not only easier to drink, but better for you.”

 

I’ve never seen spirits sold on the Internet before.

W: Yeah, we’re the first of our category to do it. There’s a certain class of apéritifs that can bypass a lot of the federal restrictions around spirits, including having the ability to be sold online. So we decided to do something different and sell our product on the Internet instead of going through traditional distribution.

H: What’s most exciting about this is that we can have a direct relationship with our customer. This has never happened for a booze company before. We not only get to know our customers, but we can gather feedback and use that to make future products for them. We can be the first company making booze that truly meets the needs of our drinker.

 

Where is the product made?

W: We extract flavors from the fruits and botanicals in the barn on our ranch, and then we do final blending and bottling in our facility a couple of miles away, just off Highway 101 in Healdsburg.

  

How’d you two meet?

H: OkCupid.com, in 2012.

W: Pre-Swipe.

H: We were a 96% match. Now we’re married with two babies (Sophie, our one-year-old, and our other baby, Haus).

 

Helena, Woody, and their one-year-old daughter, Sophie.