1. Hi Nice to meet you, Helena - can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, thanks so much for having me on the blog! I grew up in rural North Carolina, but I’m the kid of an immigrant, so I am an interesting blend of cultures (I joke that I’m half-Norwegian, half-redneck). I started my career working in the Raleigh restaurant scene, then moved to San Francisco in 2009 to “work on the internet.” Before launching Haus, I was running my own creative studio, doing work for Silicon Valley companies like Twitter, Facebook and Uber.
Now I’m the CEO of Haus, which I co-founded because I wanted to see an alcohol brand that represented today’s generation.
2. When did you start building the HAUS brand and what inspired you to create the company?
It all started a few years ago when I was experiencing my own frustrations with drinking. Working in Silicon Valley, I was around alcohol almost every night, between socializing, industry events, and business dinners.
While I love the ritual of bonding over a drink, the side effects were getting to me. I’d accidently get drunker than I wanted to, the hangovers were worsening, the calories were harder to work off. I noticed people around me complaining about the same things. I wondered why there wasn’t a better way to drink.
After watching almost every other industry be disrupted by a brand that understood a new generation, I had a hunch that there was an opportunity in alcohol. Long story short, I worked with my co-founder Woody, a third-generation winemaker, to create the alcohol brand of the future - from product to brand to distribution.
We set out to create a brand that we wanted to see in the world - something sophisticated but easy to drink, and free of all of the toxic additives you find in corporate alcohol. Lower in ABV so you can control your intake and minimize your hangover. Made with values and transparency. Built on the internet and delivered to your door.
3. Where does the name “HAUS’ come from?
Haus gives a nod to Berlin, where my partner and co-founder Woody first experienced aperitif culture. That said, it’s also reflective of the type of drinking culture we wanted to inspire through Haus.
Aperitif culture is not about getting drunk—it’s about the ritual of sharing a drink with people you enjoy. We’re excited to see American drinking culture begin to lean in this direction.
4. What would you say the HAUS Brand Mission is? How are you applying it to your day to day operations?
We set out to create a better way to drink. And we’re doing so by putting the drinker first—something that really hasn’t been done in the industry before.
This is reflected through the ingredients we use and our approach to creating aperitifs that not only taste great, but are legitimately better for you. Rather than using flavors made in a lab, we use natural fruits, herbs, and botanicals to give our aperitifs character. We don’t add artificial ingredients or preservatives, and we only add a small amount of raw organic cane sugar—a fraction of what you’ll find in most aperitifs.
For us a better way to drink isn’t just about the liquid itself. It’s about community. We’re always thinking about how we can take care of our customers, whether that’s providing them with education, playlists or recipes, or even collaborating with them on creative projects.
We’re also using our direct relationship with our customers to find out what they want, and create products that make their lives better.
5. What is a moment in the HAUS history that stands out in your mind as a success?
Success always comes back to our customers. While there have been plenty of big wins over the past two years—being the first to build a meaningful alcohol business on the internet being one of them—the most impactful thing is seeing the positive impact Haus has on the people drinking our products.
People tell us Haus is the first brand they’ve ever seen that meets their values. Others say they’ve been unable to drink without bad after effects until they found Haus. Those messages are why we do what we do.
6. What has been the most exciting about entering the alcohol/alcohol adjacent industry?
With Haus, we decided to completely rethink what an alcohol company should look like today. That meant challenging 100 years of industry tradition across brand, product, and distribution.
Rather than going through traditional distribution and selling our product in bars and liquor stores, we decided to start by selling our product online. This enabled us to create a direct relationship with our customers, and provide context and education on our aperitifs to properly introduce a new type of alcohol to the American market.
We also took an entirely different approach to our branding, wanting to create something that today’s drinker can truly relate to, rather than the cliched advertising of corporate alcohol.
And our product is totally different than most options out there. We use ingredients that you find in Michelin-starred restaurants. You can feel and taste the differences.
What’s been so exciting is approaching things in a completely different way, and seeing how well this resonates with drinkers across the country.
7. Do you have a favorite flavor so far from the collections? Which is it and why?
I’ve always loved tropical cocktails, so Peach Passionfruit, our members-only flavor, is one of my favorites. Lately I’ve been drinking lots of our newest release, Grapefruit Jalapeno. It’s not spicy like the name might imply—it’s fresh, tart and vegetal, and has a smokiness that I’m used to finding in scotch cocktails.
8. What is your go-to drink?
I typically go for something light, refreshing, and hydrating, like a spritz with a long pour of Haus, big splash of fruit juice, and some sparkling water to top it off.
9. Do you have any tips/secrets on making the best drinks?
Honestly, I like to keep things simple. If you use a quality base spirit, it’s easy to make a delicious cocktail with just a few ingredients like sparkling water, juice, or tonic.
10. Talk to us about your branding, if you could describe the aesthetic in three words what would it be?
In three words, it’s timeless, tactile, and nostalgic.
When we first had the idea for Haus, most DTC brands were shooting their products against plain studio backdrops, while conventional alcohol branding was full of dated aesthetics and tropes.
We wanted to create something completely different. We wanted it to feel relatable, and educational, and like it spoke to today’s generation of drinker.
I wanted it to feel real and timeless, like a party that you could imagine yourself at with your friends just as easily as your parent’s generation. I was inspired by old print editorials, and magazines like Apartamento.
Our approach to photography was designed to provide context, so that people could look at our website and understand exactly what this new type of alcohol was, and how and where they would enjoy it. And we baked education into every step of the customer journey.
11. What are some of your favorite brands to follow along with?
I’m a huge Fly by Jing fan - I put it on everything I eat and my toddler happens to be obsessed with it too. I’ve also been really into Acid League lately. They make beautiful no-ABV wines and vinegars. I also spend a ton of time browsing 1stDibs—it’s like being in the biggest antique and design warehouse in the world—just on the Internet.
12. What’s next for HAUS?
We’re still set on our original mission—to bring a better way to drink to as many people as possible.
Keep an eye out for new Haus flavors later this year. And if you’re in California, we’ll be showing up on the menu and on the shelves of your favorite bars and liquor stores soon.