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Drink for a cause: Haus project supports restaurants

Haus typically has a core collection of three flavors; the Restaurant Project expanded the collection to 16 varieties.
Haus typically has a core collection of three flavors; the Restaurant Project expanded the collection to 16 varieties.

Credit: Courtesy Haus

Credit: Courtesy Haus

Sip chef Hugh Acheson’s collaborative aperitif to benefit Empire State South

At a time when some restaurants are still closed, and the dining rooms at others aren’t filled to capacity, simply sipping a low-alcohol aperitif at home can help sustain some of them.

The Restaurant Project by Haus, a boutique aperitif brand, leverages the company’s existing infrastructure to provide swift aid to some of America’s favorite restaurants, including Atlanta’s Empire State South.

“Aperitif” refers to the social occasion of imbibing before an evening meal as well as the drink itself. It’s simple: Just pour over ice, add soda water and a lemon twist or orange peel, and you’re done. Amaros, vermouths, dry fortified wines, sherries and aromatized wines all work for this purpose. If you’ve ever sipped an Aperol spritz, you were enjoying an aperitif.

Founded by Helena and Woody Hambrecht, Haus launched its brand of three aperitifs last year, bypassing traditional liquor distribution by selling directly to consumers online. Designed to meet the demands of a new generation of drinkers who want to sip something complex and interesting that is low in alcohol, their three core flavors were created using unoaked chardonnay as a base. Third-generation winemaker Woody Hambrecht infuses wine with fruit and botanicals from the couple’s 200-acre farm in Sonoma County, California.

After witnessing how hard restaurants were being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hambrechts launched the Restaurant Project, in which they make collaborative aperitifs with chefs.

“Restaurants quickly pivoted to gift cards and takeout, but we knew that wouldn’t be enough for most businesses,” Helena Hambrecht said. By selling collaborative aperitifs online, she said, they realized they could give people across the country an easy way to “support their favorite restaurants while creating a scalable revenue stream for our partners.”

The Hambrechts manage production and distribution, and their restaurant partners receive 100% of the profits in a weekly check.

Haus owns its entire supply chain, which made this project more feasible. Woody oversees recipe development and production, Helena oversees everything related to the brand - like marketing, messaging, and creative direction.

The brand created an extremely efficient production system, which enables quick creation, packaging, shipment and payment to restaurants.

Empire State South's collaboration with Haus is flavored by natural thyme, kumquat, bergamot and a hint of vanilla.
Empire State South's collaboration with Haus is flavored by natural thyme, kumquat, bergamot and a hint of vanilla.

Credit: Courtesy Haus

Credit: Courtesy Haus

When the Haus team approached Empire State South’s Hugh Acheson about creating an aperitif, Acheson envisioned a beautiful and easy-to-drink vermouth. “I love a light and crisp aperitif-style wine, but I wanted something simple and not sweet,” Acheson said.

For each collaboration, Woody Hambrecht works with head of production Aaron Koseba to identify key ingredients that reflect the participating chef’s culinary philosophy. The collaboration with Acheson, labeled Haus x Empire State South, is a delicate expression, with kumquat, bergamot, thyme and a hint of vanilla. It’s refreshing, but dry and herbal on the nose and palate.

“I was just amazed at the quenchinq quality of the final version,” Acheson said. “It works beautifully, and is a good example of the simplicity we strive for at ESS. Simple does not mean easy.”

Thus far, Haus has teamed up with 13 chefs across the country. “Each chef’s version was completely unique, so we’ve been able to create this beautiful collection of aperitifs that are all so different from each other,” Woody Hambrecht said. “It’s been an honor to collaborate with chefs like Hugh, Ashley Christensen, Eduardo Jordan, and many others,” he said.

The Hambrechts plan to keep the project going as long as restaurants are impacted by the pandemic. And, they look forward to exploring collaborations with other food and beverage leaders. “Most of our restaurant partners have already told us they want to carry these products in their restaurants, so when the Restaurant Project comes to a close, it won’t mean the end of these aperitifs,” Helena Hambrecht said.

In the meantime, among the other collaborations available to try is Haus x Poole’s Diner, which features grapefruit, thyme, tellicherry pepper and honey. Haus x State Bird Provisions is a summery blend of strawberry, tart rhubarb, meyer lemon and fresh rose. For a smoky version, Haus x Mister Jiu’s features black cardamom, lapsang tea, ginger and floral osmanthus, inspired by the restaurant’s signature roast duck. With every recipe, they pushed the boundaries of what an aperitif can be, while reflecting each restaurant’s culinary approach.

Haus Restaurant Project aperitifs are sold in a pack of two 750-milliliter bottles for $80. Order at drink.haus. Shipping is free. 

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