This year, NIO Cocktails made its way to the United States, bringing to Los Angeles (and the rest of the country) the chance to experience the Italian line of premium boxed cocktails. Following the launch, Angeleno spoke to NIO co-founder and FIFA World Cup Champion Alessandro Del Piero.
You own a soccer team, operate a soccer academy and serve as a host for ESPN’s Sky Sports. In addition to all that, you are a restaurateur and author. How have you managed to launch a whole other business with NIO Cocktails?
You are right, I am happily super-busy, this has been an incredible journey for me— my professional life after football! I am working alongside a great team of people. We all know our jobs and do them well. We seamlessly work across multiple continents and time zones. I can get new businesses launched with their expertise and working with my business partner in Los Angeles, Jeffrey Whalen. Jeffrey and I have been working together now for more than seven years. Some heavy lifting gets done in Europe with my office in Torino and my brother Stefano, who lives in Italy and has worked with me for a long time.
Did having a busy life serve as inspiration for NIO?
For sure with my busy lifestyle I am always on the lookout for ways to enjoy life and find more leisure time. When the pandemic hit, I started to see that working, leisure time and enjoying a cocktail at home became more the norm. When I met the two founders of NIO Cocktails, Luca and Alessandro, who didn't exactly invent a product category, but they gave it a unique way to bring a high-quality, at-home mixology experience and create a new way to enjoy cocktails that did not exist before.
The biggest inspiration came from a simple idea: to create ready-to-drink expertly mixed cocktails to be enjoyed in the comfort of your home. The concept behind NIO fits perfectly into a busy lifestyle. In fact, to enjoy NIO Cocktails, all you need is a glass with ice as NIO stands for Needs-Ice-Only. When it's time to entertain at home, simply shake the package, open and pour over ice.
How can a boxed beverage be better than a craft cocktail?
One of the things that attracted me to NIO Cocktails is the company’s expert mixologist, Patrick Pistolesi, the owner of the Drink Kong Bar, which currently ranks 19th in the World's 50 Best Bars list. Patrick has created a line of superior products that inspires people to dive into ready to enjoy cocktails at home and celebrate unique occasions in life. Also, NIO doesn't compete with craft cocktails or spirit brands, they get inspired and partner with them. NIO Cocktails always uses premium spirits as ingredients for their recipes such as Tanqueray Gin, Vodka Ketel One, and Vermouth Cocchi. Over the years, NIO Cocktails has forged important partnerships and created exclusive boxes with some of the most prestigious brands in the industry, such as San Pellegrino, Martini and Perrier.
What else is great about NIO?
There is a lot to be proud of with NIO, which has become synonymous with great at home ready-to-drink cocktails: look, the quality of the ingredients, the range of cocktails to the packaging, which is entirely recyclable. I am particularly proud that the paper component of the box is FSC certified and the plastic component is 45% vegetable based. NIO Cocktails has launched a collaboration with U2Y, a company specializing in Carbon Neutral certification and today it offsets any CO2 emissions of the company, which is constantly being monitored. All these aspects have enabled the brand to increase exponentially. Lastly, the energy and motivation of Luca and Alessandro is contagious!
What makes Jeffrey Whalen your perfect co-founder?
Jeffrey and I complement each other very nicely. I get to see and hear about a lot of opportunities and then get together with Jeffrey so we can vet each one and make some decisions to chase one or the other. That’s exactly how it happened with NIO Cocktails. Jeffrey has a strong background in the entertainment industry with good analytical and strategic skills. So we work very well together.
Do you have a go-to piece of advice for newer entrepreneurs?
I guess I would say start with a product or service that people want and with a novel, differentiated concept and a good strategy. Put together a few family, friends or colleagues at the start with skill sets in finance, law, marketing and operations. Maybe donating their time at the start. Run your ideas by a lot of people and see their reactions. Then never turn your back on your vision and run to it!
What else is important to know about you?
May I add that our other ventures, my restaurant, N10 in West Hollywood, has really taken off and we are so happy to welcome our Los Angeles customers, those from all over California and a host of international visitors from around the world. Our Juventus Academy Los Angeles now has an enrolment of over two hundred youngsters in a little over two years. As an Italian family living in Los Angeles, my wife Sonia and I believe Los Angeles is a great place to raise our children. L.A. is a diverse community, with great schools, wonderful attractions, entertainment and, well, great soccer too! We are very happy in Los Angeles.
This interview has been edited.
Photography by: Courtesy NIO Cocktails