Food & Drink

Patrick Pistolesi on building an RTD brand

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Trade veteran Patrick Pistolesi is proprietor of Rome’s Drink Kong, one of many world’s hottest bars – however with the venue in lockdown, he turned to RTDs. We spoke with the Nio Cocktails co-founder concerning the challenges of constructing nice serves in pouch kind.

Patrick Pistolesi Nio Cocktails

Patrick Pistolesi, proprietor of Rome bar Drink Kong, co-founded the RTD model Nio Cocktails throughout lockdown

After 23 years within the business, Patrick Pistolesi has seen all of it. He’s travelled the world to uncover new methods of serving drinks, entered and received cocktail competitions, helped spark a cocktail renaissance in Rome, and has now launched into the launch of a prepared‐to-serve cocktail firm.

“I’ve been within the drinks business since earlier than I believed it was an business,” he quips. “It was all the time extra cultural to me. I’ve all the time cherished bars and pubs, and the whole lot that considerations alcohol.”

Half Italian and half Irish, Pistolesi constructed a reputation for himself whereas rejuvenating the cocktail scene within the Everlasting Metropolis. He opened the doorways to the Italian capital’s first gin bar in 2013, the aptly named Gin Nook, and 5 years later launched cocktail den Drink Kong.

Nevertheless, whereas venues have been pressured to shut their doorways amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, Pistolesi has turned his hand to the prepared‐to‐drink (RTD) sector.

“That is a kind of issues that occurs in your life, which you’re undecided whether or not to be pleased about – however now I’m,” he says. “My companion in enterprise and in Drink Kong mentioned we needed to go to Milan to fulfill this good friend. So, we go to Milan and we go to this small storage, and the man says ‘hear, I need to do RTD cocktails’, and I’m like ‘are you kidding me?’.”


Alongside founders Luca Quagliano and Alessandro Palmarin, Pistolesi has developed RTD model Nio Cocktails. Pre‐packed drinks have confirmed a success amid lockdowns throughout Europe, providing a style of the bar at residence. Nevertheless, Pistolesi was initially sceptical of the mission. On the time, he says he was involved concerning the repute of RTDs in the marketplace. However, a day with Quagliano was sufficient to persuade him that the mission was “so loopy that it’d work”.

“We began making cocktails bottle by bottle,” he says. “Luca, who’s the actual thoughts behind all this, has believed on this and was giving it the enhance. Now I create about 4 or 5 new cocktails every week, that are produced, printed, then go across the globe. That was an actual massive wager on the time.”

The cocktails are packed in 100ml pouches, which will be purchased in containers of three, six or 9 drinks. Cocktails at the moment on supply embrace classics such because the Cosmopolitan, Daiquiri and Negroni, in addition to signature creations just like the Backyard of Russia, described as a ‘contemporary and aromatic tackle the Vodka Bitter with an elderflower twist’, and the alcohol‐free Lemongrass Citrus, which is claimed to be a ‘refreshing tropical non‐alcoholic cocktail’. As soon as delivered, the drinks can merely be opened and served over ice, with no shaking or further mixing required.

Pistolesi says: “Nio means ‘wants ice solely’, so we all the time promote the very fact that there’s a little ritual with every drink. It’s like taking a shower, you recognize, and  lighting the candles. It’s about taking the glass, the ice, pouring the drink, having a sip. That is the romantic half.”

The cocktails might attempt to recreate the romance of the bar, however Pistolesi and his crew turned to a number of slicing‐edge strategies and scientific know‐the way to safely deliver these flavours into drinkers’ houses. The method, which Pistolesi describes as “very irritating and really exhausting to understand”, noticed the crew experiment with acids instead of citrus, and different substances that would retain the “soul of the drink itself”.

“You possibly can’t use contemporary lime since you want a shelf life, you need that flavour to be OK,” he explains. “I wished to have the whole lot contemporary, the whole lot with out preservatives and shit like that. In order that was the primary problem, and Nio introduced me to the problem to be higher and higher with out utilizing any chemical substances – that to me was an enormous purpose.”

In creating the drinks, Pistolesi used strategies normalised by artistic mixologists in boundary‐breaking bars. Pistolesi says: “I’ve been impressed by nice cocktail bars like Tayēr + Elementary in London. They’ve been utilizing acids, and we use them at Drink Kong, and it’s improbable.”

As venues world wide reopen, and drinkers look to return to their favorite bars, Pistolesi expects the development that noticed world-renowned bartenders develop RTD merchandise and takeaway cocktail choices will probably be right here to remain. Whereas drinkers might quickly take pleasure in their go‐to drinks at their favorite bar, a great takeaway cocktail providing might imply they aren’t pressured to finish their occasion at closing time. “It could possibly be a Tuesday evening and in the event you don’t need to exit, you could possibly have a drink at residence,” Pistolesi says. “Or, at 2am on a Saturday in case you are in full occasion mode however the bar has to shut, you could possibly get a few drinks on this means, completely authorized, completely accepted. You then deliver them residence and also you proceed the expertise at residence.”

Drink Kong

The aesthetic of Drink Kong is impressed by ’80s movies


The RTD increase additionally means drinkers world wide are capable of pattern serves from bars they might have by no means travelled to in particular person. For Pistolesi, this has meant providing imbibers on the opposite aspect of the world a style of the drinks he serves at Drink Kong.

He says: “We even have the Nio serves for Drink Kong, with our personal drinks. So, in the event you can’t come to Drink Kong and also you’re on the opposite aspect of the planet and also you’ve heard about our bar, if you wish to style our drinks then you are able to do so.”

Drinkers ought to definitely have heard of the venue, which earned its place on The World’s 50 Finest Bars record in 2019. Since opening, the Italian ingesting den has constructed its repute on killer cocktails, a futuristic aesthetic and ties to Japanese tradition.

“I’m a child from the ’80s. I used to be born in 1978 and once I was round 10, I had these lovely films like Again to the Future and Blade Runner,” says Pistolesi. “This complete scifi tradition simply caught with me, and Japanese bartending is one of the best bartending on the earth as a result of Japanese persons are very exact – think about a zen backyard and bonsai, it’s very exact, very harmonic, and I fell in love with that.”

Pistolesi travelled to Japan after successful a cocktail competitors with whisky model Nikka, and labored his means across the nation. He then mixed the strategies he gained and his sci‐fi inspirations collectively in Drink Kong, which opened in 2018. “In Drink Kong, it’s very darkish, there are neons right here and there recalling the ’80s,” explains Pistolesi. “We now have two online game cubicles, the bogs are impressed by Tron, now we have a Japanese room that appears like a sushi bar, but it surely’s not. We now have all these little bits and items. Plus, initially of Blade Runner, it says ‘Los Angeles, 2019’, it’s raining and so they converse Japanese. This multicultural scenario struck me once I was a child and I wished to pursue it.”

Whereas the world round Drink Kong might not fairly reside as much as Ridley Scott’s imaginative and prescient in Blade Runner, Pistolesi will make sure you repair a drink for anybody on the bar searching for hospitality and scifi escapism to shed their worries from the skin world – or ship it to their door.

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