As one of the all-time great soccer forwards, Alessandro Del Piero wrapped up his career with a 2006 World Cup win and the second highest all-time Italian goal scoring record. Post retirement from the game, the Conegliano, Italy native saw an opening in the cocktail market and went on to team up with NIO, a brand of pre-made, well-packaged cocktails sent straight to your home on order, be it for a party or, you know, your very own party of one.
Be it a Negroni, Old Fashioned, or an Espresso Martini, just shake it, tear off the corner, pour over ice, and ta-da you’ve got yourself all sorted for your holiday cocktails without ever leaving your house (it’s friggin cold out there, after all). Below, we spoke with the soccer superstar about his new venture.
Tell us how you got involved with NIO Cocktails? Who came up with the original concept?
I met the co-founder of NIO Cocktails, Alessandro Palmarin, at the opening of my restaurant in Milan. We had a great conversation and got to know each other, and it was a good beginning. They’ve teamed up with Patrick Pistolesi, one of the world’s most award-winning bartenders, who came up with all of the recipes and only uses premium spirits – there’s a reason why his bar in Rome, Drink Kong, was just named 16th among the World’s 50 Best Bars. The quality of NIO Cocktails is the same as you’d enjoy in a top cocktail bar.
I really liked the concept and the packaging, and we were able to make a deal to introduce NIO to America. At this moment my business partner and I are running the direct-to-consumer e-commerce business for NIO Cocktails in California, where we also opened a NIO Cocktails retail shop in Los Angeles. I’m looking forward to the day when we will expand this business beyond California.
What is the primary target audience the brand is aiming for?
NIO Cocktails are super convenient and best classed in the category of Ready-to-Drink Cocktails. Perfect for someone who considers themselves a cocktail enthusiast because we only use top shelf brands. You can enjoy them in every situation. Dinner parties are best because instead of having to spend a lot of time making rounds of new drinks, they’re ready to go and only need ice. There are so many occasions to enjoy NIO Cocktails – for celebrations, as gifts to say thank you, or simply to share with friends and family at home. If you come home late at night and want to enjoy a cocktail but don’t want to deal with the mess and clean up, it only takes 30 seconds to prepare. It’s literally as easy as shake, open, and pour over ice.
What kind of cocktails are on offer?
Both modern and classic cocktails like the Espresso Martini, Old Fashioned, Manhattan and, of course, Negroni.
Was the food and service industry always something you had your eye on post-soccer career?
I was really involved in the food and service industry during my soccer career since food was one of the main factors or pillars in my performance on the pitch. It was, and still is, very important to eat and drink well. It’s even more fundamental post-career because you can enjoy it more! I knew for many years one day I would be in the restaurant business and am so happy that we opened n10, my flagship restaurant in Los Angeles.
Do you have a favorite cocktail of choice?
My favorite cocktail is the Milano Torino. We created it a long time ago for a special launch event at my restaurant in Milano [Milan]. We came up with a unique flavor for the cocktail that represents Milano and Torino together. It’s made with Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino, Campari, and Old Time Bitters. Torino is the city where I was living during my playing career and Milano was the city where I was opening a restaurant. That cocktail became my favorite, and we now even have a Milano Torino NIO Cocktail!
Is there a drink not on the menu that you would like to see down the line?
Yes, it’s called The Alessandro. We made it at n10 in Los Angeles. I personally created it with my bartender, and it’s a best seller. People really like it, and I love it and am looking forward to introducing it to the line in the future. But you’ll have to wait to find out what’s in it.
What’s next for you?
There are many ways I want to be involved in business as an investor and entrepreneur. I’m still very attached to the world of football. I’m finishing my pro license to become a coach. I still work with different television outlets like SKY and ESPN, in Italy and the US, all over the world for different football events and leagues. I like to invest in startups, but I make it a priority to understand the project and have interest in it. I need to understand what the business is all about and what the purpose of the investment is. I always have my eyes open and am fortunate to have wonderful people around me suggesting what to do. I’m quite busy at the moment. I have three children, so I have the pleasure of being a father. I am blessed with that, and it is very special for me. I have to balance my time between business and family, which is very important, so I try to find the best way to do both.
Is there one player from a different era to yours, that you wish you could have played with or against?
This is a very interesting question. There are many, many players that I watched as a child, that I first saw on TV or heard about. All of them football icons and legends. So many players have impressed me, some before my era, some after: Pelé, Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Michele Platini, Zico, Ronaldo #9, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo. I played against Ronaldo and shared a lot of battles against him. I really loved to play with him. The two icons of the last 10-15 years: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. They’re definitely the players that impress me the most. But I’m constantly updating this list because there are incredible players in different roles, and each one impresses me in a way that is very unique in how they interpret that role.