Drink That by Bricco, The World’s Best Espresso Martini - BostonMan Magazine (2024)

Drink That by Bricco, The World’s Best Espresso Martini - BostonMan Magazine (1)

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IThappens once in a lifetime. Twice, maybe, if you’re lucky. A moment, a feeling, an opportunity, an experience – you know you’re right there in the middle of something truly special, and you think to yourself, if only I could bottle this. Joseph DePasquale knew from the very first day he stepped into the doors of Bricco as a manager that such a combination existed there.

He was aware of how popular the award-winning espresso martini, an original recipe of head bartender Glenn LeMaitre, was. But knowing it and seeing it firsthand were two different things.

“Seeing the amount of people that come in,” says Joseph, “you know, groups of girls, 10 girls come in, they get a round of espresso martinis, it’s a $200 bill, and you think that the night’s done but nope, they do one more round, and then one more, and then suddenly it’s a $600 bill.” And this happened constantly.

“I said, ‘this is insane. You’re just getting groups and groups and groups, nonstop. Every single day from the minute the doors open at 4 o’clock until 2 in the morning. It just never ends.’”

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It turned out this wasn’t simply an espresso martini that was exceptionally good. It had a meaningful story of how it came to be, dating back to Glenn’s time in the Navy decades before. Glenn was a part of a flight team that was doing operations in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, and had a particular stretch of 108 days without communication with anyone else from the outside world. Their first stop on American soil on their return trip was the U.S. Virgin Islands. They had eight hours to themselves before getting back to their watch.

“My team and I went out and tore it up pretty good,” says Glenn. After getting kicked out of an establishment, they took matters into their own hands, taking their to-go cups with them and mixing everything together.

“We were just savoring the moment,” says Glenn. It turned out the mix, which included kahlua and espresso, was a really good one. “It was our first taste of freedom.”

It became the drink of choice among that group, and when Glenn got out of the service and began working in nightclubs, it served as the inspiration behind what evolved into his signature espresso martini.

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Over the years, he tended bar at nightclubs, strip clubs, restaurants and bars and brought it with him everywhere he went. A naturally charismatic guy, Glenn often shared the story of how the drink came to be with the people who ordered and loved it, hoping to also share with them part of the experience that went along with its original creation.

Glenn eventually found his way to DePasquale Ventures with the Ocean Club, a beachfront bar in Marina Bay. The trend with espresso martinis at the time was to serve them frozen; everything down to the chocolate around the rim was done meticulously to perfect the recipe. Glenn was invited to enter several espresso martini contests locally and nationwide, and the awards quickly followed.

“At night, I was slinging drinks there and during the day, I was making espresso martinis at Bricco,” says Glenn. It became their top seller by far. As Joseph had observed for himself on Day One, Bricco had regulars who kept coming back for it, not simply because they enjoyed it but because just like Glenn and his fellow Navy servicemen, they could tie it back to an experience.

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“We want that longevity, we want those relationships,” said Glenn. “We want to be a part of everyone’s celebrations, anniversaries.”

And people wanted Bricco and Glenn’s award-winning espresso martini to be a part of those moments too. People would even fly Glenn out to their destination weddings to make sure his drink was a part of their event, and what went into making it perfect. They would ask Bricco all the time to somehow make it in a bottle so they could have it on hand to enjoy whenever they wanted and take that experience with them wherever they went.

“It’s impossible,” Joseph used to say. “You have all these ingredients, you would have to pre-batch all these products.” That didn’t seem to deter crowds flocking to the bar to order round after round, especially as the espresso martini kept winning awards and the word got out well beyond Bricco’s loyal following.

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“We became part of a Boston visitation,” says Glenn. “Go to the Freedom Trail, go to see the [U.S.S.] Constitution, go to Bricco and have an espresso martini. It brings people together.”

Until the world forced everyone apart. During the shutdown phase of the pandemic, there were no tourist trips to the Freedom Trail and although Bricco was open for takeout only, just like most of the local restaurants, the element of gathering with people to celebrate milestones was nonexistent as everyone’s lives just stopped.

“We had a skeleton crew,” says Glenn. “During the shutdown, you went to four places: the drugstore, the liquor store, the supermarket and the hardware store. Everyone’s yards looked good.”

With everyone having so much time on their hands, home bartending became a huge interest. Suddenly, Glenn was getting bombarded with calls from his regulars, asking him how to make his espresso martini, offering to have him come over and do demos for them. He was used to the demand for it, but that level of it even blew him away. He and Joey began to revisit the request they’d gotten over and over again throughout the years: was there, in fact, a way to bottle it up?

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They’d sold over 1 million espresso martinis, and when society had been normal and Bricco was open 365 days a year, it outsold everything at the restaurant by three times. But the key was consistency. They knew that well from all the occasions during their years together when they’d train bartenders from the other restaurants in the DePasquale Ventures family to make the espresso martini, and everyone would want to put their own flair on it.

“Stick to the original recipe,” Glenn would tell them. “People want to be brought back to that moment when they had that experience.” This was exactly what they would have to re-create if they were going to somehow put it in a bottle, and they both knew how difficult it would be – if not impossible.

“So then I had a vision,” says Glenn, “and it became a quest.” And Joseph was in full support of it. From bottling to processing to shipping, they spent those pandemic months learning everything they could about what it would take to make it happen from start to finish, and got people from all parts of the process on board with what they were doing.

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“Then, we had momentum,” says Glenn. “Things started to become more and more doable as we got more people on board believing that a dream could come alive.”

For three years, they worked with several chemists to get the recreation of the recipe just right. Of course they didn’t own the products Glenn was using to create the original, and after all the espresso martini sales and awards he was so proud of, it was important to both of them to make sure it was absolutely perfect.

“We got rid of a bunch,” says Glenn, “because they couldn’t figure out how we did it.” There are six ingredients in the espresso martini, and they had to do a flavor profile of each one, creating a molecular breakdown of how each flavor interacted with each other.

“The complexity is mind-boggling,” says Glenn.

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Finally, through the connections Joseph and DePasquale Ventures had forged over the years, he and Glenn were able to work with Bob Gale, the food scientist who had created the Ocean Spray flavors and Welch’s taste profile. He was able to recreate Glenn’s recipe, putting together all the nuances to taste just like what everyone who’d had it before would know it was supposed to. And not only that, but he was also able to make it gluten, dairy and nut free.

“I couldn’t believe it,” says Glenn. “It tasted just like it did that first time I had tried it when I got home from the military. It was such a rush, I can’t even begin to describe how awesome it was.”

With the recipe perfected, they were off to the races. Every detail mattered, and both Joseph and Glenn wanted to make sure they got everything just right.

“I wanted to put out only the very best,” says Glenn. “I don’t want second-best. For something that we’ve had such amazing success with, it had to come out perfect. There are so many knock-offs or people that try to put espresso martinis in a bottle, and it doesn’t taste the same. And we’d gotten it as close as it can possibly come to me standing in front of you and me making you a co*cktail.”

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They got to work choosing the right bottle, and working to create the label. Glenn and Joseph put a stop to other versions of drafts of the label on production line, feeling they weren’t just right. After a lot of hard work, they were able to produce one they both felt was perfect.

“It’s bold, it’s sexy, it looks like power in a bottle,” says Glenn. “There’s no question about it.”

The last step was the name. “’That’ is the most used word in the English language,” says Joseph. “So you can’t trademark it. But we chose Drink That, because it works the same with different flavors too.”

Will there be different flavors? They’re considering many, and have a pretty good idea what the second one will be, though they are unable to disclose it. For now, they are just getting started. Drink That officially launched in March of this year; Joseph and Glenn hired a sales director, and the team was able to get it in 300 stores across Massachusetts.

At first, people sought out Drink That because they were familiar with the Bricco espresso martini. But very quickly, Joseph and Glenn are seeing a reversal happen as well: people coming into Bricco, because they’ve tried Drink That and want to try the original.

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All of the DePasquale Ventures restaurants are now serving the Drink That recipe instead of espresso martinis made on site, with the exception of Bricco, where they chose to keep the original and where you can still catch Glenn behind the bar to make special experiences complete. Naturally, there was a bit of a concern that people might notice. But the recipe is truly so on point that no one has yet.

“Actually, when you tell people, they like it better,” says Joseph.

So what’s next for Drink That? They plan to go nationwide next year, both with the espresso martini and possibly other flavors, but they’re also committed to giving back. The United Service Organizations (USO) was a natural fit to give some of their proceeds back to, because it was the organization that welcomed Glenn and his Naval team back to the States and kept their families in the loop as much as possible while they were away. A portion of each bottle sold goes to the USO to support the troops and their families.

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All of the sales, accolades and doing good are an enormous source of pride for Glenn, Joseph, and the DePasquale Ventures family. But naturally, they’re just getting started.

“I’m on a quest to take this global,” says Glenn, “and take this to new heights. Every bottle is like sharing that first taste of freedom I had when I tried it for the first time, and just like when people were locked up in their neighborhoods and said ‘you know what, let’s get in the car, I’m tired of sitting around, let’s see if Bricco is open.’ Other people’s yearning for freedom. That’s freedom in a bottle to me.”

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