Rick Nielsen and Andy Roiniotis rocks spirits industry with ROCK’N Vodka
By Debbie Hall
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Legend Cheap Trick has rocked the music world since 1973. Their guitarist, founder, and inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Rick Nielsen, is now disrupting the spirits industry with ROCK’N Vodka. This spirit is a unique, silver and double-gold award-winning, 100 percent non-GMO sugarcane vodka. ROCK’N Vodka is a trademarked, fun, and unique spin on a classic spirit. Vodka is usually distilled using corn, wheat, or potatoes. Sugarcane vodka is very rare.
Nielsen was introduced to vodka in England while Cheap Trick was touring with Queen. “Roger Taylor [drummer for Queen] invited me to go with him to a place called Nikita’s in London which mainly served frozen vodka, and I liked it, and that’s all I remember.”
Nielsen and Andy Roiniotis, Vice President of Bella Rio Consulting, were acquainted before joining forces for ROCK’N Vodka. In fact, Cheap Trick was playing in a sold-out arena across from Roiniotis’ venue, The District Bar and Grill, on its grand opening day in 2012. Andy Roiniotis, Isabelle Roiniotis and Denny Trakas launched the ROCK’N Vodka brand under Bella Rio Consulting in 2019. Nielsen came on as a co-owner shortly after the inception of ROCK’N Vodka.
“I was born and raised in the restaurant industry,” explains Roiniotis, “I opened five restaurants in the Illinois market and was often being approached to launch new brands. Vodka is the most popular spirit in the US and I realized it was time to launch our own brand of vodka. We started to really get to know each other when we were both involved with investment meetings for the Hard Rock Casino in Illinois since we were both investors. ROCK’N Vodka was a no-brainer.” There are few vodkas being produced from sugarcane globally. Roiniotis explains, “we use natural sugarcane plants that are distilled four times and finished at Rush Creek Distilling in Harvard, Illinois. No sugar or molasses is added after the distillation process.”
ROCK’N Vodka is currently available in the 750mL size. “We want to keep it simple because we want to be more effective with the one product consistently,” says Roiniotis. “The flavor trend in vodkas has gone away, and it is a unique product, with such a unique taste.” However, there are plans to expand in the future with mixers to blend with the vodka.
The team of ROCK’N Vodka is global especially with Nielsen’s worldwide reach with his music. Followers on their social media include people from all over the world. ROCK’N Vodka recently became an internationally distributed brand, adding Canada to its markets. However, the team is being methodical with its outreach, growth, and international distribution to understand all laws and regulations. Currently, its available online and in retail stores and venues in the United States and Canada.
ROCK’N Vodka also went public with an IPO on StartEngine. “StartEngine told us that our brand and our business has brought more new investors to their website than any other company that has launched a campaign on Start Engine,” says Roiniotis. “Their strategic advisor is Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank. This is a great opportunity to join our team at startengine.com/rockn-vodka.”
As for influences, Nielsen’s parents were both opera singers and his father also directed symphonies, choirs, sang with Evangelist Billy Graham, and recorded over forty solo and group albums. During Nielsen’s pre-teen and teen years, the family owned a music store in Rockford, Illinois, where Nielsen learned, self-taught, to play several instruments including drums, guitar, and keyboards. “Let’s face it,” says Nielsen, “I am in the entertainment business. Next year, Cheap Trick will still be touring in our 50th year.”
Art was a large influence for the brand as well. The artwork featured on the logo and merchandise is painted by top rock artist, Shannon MacDonald (theshannongallery.com), who has captured music icons including The Beatles, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, “The Hard Day’s Night Hotel” in Liverpool, as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Nielsen’s business portfolio does not stop at spirits. Nielsen is involved in a number of Illinois restaurants as well as other projects, too. The Stockholm Inn is located in Nielsen’s hometown of Rockford, Illinois and Piece Pizza, in Bucktown, Chicago, is celebrating their 21-years in business.
Outside of his expansive work in the food and beverage industry, Nielsen is proud of his work Reverb.com with business partner David Kalt. “After first meeting Rick, I contacted him about how we could be beneficial to each other in the Reverb concept. Rick started as a seed investor, advisor and influencer when we started Reverb in 2013. We assisted in the growth to over $1 billion in annual sales. We sold the company to Etsy in 2019,” Kalt recalls.
“I am an original and I partner with unique and original things that I like,” adds Nielsen. Reverb’s website includes every instrument and accessory an artist could need and proceeds support youth music programs.
ROCK’N Vodka gives back to the community, recently helping to raise $10,000 to donate to the Rockford Peace Center, a nonprofit organization that provides services to victims of interpersonal violence (rockfordfamilypeacecenter.org). They are also involved with the Hard Rock casinos throughout the nation and are involved with fundraisers for their charities. ROCK’N Vodka was engaged with the Bellator MMA Lightweight Champion, Corey Anderson, as he fought for the Champion title, while raising money for VetsRoll.
ROCK’N Vodka is partnered with Hard Rock Casinos in the United States. The Hard Rock Casino in Rockford, Illinois, Nielsen’s hometown, has recreated the 1978 Hamer Checkerboard Explorer into their neon lit sign honoring the legend. Nielsen has played virtually every make and model but his choice to record and perform is this model Hamer guitar. Featured on the Food & Beverage Magazine cover is Nielsen’s iconic five-neck guitar.
The brand has been trademark-approved and is currently being sold in restaurants, bars, and retail stores throughout the United States and Canada. ROCK’N Vodka is available to ship to states across the US and is available at major retailers like Walmart, Target, Total Wine, Schnucks, Binny’s, Goody Goody, Casey’s, Twins, and Specs, expanding to Kroger and Mariano’s in the future.
For more info and to find the product, visit rocknvodkas.com and follow on Facebook @ rocknvodkas, LinkedIn @ rockn-vodka, Instagram @ rocknvodkas, and Twitter @ rocknvodkas.