From left to right:
Josh Gentine: Director of numbers and details; investor who oversees
strategy, daily financial, and operational functions.
Alexander Marasco: Creator, visionary, and director of sales and
marketing; Mequon native with 20 years of bartending, entertainment,
and service industry experience; founder of Cush Cocktail Lounge.
Don Meissner: Chief entertainment officer; marketing minded
investor and owner of a real estate management company known in
the nightlife biz for great events and promotions.
Press Cocktail Soda Makes Good on Marasco’s Brainstorm
“Crisp … Really good.”
“I think the cucumber is something special … Delicious.”
“Wow! Surprisingly good. And not too sweet. I’d drink the raspberry all the time.”
These are just a few of the comments overheard from the crowd of 250 who turned out for the
first official Press Cocktail Soda tasting and party at New World Wine in September. It was the
first time the general public was given the opportunity to whet their whistles on the newest
Milwaukee beverage product.
A reinvention and modernization of club soda or tonic water, Press Cocktail Soda was
envisioned as a choice cocktail mixer for sophisticated consumers by Alexander Marasco, a
Mequon native with an extensive background in the bar business. The result is a drink in sleek
packaging, featuring crisp flavoring and a nutritious recipe that can be enjoyed over ice or
mixed with a premium spirit. It’s the first alternative beverage to attack the soda/tonic category,
and it’s 100 percent Milwaukee-born.
“We didn’t invent the Press, we just perfected it,” said Marasco. “Drinks have been mixed with a
combination of soda and lemon-lime soda known as a ‘press’ for years. My idea was, if consum-
ers are demanding premium spirits, why not make the press equally as premium and great-
EVOLUTION OF A DREAM
It took Marasco almost a decade to take his Press idea seriously, and less than a year to actually
produce it. Since the age of 14, Marasco has worked in the bar, beverage, and entertainment
industries. While attending the University School in River Hills, he was a barback at the North
Shore Country Club. Throughout high school and beyond, he was promoted through the
At age 17, Marasco delivered pitchers to the volleyball courts at the Silver Spring House. It was
at this job that he really fell in a love for the bar atmosphere.
“I liked the energy of nightlife,” said Marasco. “And it was great to make good money at a young
While studying graphic design at the University of Arizona (a family alma mater), Marasco got
into bartending. He went on one graphic design interview and decided working for someone
else’s creative vision wasn’t for him, and set out for New York City to continue working in the bar
While working at the Harley-Davidson Café in New York, Marasco started to understand the
level of creativity that goes into successful nightlife entertainment.
“I realized that bars are successful because of the bartenders and personality of the place, and
not necessarily the décor,” said Marasco. After years bartending in Manhattan and reuniting
with a childhood friend, Marasco would apply this concept to his own bar, Cush Cocktail
Lounge, which he opened in Milwaukee in 1998. By this time, Press Cocktail Soda was just an
idea in the back of his mind.
After the successful launch of Cush, Marasco got out of the business and headed to Los Angeles
to pursue another creative dream: to work in film and production. While in L.A., Marasco spent
four years working catering for prestigious events and studio parties. Again, he learned key
lessons about the food and beverage business, and how it interfaces with entertainment.
“L.A. opened up the world of marketing and PR for me,” said Marasco.“It was a free education no
university could ever provide.”
Again, Marasco returned to Milwaukee to try to apply new big-city knowledge to his
hometown. He began plans to produce films in the city and got back into bartending, while
getting his business together. At this time, a variety of opportunities were floating around in his
mind, and he began developing business plans.
“At one time, I was very serious about opening a pizza kitchen restaurant in the Third Ward, but
it didn’t pan out,” said Marasco. This endeavor would, though, reconnect him with fellow
University School alum, Don Meissner. When Marasco and Meissner’s restaurant idea fell
through, Marasco pitched Meissner an idea for a new cocktail soda.
It had taken two decades in the service industry and two years of plan-writing to get there, but
it was finally time to take the plunge.
IDEA BECOMES REALITY
Meissner got behind the Press idea completely and began shopping it around for additional
financing. It was Meissner who introduced the idea to Josh Gentine, a private investor who had
recently founded Acacia Growth, a firm set on bringing smart ideas from Milwaukeeans to
market. Gentine was the perfect third to get the Press concept off the ground.
In a relatively short amount of time – just over a year – Press was being served over ice and
mixed with Hendrick’s Gin and Reyka Vodka at the New World Wine event. Marasco and
partners fast-tracked recipe development, packaging/identity, production, and marketing. The
result is a product with incredible market potential.
“People are really starting to identify with this product,” said Marasco.“It’s all about nightlife and
what life is all about – the best mixer for the best drinks in the best bars or homes. Press is a
cultural company out to reinvent nightlife.”
With no direct competitors, Press is exclusively launched downtown Milwaukee until a national
distributing network can be developed.
“It’s important that Press is a Milwaukee product,” said Marasco. “And we hope to bring
Milwaukee acclaim when the product goes national.”
After OnMilwaukee.com posted its story about Press, postbacks included comments from New
Yorkers anticipating the product.
“It’s incredible for me to think that one day I had this little idea behind the bar, and the next,
someone in New York is commenting on it!” said Marasco.
For once, Milwaukee is beating New York to the punch. Try Press Cocktail Soda for yourself at a
number of Downtown, East Side and Third Ward clubs.
Cocktails are alcoholic mixed drinks, usually a blended concoction of at least two different sodas, juices,
liqueurs, or spirits. They have enjoyed an enormous fashionable revival in recent years, with many new
eateries and cocktail bars opening in the Milwaukee area.
2 oz. Reyka Vodka
Slice of Lime
2 oz. 44˚ North Vodka
Raspberry and Blackberry Garnish
2 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
Dash of Bitters
2 oz. Hendrick’s Gin