Ever since he was a child, Jonathan Cortez has been a fan of cheesecake.
“I have always loved cheesecake,” Cortez said. “Every year for my birthday I would eat cheesecake instead of traditional birthday cake.”
Cortez’s passion for the dessert sparked an idea for him and his fiancée, Cindy Espinoza, to found their own hand dipped cheesecake business, Drips Cheesecake, after visiting a candy shop in Big Bear that sold frozen chocolate cheesecake.
“It was our anniversary trip, but then it became more like a business trip,” Cortez said. “We thought, what if we put cereal or Oreo or dipped it in white chocolate?”
During the pandemic, Cortez and Espinoza researched to see if there were similar businesses dipping fresh cheesecake slices in person. To their surprise, there were none in the U.S. and only one in Australia.
“I was a driver for FedEx and I ended up quitting my job,” Cortez said. “What started off as a hobby then became a business.”
In January, Cortez and Espinoza, who live in Bellflower, opened the first Drips Cheesecake location in Pasadena and shares the space with Dirt Dog, a hot dog joint. Brothers on both sides of the family also contribute to the business.
“(The Dirt Dog founder and I) became good friends and he gave me the opportunity to expand our business, we are very grateful,” Cortez said. “I would visit Pasadena a lot, there’s a lot of foot traffic and it’s a very tight knit community.”
Cortez said the secret to the cheesecake batter is a special cheese other than cream cheese. About 50 cheesecakes are made fresh daily at a commissary kitchen.
“It’s a recipe Cindy and I came up with and it makes our cheesecake taste a little more unique,” Cortez said. “It’s more rich and thicker than a traditional cheesecake.”
Signature cheesecake flavors ($8.99) include caramel peanut dipped in milk chocolate covered with chopped peanuts and topped with a caramel drizzle; circus cookie dipped in white chocolate covered with circus cookie crumbles and topped with a full circus cookie and white chocolate drizzle; cookies and cream dipped in milk or white chocolate covered with Oreo crumbles and topped with a full Oreo and chocolate or caramel drizzle; Ferrero dipped in milk chocolate covered with chopped hazelnuts and topped with a Nutella drizzle; and fruity cereal dipped in white chocolate covered with a Fruity Pebbles crumble and topped with a white chocolate drizzle.
Other flavors include a hand dipped milk or white chocolate cheesecake ($7.99) and a plain version called the naked cheesecake ($6.99). Cortez said the most popular cheesecake flavors are the Cookies & Cream and the Ferrero.
“Everyone’s favorite and most recognized cookie is the Oreo, and the Ferrero is popular because the chocolate is really good,” Cortez said.
Each cheesecake also comes with a fun personality profile. For example, the cookies and cream flavor is for customers who are always on their phone, popular, gets late-night munchies and takes a lot of selfies.
“We went based off of what you taste and what you feel when you take that first bite,” Cortez said.
Drips Cheesecake is also featured at FoodieLand Night Markets in Berkeley, Pasadena and San Mateo and also at the 626 Night Markets in Orange County, San Francisco and the San Gabriel Valley. Specialty flavors include the strawberry crunch dipped in white chocolate covered with strawberry shortcake crumbles and topped with white chocolate drizzle, and the Crunchata dipped in milk chocolate covered with Cinnamon Toast Crunch and topped with Dirt Dog’s Horchata syrup.
“The strawberry crunch is like a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar but on a cheesecake,” Cortez said. “The Crunchata is a collaboration with Dirt Dog.”
Earlier this year, Drips Cheesecake also catered at rapper Snoop Dogg’s birthday party. The collaboration occurred due to Dirt Dog having a relationship with the rapper and features a hot dog called ‘Snoop’s Dogg.’
“Snoop asked for a dessert, and it was really exciting to highlight our brand,” Cortez said. “He’s a legend to everything music.”
A Drips Athlete campaign will also soon be launched to benefit college athletes. Cortez had once played professional college basketball in Mexico and partnered with his agency to provide name, image and likeness opportunities for other athletes. When customers use the athlete’s first name (code), the athlete earns a percentage of the sale.
“It’s hard to work and practice and this offers another opportunity for college athletes to make extra money,” Cortez said.
In the future, Cortez sees Drips Cheesecake throughout California and the United States. He would also like to give back to more Pasadena organizations.
“For now, I see us opening in more than 10 locations throughout the U.S.,” Cortez said. “It’s something everyone should try once.”
20 E. Union Street, Unit 160, Pasadena
5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, to 11 p.m. Friday, 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday, 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Closed on Monday.