Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Now officially a decade strong, Hella Cocktail Co. is a botanically inspired beverage and mixer company cofounded and led by Jomaree Pinkard (CEO), Eddie Simeon (CMO), and Tobin Ludwig (COO) — aka “The Bitter Boys.” These best friends turned business partners transformed their shared passion from humble beginnings in a tiny Brooklyn apartment to what is today, a nationally distributed line of crafted bitters, mixers and the first-of-its-kind Bitters & Soda.
Dedicated to creating elevated choice in the cocktail industry, it is the brand’s mission to inspire confidence in the “Hella Curious” and ensure there is space for all to bring their authentic selves to the table. Those core principles of authenticity and inclusivity have remained guiding forces for Hella Cocktail Co. since its inception in 2012. It is these values matched with the brand’s commitment to unmatched quality and taste that has grown the business to over 20,000 points of distribution nationwide.
Recipe for success
“It comes down to using real, high-quality ingredients at the end of the day,” says Tobin Ludwig. “Even back when we were just starting to extract our signature bitters in mason jars, we understood that what you put into your product is what you’ll get out of it so we only used the best ingredients we could get our hands on. As we’ve outgrown that little Brooklyn apartment and scaled up our production, we’ve continued to prioritize sourcing those same high-quality ingredients that set our products apart in the market.”
Today, Hella Cocktail Co.’s entire portfolio is still made using only pure cane sugar, fruit juice concentrates, fruit peels, natural extracts, spices and bitter root. From the signature craft bitters that started it all, to premium cocktail mixers in fan-favorite varieties like Bloody Mary and Habanero Margarita, to the latest category-creating line of Bitters & Soda, the brand has woven the philosophy of real ingredients and bold flavor into everything they create.
“When we began development of Bitters & Soda, we weren’t just looking to make a perfect sparkling mixer, but to create a sophisticated non-alcoholic beverage that stood out all by itself,” says Eddie Simeon. “Our uniquely crafted bitters tap into flavors from all around the world, like Gentian Root, cultivated in the South of France, and Jamaican Allspice, which result in the complex and nuanced taste profiles that carry through to our Bitters & Soda. Understanding where our ingredients come from and the unique cultures that surround them play just as important a role in our products as the taste they bring.”
The power of diverse leadership
Hella Cocktail Co.’s investment in culture doesn’t stop at sourcing their ingredients, it also comes from the diverse backgrounds that each of the founders contributes. Having all come from different origins, the three co-founders have married their unique perspectives to strengthen the brand’s vision and trajectory.
As Hella Cocktail Co. continues on that trajectory of success, like-minded partners have begun to take notice. Most recently, The Bitter Boys announced a transformational partnership through a series A investment from Uncle Nearest Ventures. The first BIPOC-owned and led beverage brand to be available in all 50 states, Hella celebrated this investment with the mutually shared goal of carving out more space for minority-owned businesses in the cocktail industry. The funds will be put toward the recruitment of Hella’s growing team, continuing to promote inclusive choice for all in cocktail culture, and stocking warehouses with enough inventory to meet the outpacing demand.
“Just as our products are centered around distinct, real flavors, Hella Cocktail Co. is rooted in the celebration of real people and for real people,” says Jomaree Pinkard. “As we continue to grow, maintaining our authentic brand identity is of the utmost importance to us, and finding a value-aligned partner was exactly what we needed to continue building this company as we envisioned. We have come far in the past ten years with 2022 being our biggest yet, but we can’t wait to see what the future holds for Hella.”