Whiskey bar

Premium whiskey producer Uncle Nearest invests $5 million in BIPOC-led non-alcoholic Hella Cocktail Co. through Venture Arm

The latest $5 million deal between premium whiskey company Uncle Nearest and Hella Cocktail Co. further accelerates the rapidly growing trend in the cocktail world, where “buzz is optional”, says Jomaree Pinkard, CEO and co-founder of the brand of botanically inspired mixers and drinks.

Hella Cocktail Co., co-founded and started by Tobin Ludwig, Eddie Simeon and Pinkard ten years ago as a side hobby to provide an elevated experience for drinkers of non-alcoholic cocktails or elixirs, has evolved into the one of the very few cocktails belonging to BIPOC. brands available in all 50 US states. The company’s botanically inspired products include a range of premium mixers and artisan bitters.

“I will say that our core demographic is really someone who is curious and open to discovery for their palates, and we hold ourselves to flavor at the highest level,” Pinkard told me during a recent exclusive interview, noting how Hella Cocktail Co. is on track to sell 200,000 to 250,000 cases by the end of 2022, which equates to the same split among 20,000 of its partner restaurants, bars and retailers – a significant increase from to just $50,000 in sales in the company’s first year.

According to Pinkard, 60% of Hella Cocktail Co.’s revenue is currently generated by retailers, with the remaining 25% and 15% coming from e-commerce and catering, respectively. The company hopes that sales from these channels will be more evenly distributed by the end of the year, similar to the pre-pandemic period.

The latest investment, which comes from Uncle Nearest’s own venture capital fund, coincides with Hella Cocktail Co.’s 10th anniversary and its recent launch of Bitters & Soda, which the company claims is a “first to market.” The range, which comes in five different flavors including Classic Dry, Grapefruit, Ginger, Turmeric, Bittersweet Spritz and Lime, allows Hella Cocktail Co. to provide its audience with a more complete throughout its journey with premium flavor and convenience, Pinkard emphasizes.

He describes the partnership with the closest uncle as a “fortuitous moment” since the number of BIPOC-owned alcohol brands on the market has been historically low and there is an urgent need to financially support other entrepreneurs in the community. .

“We are very aware of everyone else in the market, especially during the festive months when people are listing items to buy. [led by BIPOC founders]”, said Pinkard. In 2021, the closest uncle experimented with a Tennessee mule recipe using products from Hella Cocktail Co. during Black History Month, and continued a similar collaboration on the day. of the dead before we start exploring synergies further.

“We are both rooted in very diverse backgrounds with both companies dedicated to inclusivity,” added Pinkard. “Our values ​​are so closely aligned that we felt so lucky to find each other.”

Elevating Minority Founders Through Uncle Nearest Ventures

Uncle Nearest Ventures was created by the company’s founder and CEO, Fawn Weaver, to invest in minority brands, especially BIPOC and women, founded, owned and led with “the greatest potential to become long-established legacy brands.” date,” according to its website.

The fund has previously invested in Sorel Liqueur, a modern Caribbean-inspired craft liqueur created by Jackie Summers, also known as Jack From Brooklyn, who happened to be the only black person in the United States with a license to make alcohol. Hella Cocktail is by far Uncle Nearest Ventures’ biggest investment, according to Pinkard.

“Investing in Hella Cocktail Co. was an absolute no-brainer,” Weaver said in a statement. “Our team members were already associating their Bitters & Soda with Uncle Nearest, so I knew their products were made with excellence. “What I didn’t know was that the brand was founded by three men of African American, Mexican and Jewish descent. Once I learned that, I reached Jomaree and said, ‘What do you need? This is yours.’ We couldn’t be more proud to support these three incredible leaders, who started this brand for a decade, never compromising on quality or messaging, and who grew their business at such a rapid yet steady pace that they have proven that their brand is here to stay.”

Additionally, Weaver told me, “Hella Cocktail Co. will have the full support of the Uncle Nearest team. We have already begun introducing the brand to our 25,000+ accounts, so everyone can taste the greatness. products from the Hella team Uncle Nearest has always been a great partner with their revolutionary Bitters & Sodas, and as I’ve been on my “100 Cities in 100 Days” CEO Appreciation Tour, I’ve already started to seeing our accounts swapping bitters in our cocktails for Hella.”

The Hella Cocktail Co. team will focus heavily on brand amplification when closing its fundraiser, according to Pinkard. “It’s more about continuing to build an all-star team and building more inventory to meet the growing demand from our 20,000 outlets,” he said.

“Most importantly, to amplify who we are as Hella Cocktail Co. – high choice rooted in flavor.”