News Release
 February 6, 2023
CONTACT: Kathy Sautter
716 635 5577

Tops Honors Black Run Businesses During Black History Month

(Williamsville, NY) – When you think of a classic cocktail, it contains four distinct and essential ingredients: spirit, water (or ice), sugar, and bitters –which bring balance. Without one, it’s possible the entire concoction goes down the drain, and it takes just the right team to know the formulation behind those bitters, in particular, to make the proper cocktail.

A Tops spokeswoman had the pleasure of speaking with Jomaree Pinkard, one of three Co-Founders of Hella Cocktail Co., a brand they proudly carry in its stores. The company, founded in 2011, quite by accident, started simply as a hobby between three young men who met, of all places, on Craigslist. While they all came from diverse backgrounds, they all had one passion in common – they shared food and beverage as a love language.

When they began, these co-founders met on nights and weekends, honing their craft of creating the perfect bitters, their first of many products. “It takes a long time to make,” said Jomaree. “When we started, we made it in mason jars and took 30 days to make because it has a botanical and spice infusing process. What people find when they try is that it’s difficult to make and do so consistently – but we could. We’ve always been committed to a quality process.”

Time and again, the “Bitter Boys,” as they were affectionately termed, delivered bold flavor, quality and consistency. “Bitters are the backbone for many –the salt and pepper, if you will, for the bartender.”

They soon learned they were ahead of the trend, delivering Hella intensely flavored bitters amongst the bar community as speakeasies were starting to make a comeback. “I think the bartending community was looking for more variety and innovation -- they experimented with us. We were all working towards growing the cocktail community together.”

But they didn’t set out to be a business. They enjoyed it, but they found over the years that their product had legs the more they were appreciated by the community. Hence, they set out with three goals in mind 1) they wanted to elevate people’s choice, offering selection and craftsmanship; they wanted to offer 2) Flavor – coming from diverse backgrounds-each, co-founder brought their own cultural background to the table which was key (African American-Jomaree, Jewish American-Tobin Ludwig, and Mexican/Filipino American - Eddie Simeon) and 3) Stories to Share - each had varied and broad perspectives that were important to infuse into the brand. “This is what makes our brand-our brand,” said Jomaree.

And so Hella Cocktail Co. was born. “Hella intense and Hella delicious.”

When asked where they see their brand going, “up and to the right,” laughed Jomaree. “We want to build more community and build on flavor. Quality and convenience will continue to be a big part of what we do. Engaging people in sharing their authentic voice. We are what diversity looks like, and when it works, so we’re just going to keep adding perspective. And diversity of flavor alike sure does make a good cocktail.”

As in any new business venture, there are things to be learned, and Jomaree said that the biggest takeaway was, “don’t discount your influence or your journey. It’s most important. Everyone’s stories are important and bring value, and sometimes you don’t think that when you’re starting out. There is authentic value to yourself. When we got together, it was over food and beverage, just like when we grew up, and that’s never changed, so we leaned into that. It’s a purposeful way to see things, and we’ll continue to lean in.”

You can find Hella Cocktail Co. Bitters in most Tops locations. To learn more about this product line and their story, visit


About Tops Markets Based in Williamsville, NY, Tops Markets currently operates 149 grocery stores in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, including five run by franchisees. As the largest private, for-profit employer in Western New York, with over 14,000 associates, the company is dedicated to providing sustainably sourced, high-quality products while helping its communities flourish via support for programs that eradicate hunger and disease, educate youth, and reduce environmental waste and energy consumption. For more information, visit


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