16. Fee Brothers, New York
Fee Brothers produces jugs of fruity mixes and cordial syrups supposed to make alcohol tastier. But the product that’s moving fastest internationally is the one in the smallest package. Bitters, an aromatic mixture of fermented herbs and roots, are riding a wave of self-described “mixologists” testing ever more complex drinks. “There was a period of discovering classic cocktails,” says Joe Fee, a fourth-generation owner of the Rochester, New York company. “Now we’ve come to the stage of what has been called the craft-cocktail movement.”
It has put Fee’s small, paper-wrapped bottles in bartenders’ arsenals worldwide, and now the company’s global ambitions are getting a lucky boost. Over the past year, Trinidad’s Angostura, the bitters world’s dominant player, faced a production slowdown, blaming a bottle shortage. As a result, bartenders have been forced to try less familiar brands including Fee Brothers and its novel flavours such as rhubarb and grapefruit.
Fee sees growth in Europe and Australia, but the small company doesn’t aggressively market new products, hoping bartenders will discover and find uses for them organically. “There was no call for rhubarb bitters when we brought them out, but we thought: what the heck?’” Fee’s long-term prospects depend on whether craft cocktails are really a movement and not just a fad.