I love a good story. If there is a history to something or a tale of triumph related to it, I’m all in. I’m buying what you’re selling.
(Full disclosure: I fully consider “beauty product reviews” as tales of triumph.)
I first heard of Fee Brothers in Julia Reed’s book But Mama Always Put Vodka in the Sangria. The book is a collection of funny and endearing essays from Mrs. Reed’s experience that revolves around food and cocktails. Each chapter ends with wonderful, undaunting recipes full of ingredients I had heard of before.
Chapter seventeen is devoted to champagne and ends with a recipe to one of my favorite champagne cocktails, the French 75. Within her musings, she mentions her current “go to” drink of choice that includes a sugar cube, champagne, and Fee Brothers’ Grapefruit Bitters. It sounded simple and delicious… and it is.
Fee Brothers has been around since 1864. Born to Irish immigrants in Rochester, New York, John, Owen, James, and Joseph Fee opened a small grocery and liquor store downtown where they made their own wine. Four generations of Fee Brothers have kept the family business alive despite: fires which burned down their store, the call of duty which pulled John Jr. to enlist in the New York Cavalry to guard the Mexican border against Pancho Villa, and quite possibly the most dangerous… Prohibition.
John Fee Jr. was very clever. He kept the company alive during the 1920’s by making “altar wine” and by capitalizing on the ill-tasting homebrews and bathtub gins amateurs were making illicitly. Fee Brothers began producing cordial syrups to mask the awful taste of the homemade spirits, and instantly creativity kept their family business alive.
The product line now has over 100 products including cocktail mixes, syrups, botanical waters, iced cappuccino mix, and artisanal bitters. And the family line of Fees has produced many resilient men and women who have overcome hardships with determination, and triumphed over historical barriers with ingenuity. The family line even boasts a brilliant comedian in Stephen Colbert who is a direct descendent of John Fee.
This Thanksgiving I added Fee Brothers’ bitters to our family’s celebration; making the refreshing champagne cocktail, telling their family story, and bringing a little bit of the past into the future.
A triumphant tale of family tradition gets me every time.