Yvonne Niami grew up in L.A., the child of immigrants from Mexico. Growing up, her parents would often take her and her brother home to visit family, and Niami found herself moved by the stray, suffering dogs she would find. Decades later, she found a way to reconnect with both cause and place with the founding of her new tequila brand, VIVA XXXII.
It all came together on a visit to Mexico as an adult, when Niami found a wounded dog on the streets and decided she had to do something. “He was sadly used in dog fights, and was basically thrown away into the streets after they didn’t need him anymore,” she says. “We took him to the local vet in Mexico who helped him tremendously. They even helped me get the paperwork together to get him across the border.” She then worked to find Ransom, as she had named him, a nice home in Sherman Oaks. He became the first of a growing number of dogs she has now rescued and placed with families around L.A.
That mission inspired a give-back tequila brand that donates 10 percent of the proceeds from every bottle sold to charities that care for abused and abandoned animals and is committed to supporting the people who craft the product using traditional artisan practices.
I learned all about the tequila-making process and loved seeing the craft that goes into making this delicious juice,” she says. “The process is very hands-on at our distillery in Tequila, Mexico. The people are so kind and hospitable. It made me really happy to start our tequila company there because it meant providing more jobs to the people of this town.”
While it’s still unusual for a woman to launch a distillery, Niami felt embraced by the tequila community. “I think being Mexican, speaking the language fluently, and my passion behind it, helped them welcome me into the business,” she says.
From the brand’s conception, she knew she wanted to craft a line of tequilas that would show off the best of what Mexican artisans could do, and wipe away any lingering memories of rough college nights—or the idea that tequila can only be enjoyed mixed into cocktails. VIVA XXXII now offers three tequilas, a jovan, a reposado, and an extra añjeo, all of which retail at an accessible $39. “I love a great sipping tequila but they all usually cost $100 to $300 a bottle,” Niami says. “I wanted to create a tequila worth sipping, without the heavy price tag.”
VIVA XXII, with its chic, geometric bottles, can now be found behind bars around L.A., including at Kettle Black, Petty Cash Taqueria, and No Vacancy, and for sale at a a small but growing number of retail outlets. Niami’s looking forward to expanding the brand’s reach, and eventually seeking global distribution. After all, as she says, “We hope to sell tons of tequila so we can give tons of money back.”
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