A mezcal brand founded by three friends is promoting female empowerment and changing the game

Mezcal maker promotes female empowerment
Mezcal maker promotes female empowerment 05:35

Los Angeles – Mezcal, tequila's smokier cousin, has been gaining popularity as public interest in organic, locally-sourced products brought the liquor to trendy bars around the United States. Three friends hoping to capitalize on the trend created Yola Mezcal, a brand aimed at women and empowering the ones behind the scenes making it.

"Everything in the market was steered towards partying or the guy after his hard day of work in his big leather chair with his big watch," co-founder Gina Correll Aglietti told CBS News' Adriana Diaz. "And we want to have our big glass of something strong at the end of the day."

"If you are strong, you need something strong. So strong women, strong drink," Swedish singer Lykke Li, also a co-founder, said.

The idea for the brand and their mission, however, first came from co-founder Yola Jimenez, whose grandfather brewed their family recipe on his farm in Oaxaca, Mexico. Jimenez said she had wanted to take over her grandfather's farm when he died, but she was concerned "you could see the women working everywhere but you would have to talk to a man to make the final decisions." 

She called it "infuriating," inspiring her to take action.

"So from the beginning, I kept telling Gina and Lykke about how women in Oaxaca were doing everything, and we went together to the farm and said, 'What we should focus on is having a brand that's for them, done by them,'" she said.

The three friends decided their mezcal would be made with a message: support the women who make it in Mexico by paying them directly.

Jimenez said their mission was about more than creating a "great product," but about "what is it that we can do that can change a little bit of the world."

Mezcal can be made by distilling more than 30 different varieties of agave, while tequila is only made from blue agave. Unlike tequila, mezcal is often made by hand and in small batches.

"It always had the connotation of being a poor indigenous drink, and it was only until people were becoming interested in organic products – things that were done locally and with a rich tradition – that mezcal sort of became famous in Mexico, all over, outside of Oaxaca and these states," Jimenez said.

Performer Lykke Li described her first time trying the liquor as "almost a religious experience," explaining that she had been a whisky fan but found it was too harsh on her voice when she sang.

To help spread the brand's name, Li led the launch of "Yola Dia," an all-female music festival that raises money for organizations like the ACLU. The festival sold out, and another is planned for summer 2020.

When asked what her grandfather would think of Yola Mezcal, Jimenez said she thought he would be "ecstatic."

"All his life what he wanted to do was try to make a difference in Oaxaca. So I think – I hope, from wherever he is, he's looking at this moment and he's smiling."