Mixing cultures with Tequila Mandala

Tequila Mandala is a rapidly-growing tequila business between a Mexican and Armenian family. Their story is all about tradition, crossing cultures, business and even sports.

The beautiful vibrant bottles are works of art. The traditional ceramic-making technique is passed down from generations.

 "Several artisans, several women work on our unique bottles that take from beginning to end about eight to nine days to produce. From the minute they get the mold, to the minute they start painting it and then putting it in the oven. It is a bit of a process," said Tequila Mandela co-founder Humberto Ibarra.

Honoring a Mexican heritage has been central to the mission of Tequila Mandala—a family-owned company based in Downey. 

Ibarra said the inspiration comes from his childhood.

"All my summers from probably since I was about seven or eight were in Guadalajara. My whole family is from Jalisco. I come from Jalisco, born and raised in Southern California, but all my summers that I could remember were in Jalisco," said Ibarra.

That region is known around the globe for the native blue agave plant. 

The family dug deep into their roots when they decided to distill high-end sipping tequila.

The plants are harvested by farmers or "jimadores"--  who use centuries-old methods.

"It's almost like handed down from generation to generation because it looks easy, but it really isn't the process. It's very labor-intensive, the humidity, the heat and in Jalisco, it's grueling work. It's not easy. So I have a lot of respect for jimadores and people that actually put in the work from beginning to end to allow us to produce something like that and kind of introduce it to the world."

Mandala was brought to the market on November 16, 2016, not long after Armenian-American brothers Kirk and Craig Cartozian got involved.

"I grew up with a lot of Mexicans here in Southern California. I speak Spanish. Armenians are proud to share our culture, but also to experience other cultures as well. And I think that's kind of endemic in how I grew up and what is a passion and a driving force for me," said Kirk Cartozian, CEO and co-owner.

"In 2017, we met in a restaurant and decided that we could join forces and do things much, much greater than they were doing by themselves, and we could have done without them. So we decided to partner up. And here we are five years later and growing a brand not only in Southern California and throughout California, but we're starting to go into other states as well," said Cartozian.

Since its introduction six years ago, Tequila Mandala has made a mark in a highly-competitive U.S. market.

It continues to amass a growing clientele - from celebrities to brand new tequila-sippers.

"We are growing organically, little by little. We are we like to say we're pretty on the outside, but we're pretty on the inside, too. And I think attraction is a big part of it in anything in life. But once people try Mandala, they sip it and they see that this is a fine spirit. The branding, along with the actual product, reinforces who we are," said Cartozian.

The story of Mandala tells the true story of Southern California.

Partners across borders, the collaboration of different cultures, the building of a dream, a business, interwoven with the traditions of the past, the energy of the present, and the passion for the future.

"We like to collaborate as a Southern California tequila company. Our artists are typically Latino from Southern California. And we've found each other and believe in each other's worth," said Cartozian.

Ruben Rojas is a Colombian muralists based in Southern California. His "Live Through Love" campaign was adopted by the NFL in 2022.

"The ‘Choose Love’ campaign. You can see as a marker in the back of helmets, the NFL's effort to really bring not only players but the NFL community around a common theme that everyone can agree with, and that is ‘Choose Love,’" said Cartozian.

At SoFi Stadium – you can spot the "Love" sculpture designed and built by Rojas and his team.

"We've been lucky to have a two-year relationship with Rojas culminating in the 2023 Love Bottle," said Cartozian.

Every single bottle is a journey from beginning to end.