It’s not unusual to see collaborations between creative people. In fact, put creatives in a room and often sparks happen from a simple conversation. That’s exactly what happened when iconic men’s fashion designer John Varvatos met worldwide pop star Nick Jonas at a party a few years ago. The two hit it off, bonded over music and fashion, and a friendship began. Then they put it to work.
Their first two projects under the JV x NJ label — a Varvatos capsule collection including leather jackets and knitwear that was followed by a cologne — debuted in 2018. Wanting to continue working together, they thought about their next venture. Clearly, a natural next step was tequila. So, as any pair of celebrities interested in creating a new tequila brand does, this duo spent time in Jalisco, Mexico. They partnered with the Stoli Group’s Fabrica de Tequilas Finos distillery, where they worked with Stoli’s master distiller Arturo Fuentes, who has three decades of distilling experience. He applied his chemical engineering background to making quality spirits, first working with Cognac, Champagne, and rum — eventually focusing on premium tequila in 2000.
In Tequila, they worked with Fuentes to perfect a taste profile that embodied the vibe of what became the brand’s tagline, “Life as it should be.” After the emotional rollercoaster of a year that we’ve collectively experienced, isn’t that something we should all embrace? Sipping a glass of quality tequila, dreaming of life as it should be — why not?
In late October 2019, Villa One launched first in New York, followed by Illinois, California, and Florida with silver, reposado, and añejo bottlings. Since then, it has earned a number of awards and accolades including the SIP Awards 2020 Platinum, Silver, and Double Gold medals for its silver, reposado, and añejo, respectively. Today, Villa One has national distribution in stores, online, and in restaurants. The brand also recently entered the Canadian market.
Here, we talk with Varvatos and Jonas about how they got into tequila, where they see the future of Villa One heading, and Jonas’s new obsession with, of all things, checkers.
1. What’s the drink that made you fall in love with drinking?
Varvatos: I was traveling in Mexico in college and fell in love with Margaritas. It actually really turned me on to tequila in a time where most people thought it was fire water if it wasn’t covered up with mixes.
Jonas: I think a great glass of wine is always wonderful, and was kind of the first introduction I had to the brilliant craftsmanship that goes into creating something like a wonderful wine or tequila.
2. How did you meet and become friends?
Varvatos: We met at a dinner in New York and talked for hours. The next day, we got together to listen to some of Nick’s new music and we knew that day that we would become fast friends and collaborators.
3. How or why did you get into tequila — and so much so that you wanted to launch your own brand together?
Varvatos: I’ve loved tequila for most of my drinking life. Every time Nick and I were together, we shared our love for tequila and were inspired to create an ultra-premium tequila that was best in class, but still accessible in price.
Jonas: I was first drawn to tequila because of the low-carb, sugar, and calorie intake — as a diabetic and a person that cares about fitness and trying to keep a lower calorie count. Then, I learned more about the way it was made and distilled — and then we worked with Arturo Fuentes, our master distiller; he taught us a lot along the way that got us even more interested.
4. What did you like most about the process to create Villa One? What was the hardest part about it?
Varvatos: I loved everything about the process, from growing and harvesting the agave, to the cooking and distilling; but most of all, creating a super-smooth, unique taste profile. I truly enjoyed learning everything we could about tequila.
Jonas: I think the best part about creating this tequila was getting to work with my good friend, John Varvatos, and bringing to life the vision we had based on a few conversations about what we wanted this brand to represent. Obviously, the biggest piece of that puzzle was making sure we did our best to be top of class. Each bottle was made with a lot of care, focus, and attention to detail. The hardest part about the process was just getting the liquid right. We went through about an 18-month process, back and forth between where John was in New York and I was in Los Angeles, and obviously our distillery, and getting the blend just right, to where we were all very happy — and I think we got there.
5. Your tequila is great for straight-up sipping neat, or on the rocks, but also for cocktails. What’s your preferred style? And what’s your go-to cocktail, with which of your tequilas?
Varvatos: My preferred style are simple drinks. I love the taste of our tequila and don’t want to mask it.
Jonas: I love it neat. That’s the purest form, obviously, but during lockdown I got really into making cocktails and making recipes. One of my favorite things was using our silver for a Bloody Maria or a Spicy Margarita. Also, infusing some chocolate bitters into the reposado and añejo to pull out the great chocolate notes.
6. What’s your desert island drink?
Varvatos: Villa One Reposado with a slice of orange and fresh-squeezed lime. Simple, delicious, refreshing, and healthy!
Jonas: Villa One Reposado on the rocks, club soda, and an orange wedge.
7. What do you like to drink when you’re not drinking tequila?
Varvatos: Other than tequila, I like to drink sake.
8. What’s the best and worst bottle in your fridge, bar, or kitchen right now?
Varvatos: I have a bottle of Hakkaisan sake that I had with my grilled salmon last night. Superb!
9. You’re both pretty famous, but what’s something interesting or quirky most people don’t know about you — like a trait or something you’re interested in culturally?
Jonas: I recently got really into checkers and I have an app on my phone that is basically teaching me along the way. I’ve been really loving to get to know more about that; it’s an incredibly tricky game, and complex. But when you play it with friends, you also get to know a lot about the person you are playing with.
10. What’s the best thing that happened to you during Covid quarantine?
Varvatos: The silver lining for me was spending the most quality time ever with my family.
Jonas: I think the best thing that happened was just getting to spend more time with my wife [actress Priyanka Chopra] and our dogs. Being forced to stay home opened up a lot of pathways for me creatively in the music space — and also screenwriting and [other] things I’m doing there.
11. I want to flip things on you:
John, rock ’n’ roll has inspired your designs and you clearly are a music fan. What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen and why?
Varvatos: Best concert was when I was in college and saw Led Zeppelin. Their music and fashion sense truly had an effect on [my] creative senses that lasts until this day.
And Nick, you’re a musician, but also known for your fashion. What’s a piece of clothing you can’t part with or that evokes a special memory and why?
Jonas: I think for me, clothing is all about feeling confident and feeling your best. For me a great suit has a lot of sentimental value; if I wore it to an event, time with friends or family, those can be really meaningful memories.
12. What does the future look like for Villa One? Any special barrel aging or introducing a mezcal?
Varvatos: We are just in the beginning and approaching our second year, but it’s been terrific so far. So, the next step is creating some limited-edition unique barrel-aged runs.
Jonas: The future looks very bright. We’re so excited about the early fan base we have cultivated just having launched about a year and a half ago. The people who have tried it really love it and we’re so excited to continue to grow that and see more and more people make Villa One their top choice.