On the critically-acclaimed ‘Breaking Bad’ their characters specialized in producing more illicit substances, but now actors Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have teamed up in real life to create their own mezcal brand Dos Hombres. Their genuine friendship and humor with each other other was immediately apparent as we spoke about their passion for mezcal, giving back to the village their product comes from and how to behave when you run into your celebrity crushes.
After five seasons of doing ‘Breaking Bad’ together was there anything new you learned about each other going into the mezcal business that you didn’t know before?
Aaron Paul: I always say Bryan is the hardest worker in the room but he’s also the most immature person I’ve ever met in my life. I say that with the most love and respect I could possibly give. He quickly became one of my best friends in the world, my mentor on the show, my mentor in life. I feel blessed to join forces with him again and tackle another project.
Bryan Cranston: I learned how much respect he had for me and how much he admired me (both laugh). I didn’t realize he wanted me to be the beauty of the operation. The hood ornament.
AP: I am the brain. Someone has to be the brain and someone has to be the beauty. And Bryan does the beauty thing very well.
Did you realize beforehand how much work would be involved in making and promoting the mezcal?
BC: We made an agreement early on that we weren’t going to be part of a vanity operation. We didn’t want to sign our names onto whatever product, send it out and you know, good luck. Aaron and I have been very blessed in our careers and our families. We have plenty of work in our first chosen field so a project would only happen if we were both passionately in love with the mezcal.
And we have come to not only respect, but enjoy the spirits business. It’s been fascinating. We’ve been like dry sponges soaking things up. Not just the vernacular, but the methodology to it. Knowing the on and off premise accounts, developing a sales force. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thinking about how we can improve our service, get the message out better and increase brand awareness.
What made you fall in love with this particular mezcal?
AP: There’s two ingredients in our mezcal: mountain spring water and smoked agave. Our mezcal is ‘artesanal’ and you cannot have that on your label unless there is no modern machinery being used. The process is very old world, by hand. I had no idea how they made it before, so when we traveled to Oaxaca my mind was just blown wide open. It was a beautiful thing to witness.
BC: That’s what really opened our eyes, the intensive labor that it takes. The spirit is hundreds of years old, so the people who created this had no electricity. To this day we have no electricity at our palenque (distillery). We don’t need it. And that’s why it’s so premium. It is handled with such care.
It takes six years for the agave plant to mature. Then after harvesting it takes four days to smoke them so they get this nice pulpy sweetness. And then it goes into the tahona, which is the rock pit where donkeys pull this rock wheel around and it mashes the agave. The fermentation process lasts 10 days and then it takes at least two days to distill it. So we have such respect and honor for all our employees who put in those long hours and hard work.
How have you been giving back to the village of San Luis del Rio where your mezcal comes from?
AP: We were blessed to meet the beautiful community of San Luis del Rio and it was important to us to keep our hands raised and let the village know that we are a company that they can rely on. Just ask us and we will help you. And the first thing that the village asked for was a new water filtration center. They’re getting their water from the mountain spring, but in order to drink it this water needs to be filtered.
So we built a brand new state-of-the-art water filtration plant. To be honest, one of the most proudest moments in my life was to watch our distiller Gregorio Velasco walking to the christening of this plant, next to the priest that is blessing this operation. They’re being followed by the entire village and everyone’s dressed up and excited. We handed over the keys and it was just such a beautiful thing to see. You must give back. Every company should.
What was your first drink that got you interested in spirits?
AP: Honestly, my first drink was at 19 years old. I had been living in L.A. for two years and I had never had a sip of alcohol. I split a six pack of Red Stripe with a buddy of mine.
BC: The first cocktail I ever had with mezcal was a spicy margarita. And I thought, wow, the smokiness of the mezcal combined with some jalapeño — it just lit that margarita on fire. It’s hard for me to drink it any other way now. And mezcal is great in all kinds of cocktails. Aaron makes a phenomenal Negroni with it.
I love to take some fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, a little bit of agave syrup and Dos Hombres and make my own Paloma with a little squeeze of lime. It’s just fantastic. And one of the best cocktails I’ve had with it is a Bloody Mary, where you take out the tasteless vodka and instead use mezcal. And that smokiness along with the spicy tomato juice and lemon — oh my God!
AP: I love that when you throw tomato juice into a drink it gives you free range to start drinking in the morning. It’s just so funny. You jump on a plane at eight in the morning and say hey, can I get a whiskey sour? And they’re like ‘are you ok sir?’ But you order a Bloody Mary and they’re like ‘yeah, here you go.’
Have you ever gotten to meet and have drinks with one of your own idols?
AP: The evening before the Oscars one year I was at a party and I see Daniel Day Lewis across the room. He’s one of my favorite actors. I just love his process and the dedication he gives to the craft. And we made eye contact and he just kind of bows. I’m like there’s no way Daniel Day Lewis just bowed to me. And then he points to suggest ‘can we meet?’ And I do that classic turn around like he must be talking to someone behind me.
BC: And I was standing behind you.
AP: (laughs) We walk to each other and he tells me what a huge fan he is and how he admires my work and I’m constantly pinching myself. But that’s what ‘Breaking Bad’ did for me. It allowed all of us to spread our wings.
BC: I had one of those same experiences with Carrot Top. I couldn’t believe he wanted to meet me. God, I was nervous. I said “Hello. Is it Mr. Top? I don’t know how to address you.”
Anyone beside Carrot Top?
Anthony Hopkins sent a letter to me that was intended for the entire cast of ‘Breaking Bad.’ It was just glowing and so complimentary from one of the best actors ever. And it’s stunning because when you work on something you’re in your own little bubble. You’re not thinking about what it’s going to do when you’re finished.
You can’t think that far in advance. If you get it in your head ‘I’ve got to do this because it’s going to have this ripple effect’ you’ll get confused and you won’t be able to focus. So you have to be myopic, do your work and just send it out there. We were just this little show in the middle of the New Mexico desert and then suddenly it just catches fire and becomes this blazing social experience.
Are there other spirits or wines you enjoy, or is it all mezcal now?
AP: I still enjoy a nice bourbon, you know? But the older I get, even with red wine, I’ll have a glass or two glasses and I feel it the next day. It’s not worth it to me anymore. So I typically just drink some Dos Hombres on the rocks as a nice little nightcap. I can have a couple of those and I feel totally fine the next day because it’s just a clean spirit.
BC: Since we’ve gotten into the business my only real interest is drinking mezcal. I’ll go into a bar or restaurant and if there’s any mezcal cocktail on the menu I’ll order it. It doesn’t even have to be ours because I want to see how that particular one tastes. And then of course I’ll go this is really good, but what would really be good is if you made it with Dos Hombres. In a friendly sort of competitive way. Like any business it’s a sustained level of hard work.
AP: Dos Hombres was all self-funded from Bryan and I at the very beginning. Once we started growing and needed more capital, we decided to just double down on our own investment. Then we invited friends and family to come on this journey with us and they did. Constellation Brands was the first big operation that decided to invest in our company and they’ve allowed us to keep creative control. This is our baby and we couldn’t be more excited about the road ahead.