20 Minutes With: Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul on Their New Mezcal Venture

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When Breaking Bad co-stars turned real life best buds Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul began conjuring up plans for a new collaboration, their brainstorming session quickly veered into a surprising direction.

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“I go, ‘Well, what do you think about the booze business?’ And he kind of laughed at me,” recalls Paul, 42. “I asked what he thought about mezcal. And he almost did take a spit. Literally.”

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But fueled by Paul’s burgeoning passion for the spirit, Cranston, 66, began to develop a taste for it as well. The duo decided they’d give it a go—as long as they found something they each believed in. “We have to be passionately involved in the entire operation, or else we’re just not interested,” Cranston says. Luckily, a tasting trip to Oaxaca proved fortuitous, and the pair ended up finding the spirit that would become their next venture. Dos Hombres Mezcal debuted in summer 2019 and has quickly become a force in the category. It’s now a top-10 mezcal in North America, with conglomerate Constellation Spirits acquiring a minority stake in the brand in 2021.

Paul and Cranston hosted a roundtable discussion in early March during which they discussed their start in the business, their appreciation for mezcal, and how they’re giving back to the local communities they work with.

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Penta: How did you come to partner with the producer you work with, third-generation master mezcalero Gregorio Velasco?

Aaron Paul: We went down to Oaxaca, we traveled all over that beautiful countryside, and day after day, we sampled 90, 100-plus different mezcals. And we just weren’t finding something that we loved. On our final day we were in this beautiful little village, San Luis del Rio, which is just under three hours outside of the center of Oaxaca City.

Bryan Cranston: Our goal was that we had to both be absolutely, passionately in love with the juice. We weren’t about to just settle for anything. Either we find it, or we don’t. And it was the very last day, very last town, San Luis del Rio, which has 500 people, there’s one landline telephone in this town, no cell service. They were very lovely people, but we weren’t finding something that both of us loved. And so it was like, well, I guess that’s it.

AP: We knew we were leaving the next day, we’re going back home. And we get approached by this kid who’s speaking to us through our translator, my friend Vanessa, and she said. “Hey, he’s inviting us to their operation to sample their juice. Do you want to go?” It’s back to the village and we have to hike through the river, and when we got there, we sit down to sample it straight from the source and it was just one of those aha moments. We tasted it, we looked at each other, we didn’t say anything. Oh my god, is this it? And we tasted it again. And we’re like, “Holy s—, I think we found it.” We were like, “Wait, how has this juice not been discovered? Are we the ones to bring this out into the world? It’s pure artistry.”

You two did more than find the product; you’re hands on in its promotion and growth as well, right?

BC: We enjoy the business so much. We’re excited about it. We are as passionate, invested, and involved in the Dos Hombres Mezcal business as we are with anything that we produce in the entertainment world. In all honesty, we don’t have to do it. We want to do it. That’s the big difference. We love the work, we love meeting people. We love going to the stores and the restaurants and talking about it because we’re so proud of it.

Max Barsness

Can you describe how you’re involved with the town and people of San Luis del Rio?

AP: It’s very important to us, of course, to help out this beautiful, little village that we have just fallen madly in love with. Bryan is in direct contact with the governor of Oaxaca, he sat down and has had meetings to further that mission, and we wanted everyone in San Luis del Rio to know that we are a company that they can count on, and to let them know our hands are constantly raised for whatever they may need. The first thing they asked for was to have a new water filtration center. We watched on video when they were christening the place, and when we saw them peeling back the Dos Hombres plaque that’s in the front, it was honestly one of the proudest moments of my life.

BC: There’s about 10 miles of dirt road off their main road, it’s a switchback road that gets up to the village. It’s an order. During the rainy season, it floods out, it creates chasms and breaks in the road and then it’s sometimes unpassable. That’s why I’m sitting down with the governor, and then trying to relate that with the federal government and their land management office, and trying to pave that road. It’s really vital for medical services, for children going to school, for all kinds of things. I’m determined to make sure that happens.

And you want Gregorio to be a long-term partner with your brand?

AP: After six months on the market, we surprised Gregorio on his birthday and gave him part ownership of the company. So not only do we take his mezcal out into the world, he’s also our partner, he’s part owner of Dos Hombres. Gregorio, he’s third generation making mezcal, he started learning the ropes when he turned eight years old. He started teaching his son, who’s fourth generation, when his son turned eight. It’s a tradition in his family. His son will eventually take over the Dos Hombres operation when Gregorio retires.

Your mezcal is produced and labeled as “artesanal.” Can you describe what that entails?

BC: It says ‘mezcal artesanal’ on the bottle and that is regulated. No one is allowed to put that on the label if there is any modern technology used in the process. When we stumbled upon San Luis del Rio and this palenque, the thing that struck me right away was there is no electricity in there. None. The fermentation process happens naturally. The distillation process is with copper kettles and wood. The donkeys [powering the traditional tahona system for crushing agave piñas] are an integral part of the process, and that’s why the donkeys are also a part of our branding and our label. We love these animals and we make sure that they’re looked after and taken care of.

How do you two prefer to drink mezcal?

AP: I typically drink my Dos Hombres on the rocks, with a large cube. That’s my go to. You know, it’s sacrilegious down in Mexico to shoot mezcal. It also depends on the setting, the environment. If I’m at a pool party, it’s nice to maybe mix up a cocktail with some friends. But if I’m having a nightcap at home, it’s typically on the rocks.

BC: I love what the Spanish say, “You never shoot it, you kiss it. Just kiss it; let it touch your lips.” I like it neat, I think more than on the rocks. I just like to sip it. But I’m delighted by these bartenders who are so good at this alchemy of putting flavors together. When we go around to different bars and the bartender says, “I put this cocktail together, try that.” And we taste with them. My god, that’s good! Wow. It’s exciting to see all these bartenders independently coming up with their own cocktails. Whether you’re making a movie or making a cocktail, it’s all for your customers to enjoy that moment, however long it takes.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Credit: www.marketwatch.com /

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