Breaking into the booze industry – or rather self-indulgently, Breaking Booze – is no easy feat. And still, after just five years at the helm of their own mezcal brand, Dos Hombres, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul seem to have done exactly that.

Funny, really, considering one half of the duo, famed for their undeniable chemistry as the stars of Breaking Bad (a chemistry which helped take the show from sleeper hit to cultural phenomenon, boasting a global audience of ten million by its finale), vowed to never touch the stuff before the idea was originally pitched to him.

“Bryan’s introduction was with a not so great Mezcal…” Paul trails off, smirking towards his former co-star. They both laugh the kind of rare laugh a person might hope to share with someone they know and love deeply before Paul hands the proverbial mic over to Cranston with a flick of his wrist.

“Everyone has their own individual experience with whatever spirit they were first introduced to, and when I was introduced to mezcal, when I was…late high school, early college…my buddies would often get together once a month, and every person was responsible to buy beer and a spirit,” says Cranston, settling into his story.

“One time, a guy bought a bottle of mezcal, which was in a plastic bottle, and there was a dead worm at the bottom of it. We had heard of Mezcal before, and it was all very mysterious and exotic. So we huddled around, opened the bottle, smelt the mezcal, and recoiled immediately because it smelled like industrial carpet cleaner.”

Like all curious, young drinkers he tasted it anyway, and was quickly met with the taste of industrial carpet cleaner. “I thought ‘who in their right mind would drink this?’, and then you flash forward decades to when Aaron said we should start a mezcal company at this bar in New York…” he raises an eyebrow back to his business partner.

“He thought I was out of my mind,” nods Paul.

“Yeah!” says Cranston. “And what I realized, sitting at this bar and tasting some of the best mezcals ever produced, was that if someone is exposed to a poor quality anything as your first introduction, that turns you off forever – or in my case, until you get corrected.”

It was the start of a journey that many celebrities consider, but few take seriously. Cranston and Paul are an exception; they committed to partnering with a maestro mezcalero, rather than simply throwing their names on a ready-made product, and found exactly that in Gregorio Velasco – a third generation mezcalero who’d been finessing his craft since he was eight years old.

As well as bringing unparalleled knowledge and skill to the production of Dos Hombres, the traditional production methods passed down through his family give the spirit a rare complexity. In addition to mezcal’s beloved smokiness, Dos Hombres offers hints of local zapote fruits, apple, mango, volcanic smoke, and wood (thanks to the wooden barrels in which the mezcal is fermented).

All of which is to say if their profiles were going to entice an audience, the product was going to turn them into customers.

Of course, juggling the start-up’s demands alongside their thriving acting careers and personal lives, Dos Hombres hasn’t come without its challenges. “I mean, we knew it was going to be a lot of work, but it’s just so much work, you know?” Paul laughs. “Look, if it was easy, everybody would do it, but it’s been such a labor of love.

“I mean, the fact that I get to do this with this guy is such a dream come true,” Paul continues, holding his hand to his chest. “I knew he was going to be great to work with, because, obviously I’ve worked with him before, but we were tackling something completely different. This was our brainchild, and we just needed to grow it and protect it.

“There have been some stumbles along the way, but not many. You know, you just got to pick yourself up and march forward. Even when we’re celebrating a big victory, we like to raise a glass salud, and then, you know, get back to work.”

Cranston, ever the friend, jumps in before I get the chance to respond. “I also knew that Aaron would be a great partner in business, because our work ethic is very similar. We both came from very blue collar families. Neither one of us had much money as children,” he pauses, “because children usually don’t have money.”

They both descend into laughter again before Cranston finds his thought. “Our families were hard-working people, often paycheck paycheck, and when that is your life experience, you grow accustomed to the idea that life is a lot about work. Aaron is not afraid to dive in, and neither am I, so we knew that wasn’t going to be a problem.”

Self-funded from the start, the hard work is evident in Dos Hombres’ early success; in their first year, Dos Hombres broke into the top twelve mezcals in the US, and top ten by year two.

“It stands in a very, very good place,” admits Pauls. “Third year, broke into the top five, and currently we just got to number four. We’re swinging for the number one spot!”

They’ve leveraged these wins to make it happen, too. As well as inviting friends and family to invest, Constellation Brands announced a minority stake in Dos Hombres in 2021 through its venture capital group, though the company remains independently owned and continues to manage, market and produce its mezcal in-house.

“What we realized, entering into a business that we had no prior experience in, was that you’re looking for things you can relate it to,” says Cranston. “Being in the spirits business is much like being in the entertainment business, because it is all entertainment. So when we go out to bars and restaurants and talk to customers and talk to bartenders, they’re all looking for a great time. If they have a great time – a great experience – then they want to recreate that again. And that’s when you get customer loyalty.

“As actors, we’re often not used to knowing exactly what’s going to happen when we enter into a project, and this was no different. We just have to keep our ears open and listen and really be like dry sponges – ready to soak up as much knowledge about this new industry as we can, and learn as we go.”

As knowledge bases go, the most surprising learning has been that of the market’s generally-poor familiarity with mezcal.

“I mean, we still get people congratulating us on our tequila! We like to say that we’re tequila’s older, more sophisticated relative,” Paul grins.

“We want every single producer of mezcal to make a great mezcal, because then the whole category rises,” adds Cranston. “At some point they’ll find what they love best – we hope that’s Dos Hombres, but at least the whole category is improved.”

Until that happens, they’re focused on promoting Dos Hombres as a premium product, and partnering with other popular brands that can bolster its growth.

“We don’t want to be in a sweet slushy machine,” says Cranston. “You know, I don’t want to see Dos Hombres in one of those three-foot-tall glass hurricane cups with a straw that’s four feet long -”

“I do!” Paul interjects, sending the pair back into hysterics.

Still, partnerships remain a priority. Earlier this year, the brand announced a new trio of Mezcal Margaritas available at Applebee’s locations nationwide – making them the first-ever mezcal to be offered at the chain.

The latest collaboration, launching today, is with Modelo – another Mexico-native, heavy-hustling company which took Bud Light’s place as top-selling beer in the United States last year.

For National Michelada Day on July 12th, the brands have partnered to launch two Mezcal Micheladas (one designed by Cranston, the other by Paul), available in a number of bars across the US.

“I love Modelo, and we like to say everything tastes better with Dos Hombres, so a Michelada with Modelo is just next level,” says Paul.

“When we’re able to associate ourselves with really high end bars or restaurants, really quality products…that’s where we want to be, because that’s what we feel Dos Hombres is: a premium product,” adds Cranston.

They’re paying the premium forward, too. “We’ve done incredibly well with Dos Hombres, but I think the thing that makes me smile the most is what we’ve been able to do with our partners down in Mexico, in this little village called San Luis del Rio, where we have a program – and this was Aaron’s idea as well – that gives back to the area,” says Cranston.

The program, funded by 100% of the proceeds from Dos Hombres’ merchandise, was set up to secure practical living solutions for locals at large, not just the mezcaleria’s employees.

“The first thing they asked for was clean drinking water. They had a filtering system that was very antiquated, so we brought in a state-of-the-art water filtration plant. Now this little village of 500 people now has clean drinking water.

“They still have to go to this location and fill up their five gallon water jugs and carry that back to their houses, but at least they have clean drinking water. Now, not just San Luis del Rio, but other surrounding villages come in to get their clean drinking water, too.”

The duo have a number of other projects that they want to complete, and have already played a huge role in paving the dirt road that led up to this mountain village. “Now we’re looking at a medical facility within the town, so that they can have a triage set-up,” adds Cranston.

Though they’d never make an effort to share these things publicly, they’ve already brought in a nurse to come in on a regular basis and instruct locals on life-saving practices, like how to properly contain and clean a wound, saving them the three-hour drive to the nearest hospital.

“It’s things like that that we realize you can have a thriving, successful business, as we do with Dos Hombres, and still be good stewards to the earth and its people,” says Cranston.

“It’s not the right way to do business, it’s the only way to do business,” Paul says.

“Put that on a bumper sticker!” Cranston teases Paul, cueing yet another cackle-filled break.

“It’s true, though!” Paul exclaims, brimming with passion. “We love this community so much. We’re so proud to bring a beautiful piece of Oaxaca to the rest of the world.”

Cranston takes a moment to support his partner. “With Aaron again, I knew several things,” he says. “We were going to have growing pains, but as long as you know you can trust your partner, you’re in good shape.”

“Oh, man, I’m just proud that Bryan and I have just put together such a beautiful team. You know, our Dos Hombres family is very near and dear to our hearts. We’ve gone through our struggles with the company. There’s a lot of hurdles you need to leap over, and we’ve done it, you know, keeping our heads held high. And I love the man even more. I truly do. I’m proud of him, how he runs a business, and how he treats everyone around him. We don’t take any of these moments for granted.”

As our conversation winds down, it’s clear that Dos Hombres is more than just a business venture for Cranston and Paul—it’s a testament to their enduring friendship and shared values.

From overcoming early hurdles to making significant impacts in their mezcal-producing community, their journey – dare I say, from meth to mezcal – has been nothing short of transformative, and with their unwavering commitment to quality and community, it seems this story is only just beginning.

The post Bryan Cranston And Aaron Paul On Breaking Booze appeared first on Patabook Travel.