Ready to know more about San Diego?


Getting In the Spirit With Aaron Paul & Bryan Cranston

The Breaking Bad duo open up about getting slapped around by a spirit, the life-changing magic of good mezcal, and the Del Mar Wine + Food Fest
Courtesy of Dos Hombres Mezcal
Dos Hombres Mezcal Bryan Cranston Aaron Paul San Diego Del Mar Wine + Food Festival 2023

Dos Hombres Mezcal Bryan Cranston Aaron Paul San Diego Del Mar Wine + Food Festival 2023

Courtesy of Dos Hombres Mezcal

“Why not make a tequila, like literally everyone else?” I ask Breaking Bad actors Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston as we discuss their mezcal brand, Dos Hombres. “That’s what I said,” Cranston laughs, but Paul had become enamored with mezcal. It had to be mezcal. Seven years after its initial conception, their mezcal brand is ascendent. But they certainly didn’t make it easy for themselves. Mezcal is a rustic spirit. Pure expression. So flavorful you can barely fit the cap on the bottle. It’s tequila’s dangerous cousin, one who rides a motorcycle and smokes cigarettes. It’s harder to make, harder to sell, even harder to find.Hearing Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston talk about Dos Hombres is a kinetic experience. In one moment, they’re exuberant proselytizers about the charms of mezcal, and then the next deeply serious about the cultural responsibilities toward this ancient spirit and its people, all the while looking for opportunities to joke around and make each other laugh, like a couple brothers in the back seat on a road trip.On Friday, September 8 they’ll be putting this particular show on display as a part of the Del Mar Wine + Food Festival, hosting a five-course meal and tasting experience at the Lodge at Torrey Pines. Ahead of the event, I chatted with them about Dos Hombres, getting slapped around by a spirit, and about the life-changing magic of good mezcal.

Is celebrity mezcal the future? Ten years from now, is Timothée Chalamet going to have a mezcal brand?

Bryan Cranston (BC): We’d have to go pay him a visit first. [mobster voice] “Timothee. It’s really not in your best interest, Mr. Chalamet. If you don’t mind me being so personal…”But you know, it depends. Here’s the thing: we want every mezcal on the market to be good. We really do. Because if someone who is not used to mezcal is convinced to try it, and it tastes industrial or too smokey or whatever, the whole category suffers. So whatever anybody does, we just hope that they do it at a premium level.

I heard an interview where, Aaron, you describe preferring aggressive flavors and Bryan you describe preferring seductive flavors.

BC: Kind of like our personalities.Aaron Paul (AP): [laughs]BC: You know, I’m a lover, not a fighter.AP: Oh, are you?BC: Oh yeah, a lover.AP: I don’t know if “aggressive” is the appropriate word, I just don’t mind a bit of a bite, a warmth, when I taste my spirits. Typically I like to drink spirits neat or on the rocks, of course I love a good cocktail from time to time, depending on the occasion, but I like to drink it in its pure, honest form. I like to feel the warmth. And Bryan likes something incredibly smooth, seductive…BC: sexy…AP: Sexy.BC: handsome…AP: [laughs] I don’t mind getting slapped around a little bit. Look, if we both couldn’t agree on it, there’s no reason we would move forward. So we needed to find something that we both could agree on and fall in love with.

I know obviously you tasted a bunch before you reached the one you went with, but was mezcal a common ground right away? Did mezcal thread that needle between your instincts?

BC: We weren’t looking for any spirit. We were looking for a mezcal. He introduced it; I should say reintroduced it to me seven years ago, and I really love it now.AP: But when he was first introduced to mezcal, [40] years ago, it was really bad mezcal. 750ml plastic bottle. Dead worm at the bottom of it. Just not high quality.BC: It smelled like some industrial fluid cleaner. It was terrible.AP: So when I pitched him this idea, he thought I was out of my mind, you know? I said “no, man. This is the spirit.” It’s just the cleanest spirit that I know. So I reintroduced him to the world of mezcal, and he fell in love.BC: And we went down to Oaxaca, and we tried about 90 or so different spirits, and most of them weren’t exactly it. They would be way too strong for me, or too weak for him. But over the course of the week, I think our tastes started to merge to the middle. And I started to really appreciate a nice warm finish, a clean taste. It had to be clean, had to have a great aroma. It had to check all the boxes, or else, why do it?

The product that you ended up bottling: Is that the exact same thing you were given in San Luis Del Rio?

AP: Yeah. It’s from that exact same mezcalero, Gregorio [Velasco]. He started to learn the ropes from his father when he turned 8-years-old, he’s third generation. But what’s so great about mezcal is that every batch is going to be its own thing. Slightly unique. Same recipe, same process, from the same artist, but it’s always going to be slightly different. It’s all by hand, it’s artisanal, so there’s no modern machinery being used to make it. It’s not mass produced. There’s a lot of labor and care going into every batch, every bottle.

Do you collaborate on any part of the product? Does he for example give you three different proofs and you work together to choose the best one? Or does he just make it?

AP: With our Espadin [the most common type of agave used to make mezcal], which is our flagship, we tried just so many different proofs.BC: We decided on the 42 percent ABV because it still held its own by itself, and yet when you mixed it with fruit juice or seltzer or something like that, it still comes through. What we tasted in the field seven years ago was unfiltered, right out of the spout, and we now twice filter the mezcal before we take it to market, but it’s primarily the same thing from the same recipe. But about how it’s slightly different each batch—in that way, it’s similar to wine, you know? Crop by crop, it’s gonna taste a little different here and there. We’re in the farming business. It’s like, how much rain did they get? How much sunshine did they get? When was it harvested? So there’s a lot to it. It’s endlessly interesting to me.

Well it spends six years in the ground, right? So it’s got six years of a story to tell. As opposed to corn that sprouts in March and is harvested in September or whenever.

AP: Right, that’s exactly right. And the Tobala [a rarer type of agave], that takes 25 years to get mature enough to harvest. And it has to be found in the wild. They don’t farm it.

You bottle a Tobala as well, don’t you?

AP: We always knew we wanted to do something with Tobala. We only do 400 bottles a batch, and we only do one batch per quarter. And we don’t plan on expanding that at all. All these agaves are precious but the Tobala is special. It has to be found in the wild. There’s a replanting initiative so if you take one, you have to replant at least two. And so we consciously keep it small.

Let’s talk about the San Diego event! Because y’all are coming down to San Diego. How did you decide to hook up with the Del Mar Wine + Food Festival?

AP: We love doing these wine and food festivals. It’s an opportunity for us to be forward facing, raise a glass with everybody, tell the story, you know. We love getting boots on the ground. It’s important for BC and I to let people know why and how Dos Hombres came to be.BC: And even in the category itself. If we had a vodka, people already know what that tastes like, and they may not be that interested. In an explosive category like mezcal, it’s still exotic to some people, and it’s fun to be able to introduce them to a spirit that they’re not accustomed to. And so we always get excited about leaning in, and having the customer always tell us what they like. So we’ll listen to them, and they’ll go, “Oh I don’t know about mezcal.” And I’ll say, “well do you like a Margarita?” and they’ll say “Oh I love a Margarita.” And I’ll make them a Mezcalita and they’ll go crazy. There are so many different cocktails that Dos Hombres makes incredibly well. It just opens up the cocktail. It just has a burst of flavor coming through.AP: It makes it that much more complex with that smokiness that pokes through. And a lot of people still to this day—a little less now from when we first launched—still congratulate us on our “tequila.” And we love correcting them because a lot of people don’t really know the difference, you know? It’s fun to still be a part of the education process of mezcal.

Did you see this coming? That you’d end up being proselytizers not just for your brand but for mezcal in general?

BC: I would say that Aaron was more on the vanguard of this than I was. Meaning that he was on the vanguard and I wasn’t.AP: [laughs]BC: He knew this was going to be something that was really going to explode. He has a tendency—you’re like Nostradamus—you have a tendency to know the future, I don’t know how you do it.AP: Well I just… you go down to Mexico, it’s the drink of choice. It’s been around for hundreds of years. The first time I had mezcal, years ago, it was in a spicy Mezcal Margarita, and I couldn’t place the spirit. I asked my buddy who got me the drink…BC: You just assumed it was tequila?AP: Well, no! He goes, “Here’s a drink.” And I had a sip and I go “this is unbelievable.” And right away I knew it wasn’t tequila, I said, “what is this spirit?” and he said it was mezcal. I didn’t even know what mezcal was. And then of course I ordered a mezcal neat because I wanted to try it. And I come from the scotch/bourbon/whiskey background. I mean, my old instagram handle was @glassofwhiskey—I love a good glass of whiskey, I still do. But when I was introduced to mezcal, honestly, my life was changed. It quickly became my favorite spirit.

I heard you say off-the-cuff in an interview that your hangovers got less bad when you moved from whiskey to mezcal. This coincided roughly with when you turned 40, which is when hangovers tend to shift into a different gear. Now that you’re mezcal owners and you drink it all the time, do you know why? 

AP: It’s just clean, you know. There’s two ingredients in our mezcal, it’s smoked agave and mountain spring water, and that’s it. There’s nothing added. This is how it’s been done for hundreds of years. And so I think that’s why. I also typically have it neat or on the rocks. I can have a few drinks, two or three drinks, and the next day, it’s… kind of great. If I have a couple glasses of wine, the next day I’m like “why am I still drinking wine?!” Why do I do this to myself, you know what I mean?BC: The sugar…AP: I love the flavor of wine, but is it worth it the next day? Is it really worth it? But with mezcal, it’s a whole different beast.BC: We go out a lot, as you could imagine. We go to bars, restaurants, and everybody wants to have you drink with them. We want everybody to be responsible when they’re imbibing. And I will often have an ounce of Dos Hombres with club soda. And I can sip that all night long and still be fresh and alive, and still feel like I’m part of the party. It’s not like you’re always abstaining and “no no no,” you’re a part of it. But it’s just to be more responsible. In fact, we don’t do any shots.AP: Nope.BC: We have people come up to us all the time, and say “Shots! Let’s do shots!”AP: “Come on, please?”BC: And we say “shots are for getting drunk fast, and putting down bad tasting medicine.” That’s why you’d drink it quickly.AP: In Mexico, it’s sacrilegious to shoot mezcal. As they say down in Mexico, you kiss the spirit. You’ve got to respect the spirit, and respect the people behind the spirit, the community behind the spirit, the culture behind the spirit. And you just take your time with it, sip it, enjoy it.BC: I think that’s an important thing to mention, too. We have this philosophy and had it from the beginning, that there’s no reason why we can’t have an incredibly successful company, and still be good stewards to the land, and to the people down there. We have a program where 100 percent of everything we make off the merchandise sales goes to the people of San Luis del Rio, and Oaxaca. We’re building a road for them. We’re creating a brand new medical facility for them down there. We’ve already created a state of the art water filtration plant for the people of San Luis del Rio and neighboring communities. And why not? They’re a great group of people.AP: Amazing.BC: We work with them. We love them as neighbors, and when we go down there all the time, we enjoy their company. And we’re building something with them, and they’re excited about it.AP: And we’re super proud that Gregorio, our mezcalero, we called him on his birthday when we were 6 months out on the market and wished him a happy birthday, and gave him some serious skin in the game. So he’s part owner of Dos Hombres as well. So we don’t just buy his mezcal and bring it to the world, but he owns Dos Hombres, you know? And we’re proud of that fact. And our hands are forever raised if anyone ever in that village or beyond needs anything from us, they know not to hesitate to ask, and we’re very proud of the company that we’re building.

Y’all are based on LA I imagine. Is there…

AP: Yeah we actually live together. We’re roommates.BC: [laughs]

But coming down here, do you have things you like doing in San Diego? Is there anything you’re excited about, aside from coming down for this dinner?

AP: I love San Diego. Such a beautiful city. You know I did a series years ago in San Diego called Point Pleasant, so I’ve been going down to San Diego for a long time. And we go down quite a bit for Dos Hombres. It’s such a foodie, very lively place. So I plan on eating a lot.BC: It’s a fun place. I love the baseball stadium down there, and the Gaslamp District.AP: Good vibes.BC: Yeah, just a really really cool city.

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA