A First Taste of Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston’s New Mezcal
The secret got out.
A line is slowly forming outside Napoleon House in New Orleans as Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul finish getting acquainted with the restaurant’s bar. Their presence was supposed to be a surprise, but from the 200-plus-person line outside, you can tell that someone might have spilled the beans—or the agave as the case may be.
In just a few moments the doors will open, and the duo will be slinging drinks for the massive crowd outside, a group of attendees from Tales of the Cocktail, an annual cocktail conference held in the town. That crowd contains a number of professional bartenders and bar owners—both which Paul and Cranston are not. What they are, however, are owners of a brand-new mezcal brand: Dos Hombres.
That massive line also might be Paul’s fault.
A few hours earlier he shared an Instagram post letting people know that he and Cranston were planning to serve cocktails later that day. It wasn’t the first time he used the platform to share a secret: Instagram was also how they opted to officially announce the brand the week before.
The duo was able to step out from behind the bar for a few minutes to talk about the brand before the doors opened first to a small media crowd and later the general public.
“I love this guy. That’s really how it started,” Cranston tells Fortune. “Our show ended, and we stopped seeing each other every day.”
The two wanted to work together but thought that it might be too soon for a new on-screen collaboration
“I think everyone is just going to associate the two of us with Breaking Bad right now, even though the show ended really so long ago,” says Paul. “Even when we started doing teases, everyone just instantly assumed it was Breaking Bad related, even though in the second tease we were not in character—I didn’t have the Pinkman tattoos, and we looked like we actually truly liked each other.”
“We’re actors,” Cranston jokes.
Once they determined they couldn’t do a project on-screen together, Paul suggested that they consider going into the alcohol business instead. Then the conversation turned to mezcal.
“I’ve been such a fan of mezcal for many years,” says Paul. He says he grew up drinking whiskey neat, and when he was introduced to mezcal he saw it as a great sipping liquor as well and fell in love.
For Cranston, his introduction to the spirit was a little different.
“When I was in high school and college, drinking mezcal was like a challenge. It was so bad—the little worm at the bottom of it—and it tasted and smelled like antiseptic or rubbing alcohol,” Cranston recalls. “It was a dare.”
Given that, when Paul suggested going into the mezcal business, Cranston’s first reaction was to be a bit skeptical: “I don’t know. I have to try it.”
And try it he did.
The two worked on the mezcal for three years before its release this month. The three years included numerous trips to Oaxaca, Mexico, where mezcal is made, to find the perfect one.
“It was a journey, but we always swore to each other that we didn’t want to put something out in the market that we didn’t feel was truly perfect,” Paul says. “We didn’t want people to taste our product and be like, “This is not that good.”
“We were perfectly willing not to do it,” Cranston adds.
One huge challenge was finding a mezcal that appealed to both men.
“I don’t mind sort of getting punched in the face by the strength of it all. I really don’t,” Paul says.
“And I want to be seduced,” Cranston says. “To be able to find one perfect mezcal that suits my tastes and his tastes was actually a big challenge for us.”
But then one day they found it. While visiting with a family who has been making mezcal for generations, they discovered what is now Dos Hombres while sipping on the spirit out in one of the family’s agave fields.
“There was just this kind of silence…and then we sipped it again,” Paul describes.
“Like a movie moment,” Cranston adds. Up until that point, Cranston says he would recoil when drinking something Paul thought was great, and Paul wasn’t getting the punch he needed from the mezcals he enjoyed.
“It truly was an aha! moment,” says Paul. “It was just so incredibly smooth, but it still had that smokiness.”
Cranston describes Dos Hombres as “kind of like a Barry White song.” The mezcal invited him in and was strong while also being smooth and silky.
“It was just incredibly special,” Paul says.
After finding it, they conducted a number of blind taste tests with friends and family with what is now Dos Hombres as well as several other mezcals. Dos Hombres consistently made it to the top of the list, ultimately leading the two to decide to launch the brand.
“We have some ambitions about where we’d like to see this and where we’d like to see this grow. But we’re babies right now. We just launched a week ago. We’re excited about that,” says Cranston. “This is like a movie opening for us. We’ve opened up and there’s excitement to it. We know that we have a great product. We have a good bottle. Great label. Everything’s working for us in that sense.”
At Tales of the Cocktail, the duo personally mixed up a mango and jalapeño cocktail as well as a pineapple shrub for guests using the mezcal. They also offered it to attendees neat, which is Paul’s favorite way to enjoy it.
For Cranston, his favorite preparation is “The Alcatraz.”
“I like the liquid around one rock,” he says. “That’s because it changes. From moment to moment that drink is changing on you in a good way. It’s like a new discovery.” The drink involves drinking Dos Hombres with merely a single cube of ice in it. As that ice melts, the mezcal opens up, and the flavor softens.
After the conference, which in a way served as the brand’s official debut to the spirits industry, the two planned to journey down to Mexico to learn more about the spirit and the process behind making it.
“We are neophytes to it, but we’re not charlatans to it,” says Cranston. “I don’t want to say I know something when I don’t know something, but I love being a student. I want to learn.”
While they’ve already learned a good deal about the process, you can tell from talking to them that they’re eager to learn more.
“We’re both invested in it, not just physically and monetarily, but emotionally invested,” says Cranston. “The only way that we would enter into any business and take up a large chunk of our time is if we’re passionate about it, and we really are.”
More must-read stories from Fortune:
—Germany might be producing the best Pinot Noirs available today
—How mezcal’s boom is helping lift its makers out of extreme poverty
—This distillery is releasing its oldest whisky yet–36 years after closing
—Rosé Prosecco doesn’t actually exist—but it will soon
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