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Breaking Bad Co-Stars Return To Cook: Dos Hombres Mezcal

What you need to know:

  • Back in 2019, hit television series Breaking Bad’s two co-stars embarked on the founding of their very first mezcal company Dos Hombres (Spanish for ‘Two Men’).
  • To date, Dos Hombres boasts 2 releases: Espadín Mezcal and the limited edition Tobalá Mezcal, both of which are unaged mezcals directly bottled from the stills. Espadín’s ABV comes at 42% and can be purchased within the United States, Mexico, and the United Kingdom at a retail price of US$65. Tobalá comes at an ABV of 45% and sells for US$349.
  • Dos Hombres has been praised for its environmental initiatives, including the construction and donation of a water purification and filtration system to the San Luis del Rio community, where its mezcal is produced and bottled. For the Tobalá release, 2 Tobalá agave are planted by Dos Hombres in the place of each wild plant harvested for mezcal production.
  • In homage to the traditional production methods of mezcal in Mexico, Dos Hombres’ ‘mezcal artesanal’ is produced entirely without the use of modern machinery, even as the company installs solar-powered lighting in the distillery’s vicinities to facilitate its navigation come sundown.
  • The Espadín Mezcal is sweet and smooth, which distinguishes it from a typical mezcal that usually has a smokier, more savoury flavour profile. This versatility lends itself to a variety of cocktail recipes, from the El Paso, to the La Parka.
  • The Tobalá’s jammy and herbaceous flair makes it a complex mezcal with a characteristic boldness. Yet the exorbitant price tag of Dos Hombres’ second release remains a point of contention hard to overlook for many drinkers.
  • We'd stick with the Espadín mezcal for a taste of the Dos Hombres experience, while awaiting the release of subsequent, potentially-more-affordable bottles in the future.
  • Cop or Drop: Cop the Espadín, Drop the Tobalá

 

 

On the 23rd of April 2013, actors Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul were back in To’hajiilee, a Native American reservation in the deserts of New Mexico just west of state capital Albuquerque. Filming Felina (an anagram of the hit series’ finale), they’d come full circle since Pilot, when cancer-stricken high-school chemistry teacher Walter White first began his metamorphosis into Albuquerque’s methamphetamine kingpin alongside his former student Jesse Pinkman. 

 

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman respectively (Image Source: Breaking Bad)

 

Felina marked the end of Vince Galligan’s critically acclaimed Breaking Bad, an epochal masterpiece in the history of American filmography that quirkily married tragedy with black comedy through its absurd scenarios. Notwithstanding its peculiar context, it reflected on our universally relatable relationships with pride and mortality. Despite moments of tenderness between White and Pinkman throughout the story’s tumultuous development, the two’s overall-dysfunctional relationship had burnt to ashes by then, irreparably marred by the series’ slew of deaths of characters dear to each. With their respective relationships with their own families split asunder by their destructive quest for wealth, they reeled in misery.

 

Cranston telling Paul “Jesse, let’s cook” (It was actually Paul who initiated the idea for a mezcal business) (Image Source: Dos Hombres)

 

Off-camera, however, was the continued brewing and blossoming of a 7-year-friendship between Breaking Bad’s pair of co-stars. Later that day, Cranston and Paul got themselves matching tattoos, engraves that immortalized the memories forged during what would become one of, if not, the most pivotal moments in both their professional careers.

‘I love that man to death’, remarked Paul as he revealed having named Cranston as the godfather of his recently newborn son.

Today, Cranston and Paul are once again hitting the road—touring and bartending across the United States from Stamford (CT) to Bayonne (NJ) to Miami (FL)—and there’s no better time than now to investigate what exactly the two are up to on this promotional campaign.

Since 2019, 6 years after Breaking Bad’s conclusion, Cranston and Paul have been in on an endeavour to curate an irresistible product for you and I. What began as Paul’s nebulous vision in a New York City sushi bar soon saw the two friends venturing off into the streets of Oaxaca, Mexico, as they set off on their tasting expedition.

A nation with a millennia-old culture as rich as Mexico’s offers no shortage of exquisite dishes and beverages. Even so, it was only hours after cruising down mountainous tracks, treading through rivers and climbing up hiking trails in the outskirts of Oaxaca de Juárez that the duo found what they truly, unanimously considered extraordinary and suitable for their palates.

 

Master Mezcalero Gregorio Velasco in his ‘meth-lab in the middle of nowhere’ (Image Source: Dos Hombres)

 

In the village of San Luis del Río lay the agave fields that Paul likened to ‘a meth-lab in the middle of nowhere’. A culmination of over 5 generations of toil by its family of owners, it was now managed by 3rd-generation expert mezcalero Gregorio Velasco, who has since become part owner of the Dos Hombres business.

 

A jimador uses his coa (hoe) to cut off the agave leaves, exposing the piña (Image Source: Wine and Spirit International)

 

Each batch of mezcal begins with the laborious process of agave harvesting. The desert plant’s many succulent leaves are shaved and chipped away at by the mezcalero with their coa, revealing its 40-kg heart, or piña—aptly named for its resemblance to a pineapple.

 

 

The piña balls are buried in earthen pits lined with hot stones (Image Source: Dos Hombres)

 

Unlike in tequila production where agave is steamed prior to fermentation, the piñas are transferred to earthen pits buried with hot stones where their natural sugars are released during four days of slow roasting. The smoked agave is then shredded and juiced by a traditional horse-drawn stone wheel called a tahona before being fermented in tubs of mountain spring water over 7 to 10 days. What is then left to do is the final distillation via copper stills into a large basin where the finished mezcal is slowly collected over 2 days. (This is the part where we say ‘Yeah, SCIENCE!’)

As you may have noticed: while much of mezcal production today is automated, the ‘mezcal artesanal’ label on Dos Hombres’ two releases means they reject any use of electricity or modern machinery in homage to Mexico’s 500-year-old tradition of production.

At the same time, in expression of its gratitude toward the San Luis del Río community, Dos Hombres has been actively involved in harnessing its resources in striving towards a more sustainable and efficient ecosystem—from installing a new water filtration system to building a cooling system for repurposing water used to cool their copper stills, from implementing a network of solar panels in the facility’s vicinity to replanting 2 agave plants for every one 25-year-old crop harvested to manufacture its limited edition Tobalá release.

As a mezcal joven (Spanish for ‘young’), Dos Hombres is directly bottled following distillation. This is in contrast to mezcals reposado and añejo, with the former typically spending between 2 months and 1 year in oak barrels, and the latter undergoing a maturation period upwards of 1 year.

 

 

Mezcal Espadín (Image Source: Dos Hombres)

 

The Espadín offers an initial aromatic burst of fresh apples, followed by the sweetness and hints of mango and local Oaxacan fruits. And despite the absence of cask maturation, one can still detect a delicate hint of wood—courtesy of the 7-10 days spent fermenting the agave mash in wooden barrels.

 

 

Mezcal Tobalá (Image Source: Dos Hombres)

 

With the Tobalá, it is the fresh sweetness of plums and the floral fragrance of lilies (don’t worry, no Lily of the Valley here), together with the aroma of roasted chocolate. As a result of the slow roasting of the agave, one can expect to perceive a subtle smoky finish.

 

Since its birth, Dos Hombres has gone on to clinch awards across the world, even receiving the highest-ever rating of a mezcal by Cigars & Spirit Magazine (Image Source: Dos Hombres)

 

Our Take

While Cranston and Paul have expressed personally enjoying their award-winning mezcal best either neat or on the rocks, many reviews have noted that the sweetness and smoothness of Dos Hombres’ Mezcal Espadín does distinguish it from a typical mezcal with a smokier, more savoury flavour profile. We love that its versatility lends itself to a variety of cocktail recipes, from the El Paso where its fruitiness meets the kick of Mexican poblano liqueur Ancho Reyes Verde and earthy cinnamon syrup, to the La Parka where it is paired with the bittersweetness of Italian vermouth Punt E Mes and elderflower liqueur St. Germain.

Currently, Espadín comes in at US$65 per bottle on Dos Hombres’ website, and is available for delivery across 35 of the US’ 50 states.

Cranston and Paul on a bartending tour in Orlando, Florida, to promote Dos Hombres (Image Source: Dos Hombres)

 

As for the Tobalá, reviewers have judged its flavour profile superior to that of the Espadín’s, agreeing on the former’s notes of dried apricot and rosemary. Tobalá stands on its own without needing to be mixed, especially given its characteristic boldness deriving from its terroir of Copal trees sacred in Mesoamerican culture. However, we reckon that its jammy and herbaceous flair, coupled with the hints of roasted cocoa would still marry perfectly with the mole bitters in Dos Hombres’ Oaxacan Coffee.

That being said, at US$349 per bottle, Tobalá does find itself on the much pricier side of the spectrum. It makes more sense when we consider how Tobalá agaves require a minimum of 25 years to reach maturity as opposed to only 6 expected of Espadín (and 7 for blue agave used in tequila production). We applaud Dos Hombres’ extensive efforts in giving back to the community that’s generously provided access to their natural resources, a dedication that undeniably results in higher price points—especially in an age where the unsustainable harvesting of immature plants fuelled by burgeoning demand threatens agave biodiversity across Mexico. At the same time, with local mezcalero Velasco possessing part ownership of the business, each purchase is undoubtedly a dollar vote for the community and its proud adherence to tradition and history via its production methods.

However, the exorbitant price tag of Dos Hombres’ second release remains a point of contention hard to overlook for many drinkers. At double or even triple of other Tobalá and Tepextate mezcals requiring a similar growing period prior to agave harvesting, it has appeared to be more a reflection of its limited supply and celebrity status, than of its experience or relative labour involved, especially given the absence of a maturation period. Perhaps it’d be a better idea to stick with the Espadín mezcal for a taste of the Dos Hombres experience, while awaiting the release of subsequent, potentially-more-affordable bottles in the future.

And regardless of how you enjoy it, we reckon you can’t go wrong with rewatching Mr White and Jesse swatting flies, dissolving bathtubs, and fleeing maniacal drug lords over an ice-cold glass of Dos Hombres.

Cop or Drop: Cop the Espadín, Drop the Tobalá