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Back in January of this year, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul took a trip to Four Seasons Resort Maui, a luxurious oceanfront property off the Wailea coast in Hawaii where, for a night, they surprised guests by taking up shop behind the lobby lounge bar to pour up a variety of cocktails using their very own Dos Hombres Mezcal. The unassuming guests who happened to be staying at the resort that weekend were able to converse with the “Breaking Bad” stars in an intimate setting, and a lucky few may have even shared a celebratory shot with the pair.
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The impromptu visit had come about because Cranston is close friends with Four Season Maui’s marketing director Mark Simon, who he would often run into at Hollywood charity events over the years. They got to talking, and realized the resort would be the perfect place for Cranston and Paul to market their product to consumers in a genuine way. Surprise bar visits have become a popular marketing technique for celebrity spirits founders, with everyone from Kendall Jenner (818 Tequila) to Woody Harrelson (Holistic Spirits) showing up to local watering holes to pour up free drinks to customers. And Four Seasons, secluded on the southwest coast of the island, would be devoid of all the unwanted hullabaloo that might arise at a bar in a major city like L.A or New York, where such marketing stunts often take place.
“We thought, well why don’t we do something a little special for your guests, and say hello to them and just talk about mezcal?” Cranston recalled over a Zoom from his home in Los Angeles. “That went really well and they said, ‘Well, we’re going to be closing down this one restaurant, we need to open up another one as a pop-up to service all the guests we have at the hotel. Would you be interested? And Aaron and I were like, Oh, yeahhhh.”
“To be able to sort of dive deeper into the history of Oaxaca and bring out a Oaxacan-inspired pop-up to the guests at Four Seasons and all over Maui, you know, it’s a dream come true,” Paul added.
The Dos Hombres Cocina officially opened on Aug. 25, with plans to stay through Dec. 2. However, according to the property’s general manager Ben Shank, the cocina has been so popular they’re already considering extending the partnership.
“It’s basically sold out every night we’ve been open,” Shank tells Variety. “We haven’t figured anything out yet but our guests love it, so it would make a lot of sense to keep it open past the 2nd.”
The pop-up is situated on the resort’s lower level, with 15 or so tables placed across a brand new patio they had constructed specifically for the cocina, which looks out at the resort’s ultra-Instagrammable palm tree-flanked pool. On the menu: Oaxacan-influenced dishes including ceviche and pozole, confit duck atop mole, chicharrón and the headlining birria short rib, among many other dishes.
Of course, most guests come to try out the extensive cocktail menu, entirely featuring Dos Hombres Mezcal. Highlights include Spice and Everything Nice, mixed with a Chile Liqueur and a Cinnamon & Ginger Infusion, and Coco-Crush, a smoky take on the classic Aperol Spritz. For every order of the Cantarito, mixed with orange, grapefruit, lime, soda water and salt, all proceeds will be donated to Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund, created in response to the devastating wildfires that ravaged parts of the island in August.
In honor of their success, Variety sat down with Paul and Cranston over Zoom to chat about their experience as co-founders, the importance of giving back to the Oaxacan community, and their hope to potentially work together as actors again:
Finding the right co-founder can feel like finding a soulmate. Why did you guys feel confident that you would be good co-founders, based on your relationship and personalities?
Paul: I never had any sort of hesitation. I just know what it’s like to work with him. I knew this was going to be a completely different beast because we needed to learn how to build a business from the ground up. It wasn’t a company that came to us asking us to to be the face of it and then they do all the work. We had to figure out what the hell we were doing. But I wasn’t hesitant, I was more just wanting to lean in and run towards that goal. Maybe it’s me being naive, but I knew partnering up with BC on this would be, obviously a challenge, but a fun one.
Cranston: It’s not dissimilar from a marriage, because you’re spending a lot of time, resources, energy and passion into something, and you want it to go toward a mutually desirable goal. I often get asked — I’ve been married for over 34 years now — what’s the secret to a good marriage and I say you marry into character. If the person is of good-standing character, a good principled person, that’s the foundation. And if they’re not, then it could go sideways. And I noticed that in Aaron early on that he’s a principled person, a man of character. And so there was never any doubt on my end either about it. We could have fallen flat on our faces. That’s just the business but it wouldn’t have been through a lack of trying, or a lack of character, or some deception, or thievery, or anything like that.
The celebrity spirits space has become so saturated in recent years. What do you think about all these celebrities creating their own tequila and mezcal brands now, after you?
Paul: Whenever I hear about a new celebrity brand popping up, I wish them luck. But I also like to know the history of how and why it came to be. Was it their brainchild? And you can you can see that when they put in the work. There’s a difference when it’s the company hiring you versus you hiring everyone within the company. There’s a difference there. And Brian and I are very proud of the fact that we’ve actually hired every one of our team members personally, we take great pride in that.
Cranston: And why not? It’s a big tent. Success doesn’t mean only me, not anyone else. That’s not the way of the world — that’s selfishness and capitalism in its greediest form.
Tequila brands can also come under fire for cultural appropriation. How do you avoid that criticism and make sure you’re being respectful in your branding and marketing?
Cranston: We’re doing a lot of things for the community — when they ask us. We are a company that always wants to keep our hands raised and have them ask us what they need as opposed to two gringos going down there saying ‘Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna knock this down, or you’re gonna bust this out…’ It’s like, just shut up and listen and learn something. We we weren’t about to be two guys to sign our names to preexisting mezcal, to a company that says if we can use your name and likeness, we’ll send you a check. I don’t take part in that. So we had to put in the work to do it.
Paul: San Luis del Rio is such a special village, a big place in both of our hearts and our company’s hearts. But it’s three hours outside of the center of Oaxaca City. When we first started working out of there, we were introduced to this mezcal and Gregorio [Velasco], our mescalero, seven and a half years ago now. There was about 375 people living in this village: one landline in the center of town, it rings on an amplifier, and whoever happens to be walking by it will pick it up, to kind of just give you an idea of what this village is like. Now, there’s roughly about 500 people, some family members have now moved back to the village and they are now working with Dos Hombres.
Six months in the market, we called Greg on his birthday, wished him a happy birthday, but also gave him ownership of the company. So he has some serious skin in the game. Apparently that’s just not how things are really done there. Which we find odd.
Would you guys ever be open to being co-stars again in a show or movie?
Paul: It would be a dream to share the stage with him. I mean, he’s just the best of the best. And that’s always been a dream of mine. I just haven’t found the right project, but to be able to just trust fall into that with him would be…Yeah, a dream. I mean, I love Broadway, I love the stage. To be able to do it with not only one of my best friends in the world, but someone that I really can trust and admire. I know that he’s just gonna swing for the fences, like he always does. And also just great input, great advice.
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