"Blue Sky" (also known as Big Blue, Blue Magic, Fring's Blue, or simply Blue) was the street name which has been coined for the notoriously potent and 99.1% chemically pure crystal methamphetamine manufactured by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. There were a few temporary accomplices who helped Jesse and Walter cook with the blue meth formula: Gale Boetticher and Todd Alquist. Victor also apparently memorized the method to cook Blue Sky by watching Walt and Jesse, though he never finished the batch, and the purity was never measured.
Despite having limited success during its initial amateur manufacture by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, the blue meth eventually became widespread for its remarkable quality and purity, becoming popular across the United States and eventually even reaching as far as Europe. The meth was the signature of Walter and Jesse, and the building block of their drug empire which eventually became the largest meth operation in American history.
The name comes from the distinctive light blue coloration of the meth crystals, a result of the chemical formula Walt devised to get around sales restrictions on pseudoephedrine.
After experiences in the meth trade with Krazy-8 and Emilio, Walter and Jesse eventually decide to expand their drug operation by selling their product to Tuco Salamanca, a powerful but psychopathic drug distributor. The two begin to expand their operations by stealing a large drum of methylamine, thereby allowing them to produce large quantities of meth for Tuco. The methylamine allows them to bypass the difficulty of acquiring pseudoephedrine, and the new method gives their product a blue color while continuing to be highly pure and chemically potent.
Following Tuco's death, Walt and Jesse decide to move their business into new territory. The blue meth was thus distributed solely in Albuquerque by Jesse's street dealers, but more problems arise as their enterprise expands with dealers working for them. Later, Walt becomes worried when he sees a bright white patch within the generally dark hues on the latest PET/CT scan of his lungs. With only $16,000 remaining of the meth money after the numerous setbacks, he and Jesse spend several days in the desert cooking 38 pounds of meth to sell off before Walt dies.
With Combo dead and their remaining dealers backing out, Walt and Jesse turn to Saul for help. Saul uses his connections to arrange a meeting at a fast food restaurant with Gustavo Fring, a discreet, cautious, yet successful drug distributor. Gus reluctantly offers to buy Walt's product for $1.2 million and offers him only one hour to deliver the drugs.
Gustavo Fring's empire
Later, Walt is initially hesitant to take up Gus on a lucrative offer to continue cooking meth in a high-tech "superlab" beneath an industrial laundromat, but later discovers that Jesse, out of rehab, has cooked a batch of the blue meth himself using Walt's techniques; Walt, furious, accepts Gus' offer to cook at least 200 pounds a week. At this time, Walter cooks with Gale Boetticher, a lab assistant provided by Gus. The blue meth spread across the Southwest due to the efforts of Fring, whose Los Pollos Hermanos franchise was used to distribute the meth to the surrounding states and establish a drug empire in the region.
The blue meth made its way south of the border into the country of Mexico, attracting the attention of the local drug cartels in the area, particularly, the Cartel. When Gus successfully blocks the Cartel's drug trade, he offers Walt a larger sum to continue to cook, an offer not extended to Jesse. Jesse skims a small portion of the meth to sell on his own, an action that both Gus and Walt are aware of but do not discuss. After agreeing to an ultimatum given by the cartel, Gus takes Mike and Jesse down with him to Mexico, where they have Jesse teach the cartel scientists (led by Benicio Fuentes) how to cook the blue meth. Gus returns from Mexico and his relationship with Walt unravels, causing Walt to murder Gus and put an end to Gus's distribution of the blue meth.
Walter White's Drug Empire
Mike Ehrmantraut joins Walter and Jesse in their new three-way partnership to begin distributing meth again, while not trusting Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, an executive with Madrigal Electromotive GmbH, the parent company of Gus' Los Pollos Hermanos. They then begin plans for meth manufacturing but Saul Goodman cannot locate satisfactory sites, save for one — a pest control company known as Vamonos Pest. Walter and Jesse use the business's fumigation tent on random houses as a mobile laboratory.
Meanwhile, the methylamine flow is disrupted, forcing Walter, Jesse, and Mike to rob a train carrying a large shipment. As the DEA begins to track Mike, and with the recent death of the child, both Jesse and Mike design a permanent exit for themselves from the business. They plan to sell their shares of the methylamine for $5 million each to Declan, a major regional meth producer and distributor. Walt derails Jesse and Mike's scheme when he refuses to sell his share of the methylamine and uses his Heisenberg persona's infamy to cut a distribution deal with Declan and negotiate the $5 million severance for Mike. Jesse is determined to leave the business, irrespective of his financial cut, so Walter enlists Todd as his assistant cook.
In exchange for her safety, Lydia arranges for Walt's product to be shipped to the Czech Republic using Madrigal's more obscure branches. Over the next few months, this nets Walt an extraordinary amount of money - so much that, after some pleading from Skyler, he finally decides to retire. Walt leaves the last of the methlyamine to Declan so he could continue, and dropped off the $5 million he owed to Jesse at his door.
Lydia Rodarte-Quayle's Drug Empire
After Walt's exit from the drug trade, Lydia was intent on keeping the business going without him, which she believed would be simple. However, Todd can't match the standard set by his predecessor, and to make matters worse, starts a fire in the meth lab, which results in Declan using his own cook, yielding an even lower quality of meth. As dissatisfied customers go elsewhere, Lydia goes to enlist Walt's help, begging him to come back, or at the very least, teach Declan's cook. Walt refuses, and Lydia is later scared off by Skyler.
Lydia enlists the help of Jack's Gang, intending on taking Declan's operation by force if he won't allow Todd to return as cook. Declan refuses, and Declan's crew are all killed by Jack's gang. They seize all the supplies for the meth lab, and take it back to their compound. Todd continues to cook meth, though was never able to match the quality set by Walt, and even "burned" the meth, destroying its signature blue color.
Dissatisfied with the consistent disappointment, Lydia decides to try and cut her losses and exit the business. Todd, however, informs her of the rise in quality, and the blue color. Lydia questions whether Walt was working with him, but Todd tells her that they had Jesse held captive. Having no problems with this as long as the meth was up to par, Lydia continued to use Todd while also manipulating his feelings for her to do what she wanted.
Jesse attempts to break out and is caught. The gang decides to punish him by having Todd kill Jesse's ex-girlfriend, Andrea Cantillo. Combined with the continued physical and emotional abuse, and the added threat of them going after Andrea's son, Brock, of whom he was very fond, Jesse gives up and accepts his situation.
The continued success of the business, caught the attention of the fugitive Walt, who believed that Jesse had bartered a deal with Jack for his life. Enraged, Walt returns to Albuquerque in order to put an end to their business, and rectify his mistakes.
Knowing Lydia would keep to her schedule, he arrived at the café he used to meet with Lydia, only to find her meeting with Todd. He interrupted them to pitch a new method of distilling the meth, for a price of $1 million dollars, which he claimed to need to stay ahead of the cops. Walt slyly placed a pack of Stevia, spiked with Ricin, at her table. Lydia feigns interest, and Walt leaves. Lydia orders Todd to have Walt killed, as he is a loose end, believing that once he is gone, she will never be able to be implicated in the meth empire, and thinks nothing of adding the spiked Stevia to her tea.
Walt heads to the compound that night with the intent of killing Jesse. However, when Kenny pulls a gun, Walt demands that Jack owes him for partnering up with Jesse instead of killing him as agreed. Insulted, Jack orders Jesse to be brought to him, and states that he will kill Walt himself. Seeing the poor state Jesse is in, and realizing that it is his fault, Walt tackles him to the floor, much to the amusement of the gang. Walt then triggers the automated M60 turret that he rigged in his trunk, which tears through the walls of the building, killing all the gang members except for Jack and Todd. Walt is critically hit with his slightly elevated body, taking a bullet for Jesse. Todd, horrified, looks out the window to see what happened. Jesse uses this opportunity to strangle Todd with his handcuffs, killing him in retaliation for Andrea and Drew Sharp's deaths, and his own imprisonment. Walt confronts Jack, who was also critically hit, and bleeding. Jack attempts to bargain for his life, though Walt hears none of it, and shoots him in the head at point blank range.
Lydia, who has begun to suffer from the effects of the Ricin, calls Todd to confirm Walt's death. Walt answers the phone, and tells her that Todd and the rest of the gang are dead. Walt then proceeds to mock Lydia's sickness, confessing that he poisoned her, and that she would soon be dead, before a rather callous goodbye. Jesse escapes in Todd's car, and Walt goes to the superlab in the hangar, and dies there among the equipment...where he felt the most alive.
The supply of Blue Sky ceased, as everyone who knew how to cook it was dead, with the exception of Jesse who wanted nothing more to do with the product that had caused him and others nothing but misery.
Blue Sky was extremely popular while it lasted, but odds are, true Blue Sky was never manufactured again after Walter White's death.
Methamphetamine is chiral, and thus occurs in two enantiomers: dextrorotary and levorotary. Dextromethamphetamine (d-methamphetamine) is a stronger psychostimulant, whereas levomethamphetamine (l-methamphetamine) is CNS-active with weaker (approx. one-tenth) effects on striatal dopamine and shorter psychodynamic effects. At high doses, both enantiomers of methamphetamine can induce stereotypy and psychosis, but l-methamphetamine is less desired by drug abusers because of its weaker pharmacodynamic profile.
The synthesis of methamphetamine is typically done through the reduction of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, using either hydroiodic acid and red phosphorus or lithium metal dissolved in anhydrous ammonia. This method - the reduction of pseudoephedrine - produces only the d-methamphetamine isomer, which is preferred by drug dealers over l-methamphetamine. This method is portrayed twice in the Pilot episode: first when Walt's DEA agent brother in law, Hank Schrader, and his DEA pals raid Jesse's lab while Walt rides along, and then again during the Winnebago cook scene.
- Walter: "We're not going to need pseudoephedrine. We're going to make phenylacetone in a tube furnace, then we're going to use reductive amination to yield methamphetamine. Four pounds."
- Jesse: "So no pseudo?"
- Walter: "No pseudo."
- Jesse: "So you do have a plan! Yeah Mr. White! Yeah science!"
- ―Walter reveals to Jesse their new process for making meth.[src]
By "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal", obtaining pseudoephedrine for the large-scale production that Walt desires becomes an issue. To circumvent this, Walt decides on an alternate synthesis — reductive amination of phenyl-2-propanone (phenylacetone or P2P) with methylamine. Obtaining methylamine required for this reaction — which is on the DEA watch list, a list of chemicals the DEA has classified as having use in drug manufacture — becomes a major plot line throughout the seasons. While working in the superlab, the methylamine is supplied by Golden Moth Chemical. Walt obtains his P2P from phenylacetic acid and acetic anhydride. The P2P is created in a tube furnace charged with a thorium oxide catalyst. The reductive amination of P2P takes place in the presence of aluminum amalgam.
From the 1960s to the mid-1980s, reductive amination was the method of choice for clandestine methamphetamine production. Enterprising biker gangs who dominated the trade at this time mostly ran these operations. (The slang term “crank” for methamphetamine allegedly originated from Biker’s transporting meth in the crankshafts of their bikes.) Reductive amination is less common today. Reference to this occurs in “Seven Thirty-Seven” when Hank shows his surprise after being shown the video of the methylamine heist. He says, “P2P––they’re cooking old school biker meth.”
Purity and chirality
The blue meth produced by Walter is famous for being highly pure and chemically potent. However, in reality, the methamphetamine produced by the P2P method is racemic (both enantiomers are present), and thus consists partly of the less-desired l-methamphetamine isomer. D-methamphetamine induces classic stimulant effects, whereas l-methamphetamine is only a weak stimulant but an excellent decongestant, which is sold over-the-counter in Vicks inhalers. In other words, if you make methamphetamine from P2P by reductive amination, you end up with an undesirable product that is now half-drug and half-decongestant.
However, despite using reductive amination, Walt implies his product is enantiomerically pure in “Box Cutter”. He asks Victor, “If our reduction is not stereospecific, then how can our product be enantiomerically pure?” In other words, Walt is asking "If our reduction generates both enantiomers, how does our product contain only one?" Unfortunately, we don’t know if Walt is just bluffing to try and save his and Jesse’s life. If Walt’s product is nearly 100% pure d-methamphetamine, we can assume he devised some technique to make the the P2P process chirally selective, even though the reductive is usually not stereospecific. Walter’s end customers and the DEA seem impressed with the potency of his product, and Walt himself seems almost unnaturally proud of his formula, one possible way Walt could have made his reduction stereospecific is the use of ω-Transaminase which can be used to convert Amines into their (R) forms (Right Handed Forms) which are the preferred version of Methamphetamine.
Walt's methamphetamine becomes blue when he switches from pseudoephedrine reduction to reductive amination. The blue color is apparently a plot device, introduced by the show's writers to make Walt's product visually identifiable. Although blue methamphetamine, sometimes called "smurf dope," exists in the real world, 100% pure methamphetamine would appear as colorless/white crystals. The blue color might result from impurities formed during the reaction, but despite its light blue coloration, Walt's product is highly pure. The episode "Box Cutter" opens with flashback to Gale giddily setting up equipment in the laundromat super-lab. He tells Gus that he has the sample he asked him to analyze saying it is “quite good.” He then lets us know it was Walt’s product: “I can not as of yet account for the blue color.” Gale goes on to guarantee Gus a purity of 96 percent for his own product. Walt’s sample was 99 percent pure and “maybe even a touch beyond that.”
- Walter White can cook a 99.1% pure meth
- Jesse Pinkman can cook a 96.2% pure meth
- Gale Boetticher can cook a 96% pure meth
- Todd Alquist can cook a 76% pure meth
- Declan's Cook can cook a 68% pure meth (unknown if he was using Walt's method)
- Victor never finished his batch, and the purity was never measured
- Blue Sky makes a brief cameo appearance in the AMC series The Walking Dead, in the episode titled "Bloodletting". It can briefly be seen in Merle Dixon's drug stash which contains crystal meth among other drugs.
- Blue Sky makes a brief cameo appearance in the CW series Arrow, in the episode titled "Keep Your Enemies Closer". Diggle is "caught" with a bag fully contained with blue crystal meth.
- Blue Sky props consist of crystallized sugar and are essentially pieces of blue rock candy manufactured by the candy store "The Candy Lady" of Albuquerque. Lots of it was kept on the set at any given time and Aaron Paul claims to have eaten lots of it between takes.
- "Blue Sky" is also the name of a soda company founded in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It remains a popular soda in New Mexico. In the episode "Better Call Saul" it can be seen next to Badger on the bench when he gets arrested. Also in "Green Light", the police officer at the gas station buys a can.
- Jesse is the last living person who knows how to cook Blue Sky. However, Gale's lab notes from his time working with Walt are presumably still in Hank and Marie's garage and could possibly be used in the future.
- Blue Sky meth, as well as Breaking Bad in general, is heavily referenced in the 2013 video game Payday 2. In certain heists in game, the player can cook meth which can be used to increase profit, or trade to for information. The meth in game is colored blue, and is referred to as "The Blue" by the character Bain.
- In the heist rats, several trophies can be earned including "Full Measure" a reference to Mike's speech to Walt about seeing things through and "In the Name of Heisenberg."
- if seven bags of meth are cooked, Bain may say "We should break bad and do this full-time!", "Which one of you is Heisenberg, Hector wants to know." or "Wonder how much Hector pays for the blue".
- One of the Heist contractors, The Dentist, is portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito. The Dentist bares many similarities to Esposito's character in Breaking Bad, namely in his mannerisms and the way he conducts his illicit activities.
- As well as this, there is a Trophy/Achievement for finding a hidden meth lab on a cargo ship. in the dockyard called "Breaking Dead" in the heist. Bomb Dockyard.
- When the playing as the character Dallas, when putting his mask on he may say, "Time to break bad."
- Hank Schrader: "This dude was so low-rep, he never showed up on our radar. So why am I talking about him? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?"
- Steven Gomez: "He was dealing Blue Sky."
- Hank Schrader: "That's right. Now, how is it that the purest, most professional grade of meth we've ever come across is being slung by the likes of that?"
- ―Hank's DEA briefing on Combo's connection to Blue Sky[src]