In case you missed it, September 10 was International Canned Cocktail Day. Sammy Hagar was all over it. I visited with Sammy recently to find out what inspired the Red Rocker to get into the adult beverage industry. I started by asking him about the genesis of Cabo Wabo.
Sammy: I started going to Cabo around 1979 and totally fell in love with it. Getting off that plane for the first time in Cabo, I was blown away. Back then, when you went to Cabo you had to stay for an entire week because the plane only came once a week and left once a week. There were no telephones, no TVs, no newspapers or anything else. There were dirt roads leading to a place called The Twin Dolphin, which is no longer there now; it’s the Montage Property. It was a bit of a leap but I decided to buy a house and build a cantina in this tiny little town of about 600 people!
I opened the original Cabo Wabo in Cabo in 1990 and my partner in the cantina and I would travel around down there to visit distilleries and meet with farmers in the area. It was there that I discovered what “real” tequila tasted like. Until then the tequilas that I had had, let’s just say, I was not a fan of. But when I tasted that tequila made with agave it blew me away. So I started having them make me some small batches of tequila for me and my friends, and it quickly grew from there. By 2007 Cabo Wabo Tequila had become the #2 selling premium tequila in the US and is basically credited as the beginning of celebrity brands, especially tequila.
I asked Sammy what inspired him to enter the hard seltzer business, and how he decided to set his brand apart from the rest.
Sammy: During Covid I was kind of going stir crazy because we couldn’t really do anything. And my creative mind is always looking for a new project to create. One day my family was drinking some canned RTD’s that were some of the first on the market and I tried one and they were horrible! I couldn’t even finish one of them. And, of course, my kids challenged me “Dad, if you think these are so bad, why don’t you make something better?” I took that challenge and went ahead and started developing some flavors with my Beach Bar Rum team. We created four original flavors Pineapple Splash (the slight sweetness of pineapple, followed by the kick of jalapeño), Cherry Kola Chill (that classic soda fountain flavor of cherry cola with a hint of spice), Island Pop (the fruity flavors of cherry, pineapple, and citrus, pack a Hawaiian punch) and my favorite, Tangerine Dream (a refreshing blend of tangerine and vanilla cream; like my childhood classic Creamsicle!).
Beach Bar Cocktails are sweetened with agave. I asked him why.
Sammy: The first time that I tasted a spirit sweetened with agave it blew me away. I was in Mexico and up until then I hated the taste of tequila but that was because I hadn’t had a great tequila! So, when I tried the tequila that was made with 100% agave it opened my eyes. A lot of companies don’t use 100% agave because it costs more. But for me, quality and taste is what’s most important and I’m willing to lower my profit margins and try to compete with others by creating a better product.
When I was making Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktails it was important for me to use the best ingredients possible while balancing the flavor and keeping it to 130 calories per can and 5.5% alcohol. I think we nailed it.
Finally, I asked him what lies ahead for him, not only in the beverage industry, but musically.
Sammy: Well as you know, last year I released my sparkling rum cocktails in a can, Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co., in California, Texas, Florida and Nevada. Soon they’ll be in many other states, which is very exciting. People loved our four original flavors like Island Pop, Pineapple Splash, Tangerine Dream and Cherry Kola Chill. I’m now working to perfect the recipe for mojito and piña colada flavors, both are great blends with my Beach Bar Rum. I’m very picky when it comes to getting the flavors perfected but we’ve just about got them ready to launch so I’m very excited about that.
On the music front, I’m currently on tour with The Circle and we have a new album, “Crazy Times” which was produced by Dave Cobb, coming out on September 30th.
I urge you to check out Sammy’s spin on canned cocktails. They’re extremely refreshing, and not overly sweet.